It's always wildfire season somewhere in the United States.
State Foresters protect two-thirds of the nation's forests, with jurisdiction over and response to 75 percent of all wildfires. More people in fire-prone landscapes, high fuel loads, drought and unhealthy landscapes are among the factors that have led State Foresters to identify wildland fire as a significant priority issue in their Forest Action Plans.
Wildland fire must be managed across landscapes that are often fragmented into many land ownerships and political jurisdictions. More than a fire management, fire operations, wildland urban interface problem – wildfire is a larger land management and societal issue.
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Cohesive Strategy) is the roadmap for interagency wildland fire management across the country. The Cohesive Strategy will build on past efforts to direct wildland fire management in the United States, and emphasizes restoring resilient landscapes and promoting fire-adapted communities.
While no one strategy can solve all the problems faced by the nation’s fire community, the Cohesive Strategy will provide a common basis for thoughtfully approaching the complexities of wildland fire and determining the best course of action. Representatives from NASF played a key role in the crafting of the Cohesive Strategy.
During the past three fiscal years the USDA Forest Service was forced to transfer more than $1 billion from programs within the agency to pay for fighting wildfires. In the same three years the Department of the Interior transferred nearly $60 million to cover the cost of fighting fires. The bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would change how the federal government budgets for wildland fire suppression to eliminate the need to transfer funds from critical forest conservation and management programs.
It’s always wildfire season somewhere in the United States, and this legislation would make critically needed changes to how America pays for fire suppression. By redirecting funds intended 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.
More than 25 percent of NASF’s membership—which is comprised of every state forestry agency in the country—names wildfire suppression funding or reducing risks of wildfire impacts as the number one high impact issue facing the agency. State wildfire control, prevention, protection and management costs totaled $1.8 billion in 2012 according to NASF’s state forestry agency survey. Passage of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act fix will enable federal agencies to continue to deliver on their missions to help sustainably manage America’s forests, both public and private.
State Fire Assistance (SFA) and Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) are the fundamental federal assistance programs that states and local fire departments use to develop preparedness and response capabilities for wildland fire management. They provide crucial financial and technical assistance to support state fire management activities, including preparedness, planning, training, hazardous fuels treatments, and the purchase and maintenance of equipment. In many states, funding cuts have crippled wildfire emergency response capacity. This federal assistance helps to ensure preparedness of local resources, and helps thousands of communities prepare for (and mitigate the risk of) wildland fire.