Wyden, Crapo, Merkley and Risch: Spending Bill Boosts Wildfire Funds, But Much More Work to Do
Washington, D.C. –A bipartisan group of Oregon and Idaho senators praised congressional leaders for boosting wildfire funding in a year-end spending bill, and vowed to continue pushing for a long-term solution.
Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, joined with Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch to renew their call for a long-term solution to wildfire funding. The bill directly funds firefighting at 100 percent of the 10-year average of firefighting costs. Additionally, it contains nearly $600 million in rollover reserve funds that can be used in the event of a catastrophic fire season, which will reduce the severity of “fire borrowing” by the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department. However, it lacks a long-term solution, and does little to free up new funding for fire prevention or hold down-long term firefighting costs.
“This year’s spending bill is a real improvement over the status quo, but there is far, far more to do to protect communities in Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho and across the United States that are threatened by wildfire every year. I’m proud to stand with Senators Crapo, Merkley, Risch and a strong bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate to work toward a long-term solution to this problem. It’s disappointing a small number of members blocked that solution this year, but we’ll keep fighting until we get it over the finish line,” Wyden said.
“It is positive to see this the year-end spending measure includes an increase in funding for wildfire suppression. This will provide our wildland firefighters with the certainty they need to plan and allocate resources appropriately,” said Crapo. “However, I consider such funding to be a first-step in what must be a long-term solution to fighting wildfires each year. As disaster-level fires and the resulting damages grow each year, government agencies cannot bankrupt themselves by continually taking funds from other priorities to fight fires. Moreover, Congress’ near-yearly passage of off-budget emergency funding measures to cover funding for our worst wildfires is both irresponsible and harmful to agency budgets. I look forward to working with my colleagues next year to identify and pass a long-term, fiscally-responsible funding solution to this problem that affects so many states.”