The Burning Problem with Current Wildfire Funding
It's always wildfire season somewhere in the United States and state and local resources are first to respond to approximately 75 percent of all wildland fires in the United States.
These agencies provide critical resources and experience to wildland fire management and suppression as part of the coordinated national wildfire response. State forestry agencies also support prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce the threat of fire in the first place.
When wildfire strikes, the funds used to combat these disasters come directly out of the budgets for the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior Agencies.
The cost of wildland fire suppression efforts has exceeded 50 percent of the USDA Forest Service’s entire budget for the first time ever this year. Fire costs, which accounted for 16 percent of the Forest Service’s total budget in FY 1995, are projected to grow to 67 percent of the total Forest Service budget in FY 2025 if we don’t address this funding issue.
The increasing fire costs and longer fire seasons have resulted in a reduction of agency personnel that deliver proactive forest management and Forest Service State & Private programs for non-federal forests. As fires burn through more of the Agency’s budget, personnel are left with fewer resources to manage their land to prepare for and mitigate the impact and cost of future fires.
"We must treat catastrophic wildfire not like a routine expense...but as the natural disasters they truly are. It's time to address the runaway growth of fire suppression at the cost of other critical programs," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said.
NASF urges members of Congress to fix the broken system and provide aid to America's forests by supporting a bipartisan solution to this problem. Ask your members of Congress to support the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which funds a portion of federal wildfire response activities like other natural disasters. (H.R. 167 & S. 235).