The inclusion of a legislative fix to the fire suppression funding process in the FY 2018 Omnibus appropriations bill is a major step forward for the health and resiliency of America’s forests.
As a leader in the Fire Funding Fix Coalition, American Forests has been working on this issue for many years with conservation and sporting organizations, the forest products industry, local and county officials and other diverse interests.
“We sincerely thank the Congressional members and staff from both sides of the aisle who worked tirelessly to come to an agreement on such an important issue,” said Scott Steen, president and CEO of American Forests. “This effort shows that when diverse groups can work together to present elected officials with something that benefits everyone, we really can get things done. America’s forests have always been common ground, and this strong bi-partisan agreement demonstrates that again.”
The fire funding fix negotiated in the Omnibus appropriations package secures stable funding for fighting wildfires, without harming other federal programs that benefit forests. The package also includes some reasonable provisions to expedite important forest management on the National Forest System that will make forests more resilient to fire and other threats. This is especially important given the mounting impacts of climate change, which are escalating the frequency and intensity of fires and many other stresses on forest health.
Specifically, the Omnibus includes the following key provisions to fix the funding model for fire suppression: (1) it freezes the 10-year average for fire costs at the fiscal year 2015 level, halting the increasing percentage of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget that has been going to fighting fires; (2) it establishes a contingency account for use in bad fire years when appropriated levels are not enough and funds it with more than $2 billion a year through 2027; (3) it reduces the need to transfer funds from non-fire related programs, allowing the U.S. Forest Service to implement all other aspects of its work, including investment in forest thinning and other actions that reduce the risk of extreme wildfires.
“This comprehensive funding solution addresses our biggest concerns,” said Jad Daley, vice president of conservation programs (now president and CEO) at American Forests. “The U.S. Forest Service has multiple mandates that can now be fully implemented. Fire funding will no longer shortchange the Forest Service’s ability to do other important work, like restoring our forests for health and resilience in a changing climate, supporting urban forestry, and using forests to clean our air and water.”
American Forests would also like to thank our members and supporters who sent thousands of letters to their elected officials urging them to support such a fix.
“Elected officials need to hear from their constituents that they care about these issues,” said Rebecca Turner, chief strategy officer at American Forests. “When Congress hears not just from the policy professionals in D.C., but from the folks in their districts, it helps to elevate the need for finding a solution.”
The FY 2018 Omnibus is expected to pass by Congress later this week.