An article about the Forest Service’s 2014 budget begins on page 1. The level of funding appears comparable to the current year, 2013 (Oct. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013). However, that appearance is deceiving.

The 2013 figures are based on a continuing resolution which provided budget authority for the balance of the fiscal year.

However, these 2013 numbers are not reduced to account for the sequestration. The congressional staff says the 2013 budget figures are about five to six percent too high.

That’s important for Hill residents. The budget documents tell us that the Forest Service has about $1.971 billion available to fund its wildland fire programs in 2013. But five percent less is nearly $200 million or more that will not be available this year.

How will that affect the Forest Service budget nationally and specifically on the San Bernardino National Forest and here in the San Jacinto Ranger District?

The Forest Service and staff in the Department of Agriculture say they don’t know. More importantly, they can’t say without approval from the House Appropriations Commitee.

“That’s completely fake,” says Jennifer Hing, communications director for the committee. They are still trying to find out how the Forest Service plans to implement the sequestration cuts.

“The President’s budget isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” she wrote in an email. “There is zero information on what federal agencies are actually spending. If the White House won’t tell the public how much taxpayer funding they are doling out, how can they justify billions in increases?”

Hing also pointed out that the 2013 figures are based on the first 2015 CR, not the most recent, so that’s the second problem with the 2013 estimation. For 2013, we have no accurate spending data. Remember the Federal Aviation Adminstration is able to tell us which control towers will have to be closed.

Then, Monday, The Washington Post reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed furloughing employees for four days across the agency, including the National Weather Service.

“The unpaid leave would help NOAA absorb its share of the government-wide spending cuts that took effect on March 1.”

Just a week ago, a Forest Service Washington staff employee said they don’t know the reduction amount. When asked if the percentage was different for the Forest Service, he said it’s complicated and changes every day.

A good public agency would be more open and willing to share this infromation with the people who will be affected — not just its staff.

On another subject, I recommend you take a look at “Past Tense,” specifically 10 years and 40 years ago.

Despite the March snows, stream flow is low. Idyllwild Water District’s reservoir — Foster Lake — is only half full as we begin the dry months.

You might want to attend IWD’s Wednesday meeting to hear local Lee Arnson, surveyor and member of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, discuss the snow pack survey and describe how snow depth data is collected.