American Forests, as part of the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, urges Congress to find a lasting solution for wildfire suppression funding.
Currently, wildfire suppression is funded at the 10-year average. When suppression costs exceed the budget, the USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are forced to borrow from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Eight out of the past 10 years, fire suppression costs have exceeded the budgeted amount and prevented the implementation of critical programs, including those that would help reduce fire risk and costs, such as hazardous fuels removal.
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015 was introduced in January with bipartisan support in both the House (H.R. 167) and the Senate (S. 235). If passed, this bill would treat the most catastrophic wildfires like natural disasters. These wildfires represent about one percent of fires but account for 30 percent of suppression costs. Therefore, 70 percent of wildfire suppression costs would continue to be funded through the normal appropriations process, while these most extreme fires will be funded like other natural disasters through the Disaster Relief Fund.
Senators McCain (R-AZ), Barrasso (R-WY), and Flake (R-AZ) have introduced an alternative wildfire suppression funding solution, FLAME Act Amendments of 2015 (S. 508). This bill requires USFS and DOI to budget 100 percent of wildfire suppression costs using the most accurate forecast model available, prohibits fire-borrowing, and establishes a process for accessing disaster funding for the most catastrophic wildfires.
American Forests urges Representatives to support H.R. 167 and encourages Senators to look for compromise between S. 235 and S. 508. American Forests will be joining members of the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions for a Hill Day to discuss wildfire funding solutions with House of Representatives staff members on June 17.
To get involved with the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, contact Cecilia Clavet, Senior Policy Advisor on Fire and Forest Restoration for The Nature Conservancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.