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Forest Watchdog Group Says Funds Diverted

A report to be released today by a nonprofit conservation group shows that public funds intended for fire protection projects in the Sierra Nevada are being diverted by the U.S. Forest Service for logging.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the study by the John Muir Project found taxpayer money used for cutting trees on 56,000 acres of overgrown forests, instead of clearing heavy brush around homes.

But Forest Service officials say the 20-page report does not recognize that commercial timber cutting helps reduce overgrown forests around the nation.

The timber industry and environmentalists have battled over whether fire prevention efforts are used to cover attempts to boost commercial logging.