A bill introduced at the beginning of January by representatives from Idaho and Oregon aims to change the way the federal government budgets for suppression, control and fighting wildfires. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015 (H.R. 167) would end the need to transfer funds from critical forest conservation and management programs. Florida State Forester and President of the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), Jim Karels explains why a more efficient method of funding is critical; “…It’s always wildfire season somewhere in the United States, and this bill would make critically needed changes to how America pays for fire suppression. By redirecting funds for programs that improve resiliency of forests to threats—such as mitigation and fuel treatment efforts—the current system exacerbates forest health and actually increases future fire risk and costs. It simply makes no sense.”
The NASF vigorously supports this bill and urges congress to quickly adopt this legislation and end transfers from forest conservation and management programs in order to pay for fire suppression. This change will allow foresters, state agencies and fire fighters to consistently act with regards to wildfire control, prevention, protection and management-costs of which totaled $1.8 billion in 2012. Adoption of these measures enables federal agencies to continue to deliver on their missions to help sustainably manage America’s forests, both public and private.
Funding for wildfire suppression and reduction of risks and impacts from wildfire are ranked as the number one issue of concern by NASF members. Karels continues; “The practice of transferring funds from non-fire programs continues to undermine America’s ability to deliver the essential benefits to all citizens including wood products, jobs, clean air and water, and wildlife habitat. These benefits are at risk if we don’t stop the destructive cycle of fire transfers. This bipartisan bill is supported by a broad coalition of timber, tribal, conservation, recreation, sportsmen and employer groups.”