Arizona Governor Blasts Bush on Forest Policy

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano on Saturday accused the Bush administration of mismanaging the federal forests, which she said could lead to ``megafires'' this summer.

``Once again, the Bush administration and the Republican Congress are shirking their responsibility to manage federal forests,'' she said. ``So we must prepare to battle more megafires.''

Napolitano, in the weekly Democrat radio address, said $760 million intended to pay for brush clearing and forest thinning on federal land won't be given to states before Oct. 1.

But the Western forests are in danger now, with historic drought, unprecedented bark beetle infestations and ``the administration's refusal to restore forests on federal land,'' Napolitano said.

Arizona endured two major fires in the past two years. A blaze near Tucson burned nearly 85,000 acres of the Catalina National Forest last year and the Rodeo-Chediski fire burned 469,000 acres in 2002. More than 800 homes were destroyed.

The White House earlier this month called the Healthy Forest law one of President Bush's top priorities.

That $760 million would be used to treat up to 4 million acres at risk of fire - an increase of about 300,000 acres over current efforts. Most of the thinning projects, which include prescribed burns and removal of underbrush that fuels wildfires, would be focused near homes and communities.