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U.S. House members question delay in resolving forestry funding issue

Staff Report

A majority of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation has asked U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack why it’s taking so long to resolve a funding issue that is affecting the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Five of seven members of Congress wrote Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell on May 29 asking about the status of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General audit submitted to the Alabama Forestry Commission in November.

The USFS said the AFC owes a refund of $5.1 million for alleged “unsubstantiated” costs as determined by the Office of Inspector General and USFS. The USFS is a division of the USDA.

“We unanimously agree that six months is more than enough time to have resolved the matter so that both AFC and USFS can move forward with important work in Alabama that results from the partnership between the two agencies,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Reps. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills; Jo Bonner, R-Mobile; Martha Roby, R-Montgomery; Mike Rogers, R-Saks; and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham.

The letter said the Alabama Forestry Commission will not be able to draw down a separate $5.6 million that the USFS owes the state Forestry Commission for work already performed.

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“This situation is putting AFC in a very difficult position with regard to cash flow for the remainder of FY12,” the letter said.

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