Bush Fuel-Reduction Plan Shortchanges Rural Communities

Many small, rural Western communities have been devastated by the decline of the logging industry, with unemployment high, poverty rampant, and drug use (particularly of methamphetamine) rising. Some of those communities found hope in the Economic Action Program, created by the first Bush administration, which offered money for retraining and technical and marketing assistance, aiming to restructure communities around forest preservation and restoration, with economic stability coming from fuel reduction, biomass, and creative uses for smaller, lower-value trees. The second Bush administration, however, is denying poor communities those opportunities, critics say. It has substantially cut EAP funding, and most fuel-reduction money is going to large logging companies rather than small communities, many of which are questioning their traditional allegiance to conservatism and Bush.