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Americorps Feeling Threat Of Budget Cuts New National Service Program Counts 52 Volunteers In State

Two by two, they hunted for trees to protect from hungry beavers.

Clutching chain-link fence and wrestling with pliers, about 40 of Idaho’s AmeriCorps members tramped through the winter-brown brush surrounding the Boise River Sunday morning.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has been fielding complaints about the insatiable appetites of resident beavers, said William Dokken, an AmeriCorps program director. The beavers usually munch on about 80 percent of the trees around the Boise River, just east of Barber Park.

“We’re not trying to starve the beavers,” Dokken said. “The goal is to wrap about 20 percent of the trees, so the beavers manage themselves.”

This is typical of the work undertaken by the 52 AmeriCorps volunteers in Idaho. They are among the 20,000 people across the nation working for President Clinton’s national service program, a project now endangered by federal budget cuts.

A House subcommittee voted Thursday to cut $210 million from AmeriCorps’ previously approved budget of $580 million for this year.”It’s new, and it’s full of life,” Houston said of the program. “You need two or three years to really prove yourself. You have to give it some time to get it to work.”

AmeriCorps in Idaho received about $190,000 this year. Volunteers began work in October.

In Boise, they teach prison inmates how to find jobs. In Lewiston, they’re working for homeless shelters and offering tutoring services.

Volunteers earn a stipend of $4.50 per hour. After serving for one year - or 1,700 hours - they receive a $4,725 voucher, which can be used for college or vocational education.

Tags: budget