Forest Service Law Enforcement Hindered by Inadequate Budget, Group Says
A fifteen (15) percent budget cut to the Forest Service’s Law Enforcement and Investigations Division (LEI) has resulted in mandatory “office days” for officers and agents, mileage and shift limits, and a nationwide hiring freeze as managers try to avoid layoffs.
The cuts to the Forest Service LEI budget are cause for concern by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who assert “the reason for the shortfall appears to be bureaucratic neglect rather than a hostile Congress.”
PEER said the Forest Service requested, and received, a lower funding level for LEI accounts, while the agency overall received increased funding. Additionally, PEER says that LEI’s budget situation is made worse because fire transfer dollars were not reinstated after a busy and expensive fire season last year, and that costs of employee raises had to be absorbed in the smaller budget allowance.
“By asking Congress for less money, it appears that the Forest Service deliberately short-sheeted its own law enforcement program,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Sudden cuts of this magnitude will unquestionably compromise the effectiveness of Forest Service law enforcement.”