Rep. Kurt Schrader and others take on what some call the dysfunctional Forest Service budget
WASHINGTON – Congressman Kurt Schrader and Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson have reintroduced legislation to make common sense changes to the federal wildfire budget. H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, aims to make sure the way the Forest Service budgets for wildfire suppression makes sense. HR 167 would end the destructive cycle of taking funds from the forest management budget, which pays for thinning and clearing our national forests, and ensures that those who fight forest fires have sufficient funds, year to year, to keep putting those fires out. Schrader says the system now guarantees that the fire fighting budget doesn’t have enough money in it, so they raid the forest management budget that is aimed at making forest lands less explosively susceptible to fire in the first place. It guarantees that huge wildfires will keep happening because all the prevention money is going to fighting fires instead of preventing or keeping a lid on their size.
“There are a number of steps that we need to take to address forest health and management issues, but fixing the wildfire suppression budget must be the first one,” said Simpson. “Until we address this issue, anything we do to increase needed management in the forests, like hazardous fuels removal, timber harvest, conservation, or trail maintenance, will continue to be lost in if the money goes for fighting fires instead of limiting the potential size of the fires in the first place. Fixing the wildfire budget is the critical first step in making our forests healthier and, ultimately reducing the cost of wildfires in the future.”
“The way we currently budget for fire is costing taxpayers and destroying our forests,” said Simpson. “Passing this legislation will have a significant and long-term impact on both our public lands and on our budget, allowing us to finally budget responsibly for wildfire suppression in a way that ultimately decreases firefighting costs by reducing fire risk and making us better prepared for and more resilient against future fires.”