Drought Suggests Severe Wildfire Season; House Continuing Resolution Provides Funding Consistent with 2012 Levels; Senate May Offer Less

Arlington, Va.; March 14, 2013 — A collection of forest and fire groups are requesting the Senate match the House’s investment in fire management for 2013, as reflected in the House’s Continuing Resolution (HR 933) passed last week. Funding for the FLAME wildfire suppression reserve funds and the Wildland Fire Management program, which fights fires and performs forest treatments to reduce the risk of megafires, will help cover a fire season as bad as last year.

Last year was the third worst fire season since 1960, and the U.S. Forest Service ran out of money to fight fires in September. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has already predicted current drought conditions will continue through May of this year.

In anticipation of another dangerous fire season, a coalition of conservation, timber, retired agency personnel and wildlife groups — called the Fire Suppression Funding Solutions Partner Caucus — sent letters thanking U.S. House members Hal Rogers (R-KY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Michael Simpson (R-ID) and James Moran (D-VA) for their support of $3.5 billion for Forest Service and Interior Department Wildland Fire Management and FLAME fire suppression reserve accounts in 2013.

The group has also sent letters of request to U.S. senators on the Appropriations and Senate Interior Committees, respectively, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), thanking them for attention to this issue and requesting they match the House’s proposed level of support for 2013.

Many factors contribute to the increase in wildfire frequency and severity over the past decade, including changes in climate, build-up of hazardous fuels and increasing populations in the wildland urban interface. Last year reflected this trend with more than 9,000,000 acres burned. Between 1960 and 1999, only once did more than seven million acres burn in a single year; since 2000, it has occurred eight times, including 2012.

Forests cover one-third of the United States. They store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to nearly 900,000 wood products workers; absorb nearly 13 percent of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate well more than $13 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country.

Today’s letters into House and Senate appropriators were endorsed by the following organizations:

  • American Forest Foundation
  • American Forests
  • Federal Forest Resource Coalition
  • National Association of Conservation Districts
  • National Association of Forest Service Retirees
  • National Association of State Foresters
  • Society of American Foresters
  • The Nature Conservancy

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