Federal Firefighting Money Runs Out; 97 Conservation, Recreation, Sportsmen, Timber, and Wildlife Groups Request Better Approach in 2013 Continuing Resolution

Arlington, Va.; September 24, 2012 — The federal accounts that fund 2012 wildfire activities for the U.S. Forest Service ran dry this month, leaving the agencies to remove funding from other important programs to cover wildfire costs. (The Federal continuing resolution budget passed includes vitally needed funds for firefighting.)

The U.S. Forest Service wildfire accounts were not sufficiently funded in the current FY 2012, including suppression and the reserve account established under the FLAME (Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement) Act of 2009.

In response an exceptionally broad representation of conservation, recreation, retired agency personnel, sportsmen, timber, and wildlife groups — calling themselves the Fire Suppression Funding Solutions Partner Caucus — submitted a coalition letter requesting $400 million in emergency supplemental funding be directed to the US Forest Service FLAME account for 2012, or provide reimbursement options that recover transferred funds from non-fire programs.  The Caucus further requested that 2013 appropriations are adjusted in the continuing resolution so that wildfire suppression is at the 10-year average.

“Important U.S. Forest Service programs can be and are significantly impacted by fire transfers, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, urban and community forestry, roads and trail maintenance, wildlife, recreation” said George Leonard, Executive Director at the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, “including the very programs that would reduce wildfire risk, like State Fire Assistance and restoration. We should not be funding wildfire at the expense of these programs.”

The Caucus is thankful to Chairman of the House Interior Committee Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Ranking Member Jim Moran (D-VA) for their leadership in advancing this request and to both chambers of Congress in maintaining provisions for suppression funding in H.J. Res. 117 the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for 2013 (CR), which passed on September 22, 2012.  The CR reimburses the US Forest Service $400 million for the wildfire transfers and funds wildfire suppression in FY13 at levels closer to the 10-year average for suppression.

“We greatly appreciate the support from Congress to repay non-fire programs in FY12 and to add suppression funds in preparation for FY13,” stated WV State Forester and NASF President, Randy Dye. “We ask for continued commitment from Congress and the Administration to maintain a sufficient balance in the FLAME reserves that are in addition to funding suppression at the 10- year average so transfers from non-fire programs can be avoided as we enter a future with more frequent and severe wildfires.”

Many factors contribute to the increase in wildfire frequency and severity, including changes in climate, build-up of hazardous fuels, and increasing populations in the wildland urban interface. This past summer reflects a decade-long trend of increased acreage burned by wildfires in the United States.  Between 1960 and1999 only once did more than 7 million acres burn in a single year; since 2000 it has occurred eight times, including this year. The frequency and severity of these wildfires require significant levels of funding at a time when the U.S. Forest Service received significant reductions in the form of rescissions and insufficient funding.

“Wildfire must be appropriately funded and not at the expense of other agency programs. Of course, we cannot forget to support the heroic efforts of our brave firefighters who work hard to protect our communities, homes, and families”, said Laura McCarthy of The Nature Conservancy, “it’s only responsible to ensure that they have the resources necessary to make their work as safe as it possible.”

“In passing the FLAME Act, Congress intended to fully fund the USFS and DOI’s suppression accounts while eliminating the need to transfer monies from other agency programs to fund emergency wildfire suppression,” said Michael Goergen, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Society of American Foresters, “the practice of transferring funds from non-fire programs undermines the agencies’ abilities to help sustainably manage the nation’s forests that are essential in delivering many important services including clean air and water, wildlife habitat and many other important benefits that people highly value.”

“Besides the pleasure they give us, forests cover one-third of the United States,” said Rebecca Turner of American Forests. “They store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to more than a million wood products workers; absorb nearly 20 percent of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate well over $15 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country.”

