Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions

The Fire Suppression Funding Solutions Partner Caucus reconvened to ensure that the FLAME (Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement) Act is utilized for its intended purpose – to fund fire suppression activities in high cost years and protect other Forest Service programs from being raided.  This letter, signed by nearly 100 organizations from conservation, forest professionals, and industry organizations, was sent to Congress and the Secretary of Agriculture to find a better solution than transferring $400 million from non-fire sources to the fire suppression account.

March 2009 FLAME Testimony for House Appropriations Subcommittee

Gerry Gray, as the acting Executive Director of American Forests, submitted written testimony addressing issues related to federal wildfire funding and the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act account.

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American Forests partnered with other organizations in the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Spending Solutions, which was dedicated to finding a new, improved mechanism for funding emergency wildfire suppression activities for the land management agencies – specifically Forest Service and Department of Interior.

American Forests identifies three necessary actions to resolve fire funding programs:

  • create a partitioned emergency/large wildfire suppression account that does not impact the non-wildfire suppression budgets of the Agencies;
  • base fire suppression funding on a more accurate predictive model vs. the 10-year average; and
  • direct the Agencies to develop cost-containment measures.

It is important that both the Administration and Congress recognize the increasing costs of wildfires and the adverse effects those costs have on non-fire programs within the Agencies.

Letter to Western Governors Association

American Forests contributed to this letter sent to the Western Governors on behalf of the Rural Voices of Conservation Coalition expressing support of the National Cohesive Wildfire Management Strategy accounting for different regional environmental and socio-economic conditions.

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This letter recommends that implementation of this strategy take a landscape-scale approach to forest and grassland restoration as it increases resiliency to fire.  In addition, the letter recommends continuing to increase the collaboration among local, state and federal stakeholders in fire planning, suppression planning, and fire management.

It is also important to expand and use Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) for all lands, all agency fire management and suppression planning as CWPPs are necessary for funding for fuel reduction treatments in Wildland Urban Interface areas.  Lastly, the concept of “fire-adapted communities” should be expanded to ensure there is a trained and skilled workforce for within communities for fire and forest stewardship activity.

Press Release on H.R. 5541  Passage

As a key advocate on the issue, American Forests applauds the House of Representatives for the passage of H.R. 5541 the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act.  As wildfire suppression costs have escalated – exceeding 1 billion dollars in six of the last eight years – for the Forest Service, the passage of this bill is both timely and essential.

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This bill is an important step towards establishing a federal emergency fund for the suppression of these large and costly fires.  With a separate fund for suppression, land management Agencies can redistribute money back into Agency programs that have been cut due to increasing fire suppression costs.  As this bill offers a positive first step, the long-term solution to this increasing threat of catastrophic wildfires is adequate and reliable funding for not only suppression, but management of forest prior to fires including fuel reduction.

FLAME Press Release

American Forest released a statement in response to President Obama signing the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement (FLAME Act) into law, which helps federal agencies – specifically the Forest Service and Department of Interior – manage the skyrocketing cost of wildfire suppression.

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The law allows agencies to estimate future suppression funding on actual prior-year expenditures versus the 10-year average (the former method).  In addition, it provides a new approach to budgeting for costly wildfires – separating the funding for emergency wildfire responses from the agencies working budget.  As emergency wildfires account for more than 95 percent of all acres burned and consume 85 percent of all suppression costs, this law is a welcomed change.  The FLAME Act will allow agencies to respond to wildfires without compromising other critical programs.

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