At the groundbreaking for San Bernardino County Fire Station 305 Tuesday morning, Rep. Jerry Lewis defended the earmark spending that he said has made the High Desert safer.


"We would not have been able to do what we've been able to accomplish without earmarks" to clear away dead trees in Angeles National Forest ravaged by bark beetles, Lewis said.


Lewis (R-41), who previously was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has been criticized for pork barrel spending. The 14-term congressman characterizes things differently.


The U.S. National Park Service doesn't "think our priorities in the national forest are nearly as important."


In 2003 and 2007, wildfires starting in Angeles National Forest fed on acres of dead trees killed by bark beetle infestation and the fires forced partial evacuations in portions of Hesperia.


Lewis said the fallen trees were being cleared away with the help of legislation pushed through by his "important partner in the Senate," Sen. Dianne Feinstein.


After the congressman's remarks Tuesday, Lewis' bid for reelection was endorsed by Mayor Mike Leonard.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.