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Taxpayers Stuck with Forest Road Maintenance WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2002 (ENS) - Hundreds of millions of dollars in logging and road subsidies are going to the timber industry while American taxpayers are stuck with a road maintenance backlog that has ballooned to more than $100 million in each of 16 states, according to a new report by a national budget watchdog organization..

"Corporate welfare for the timber industry is out of control," said Jill Lancelot, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, as she released the report Thursday. "Taxpayers are shelling out big bucks for new road construction to facilitate commercial logging. To add insult to injury we are left with an eight billion dollar road maintenance bill."

During a year long investigation of fiscal mismanagement at the U.S. Forest Service, Taxpayers for Common Sense analyzed information obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, and uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in new road and timber subsidies that have not previously been disclosed.

The report, entitled "Lost in the Forest: How the Forest Service's Misdirection, Mismanagement, and Mischief Squanders Your Tax Dollars" alleges that taxpayers have provided more than $116 million in direct subsidies to the timber industry for the construction of logging roads.

The report states that only 21 percent of the 382,000 roads in the national forest system meet "adequate road maintenance standards."

"Roads in our national forests are crumbling, while the administration just sits on its hands and ignores the problem," said Lancelot.

Instead, the administration's response to this growing road maintenance crisis is to increase timber subsidies in the 2003 federal budget. "This spending only fans the flames of waste, fraud and abuse at this mismanaged agency," she said.

The Forest Service has been unable to provide data on the cost of its timber sale program since it reported a $126 million loss for fiscal year 1998. An independent analysis found losses to be more than three times that amount.

According to the General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of the U.S. Congress, it will be at least 2004 until the Forest Service has a new accounting system in place, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Congress and taxpayers to hold the agency accountable for the costs of its timber sale program.

"There is no difference between the fiscal abuses at the Forest Service and recent corporate scandals," alleged Lancelot. "Lawmakers should be climbing over each other to hold hearings on why billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted."

To view the report or to access additional state specific information on subsidies to the timber industry and the road maintenance backlog, visit: http://www.taxpayer.net

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