As forest supervisor for the Los Padres National Forest, I would like to offer my observations regarding the current working relationship between this national forest and the Ventura office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As mentioned in "Federal Agency Faulted in Fires" (Dec. 15), the General Accounting Office report in August 2003 indicated that the Los Padres National Forest staff was frustrated by the amount of time it took the FWS to address our prescribed burn proposals.
Our discussions with the GAO occurred in late 2002, at a time when the Ventura office of the FWS lacked sufficient staff and resources to review our projects in a timely manner. Since then there has been notable improvement in the process. In the past year the FWS has reviewed and cleared five prescribed burn proposals for Los Padres National Forest. In addition, the FWS staff in the Ventura office has been working with our fuels management specialists and biologists to find ways to expedite the review process for future prescribed burn projects. It is important to note that at the time of the recent Piru fire, there were no fuels-reduction projects proposed or under review for that area of the national forest.