Fire Suppression Funding Solutions Partner Caucus

  1. AMERICAN FOREST FOUNDATION
  2. AMERICAN FOREST RESOURCE COUNCIL
  3. AMERICAN FORESTS
  4. APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB
  5. APPLEGATE PARTNERSHIP AND WATERSHED COUNCIL
  6. ARIZONA WILDLIFE FEDERATION
  7. ASSOCIATION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCIES
  8. ASSOCIATION OF NATIONAL GRASSLANDS
  9. BLACK HILLS FOREST RESOURCE ASSOCIATION
  10. BLUE KNIGHT GROUP
  11. BLUE MOUNTAINS FOREST PARTNERS
  12. CALIFORNIA FIRE SAFE COUNCIL
  13. CALIFORNIA FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
  14. CALIFORNIA SKI INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
  15. CHOOSE OUTDOORS
  16. CIBOLA COMMUNITIES ECONOMIC DEVELOPENT FOUNDATION
  17. COLORADO FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
  18. COLORADO TIMBER INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
  19. CONSERVATION NORTHWEST
  20. CRILEY CONSULTING
  21. DAHL ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICE, LLC
  22. DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE
  23. ECOSYSTEM WORKFORCE PROGRAM
  24. FEDERAL FOREST RESOURCES COALITION
  25. FLATHEAD ECONOMIC POLICY CENTER
  26. FOOTHILL CONSERVANCY
  27. FOREST BUSINESS NETWORK
  28. FOREST ENERGY CORPRATION
  29. FOREST GUILD
  30. FRAMING OUR COMMUNITY
  31. FRONT RANGE ROUNDTABLE
  32. GIFFORD PINCHOT TASK FORCE
  33. GRAND CANYON TRUST
  34. GREAT LAKES PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION
  35. HEISSENBUTTEL NATURAL RESOURCE CONSULTING
  36. IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
  37. IDAHO FOREST OWNERS ASSOCIATION
  38. IDAHO FOREST RESTORATION PARTNERSHIP
  39. INDIANA FORESTRY & WOODLAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION
  40. INSTITUTE FOR CULTURE AND ECOLOGY
  41. INTERMOUNTAIN FOREST ASSOCIATION
  42. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE CHIEFS
  43. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WILDLAND FIRE
  44. INTERNATIONAL CODE COUNCIL
  45. INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF TROPICAL FORESTERS
  46. LAKE COUNTY RESOURCES INITIATIVE
  47. MALHEUR LUMBER COMPANY
  48. MICHIGAN FOREST ASSOCIATION
  49. MID KLAMATH WATERSHED COUNCIL
  50. MINNESOTA FOREST INDUSTRIES
  51. MONTANA FOREST OWNERS ASSOCIATION
  52. MONTANA LOGGING ASSOCIATION
  53. MONTANA WILDERNESS ASSOCIATION
  54. MONTANA WOOD PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION
  55. MT. ADAMS RESOURCE STEWARDS
  56. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
  57. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FOREST SERVICE RETIREES
  58. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FORESTERS
  59. NATIONAL MUSEUM FOREST SERVICE HISTORY
  60. NATIONAL VOLUNTEER FIRE COUNCIL
  61. NATIONAL WILD TURKEY FEDERATION
  62. NATIONAL WILDFIRE INSTITUTE
  63. NATIONAL WOODLAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION
  64. NEW MEXICO COUNCIL TROUT UNLIMITED
  65. NEW MEXICO FOREST INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
  66. NORTHEAST WASHINGTON FORESTRY COALITION
  67. NORTHWEST CONNECTIONS
  68. OZARK WOODLAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION
  69. PELLET FUELS INSTITUTE
  70. RI FOREST CONSERVATOR’S ORGANIZATION, INC.
  71. ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION
  72. ROCKY MOUNTAIN TREE-RING RESEARCH
  73. RUFFED GROUSE SOCIETY
  74. SALMON VALLEY STEWARDSHIP
  75. SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST ASSOCIATION
  76. SD STOCKGROWERS ASSN
  77. SENECA TRAIL RC&D COUNCIL, INC
  78. SIERRA CLUB
  79. SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
  80. SOUTHERN OREGON FOREST RESTORATION COLLABORATIVE
  81. SOUTHERN OREGON TIMBER INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION
  82. SPATIAL INTEREST, LLC
  83. STOCK GROWERS
  84. SUSTAINABLE NORTHWEST
  85. SWAN ECOSYSTEM CENTER
  86. THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
  87. THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  88. THE WILDLIFE SOCIETY
  89. TROUT UNLIMITED
  90. UNCOMPAHGRE/COM, INC
  91. UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH
  92. VERMONT WOODLANDS ASSOCIATION
  93. WATERSHED RESEARCH & TRAINING CENTER
  94. WEST RANGE RECLAMATION
  95. WESTERN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER
  96. WILDLANDS CPR
  97. WOODY BIOMASS UTILIZATION PARTNERSHIP