Forest Service push for return of subsidy money stokes concern about breadth of spending cuts

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Forest Service is demanding that states give back $17.9 million in federal subsidies, saying the taxpayer cash is subject to automatic spending cuts called “sequestration.”

But Republicans and Democrats from Capitol Hill to the nation’s governor’s offices are saying no.

The money, they argue, was given to the states before the cuts went into effect March 1 and are exempt. It’s unclear who gets to decide and whether the matter lands in court.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden represents the timber-rich state of Oregon, the top recipient of the Forest Service payments. Oregon stands to lose nearly $3.6 million. Wyden says the frustration level over the service’s demand “is off the charts.”

But the Forest Service, scrambling to find the 5 per cent in cuts, says it has no choice.