It's always wildfire season somewhere in the United States. In 2016, more than 67,000 wildfires burned more than 5.5 million acres of land in the United States.
State Foresters are responsible for wildfire protection on nearly two-thirds of America’s forested lands. State forestry agencies and their partners 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 risk of wildland fire.
More people in fire-prone landscapes, high fuel loads, drought, and unhealthy forest landscapes are among the factors that have led State Foresters to identify wildland fire as a significant priority issue in their Forest Action Plans.
Today's fire seasons last 78 days longer on average than they did in the 1970s, and are projected to grow hotter, more unpredictable, and more expensive still. Over the last few decades, the portion of the USDA Forest Service’s total budget dedicated to fire has grown from under 20 percent to more than 50 percent. As wildfire burns through larger and larger shares of the agency’s budget, critical funding that supports federal, state, and private forests is reduced through a process called "fire borrowing."
Fire borrowing occurs when the USDA Forest Service runs out of annually appropriated funding for fire suppression and is forced to rob dollars from its non-wildfire programs to pay for the current year’s fire suppression needs.
In order to cover wildfire suppression costs in recent years, the USDA Forest Service has been forced to dismiss employees early, cancel contracts, and halt plans to fill critical positions that conserve and protect our nation’s forests, both public and private. Inadequate funding for wildfire suppression also routinely leads to the cancellation of forest thinning activities, firefighter training, purchases of firefighting equipment, and recreation projects. Contact the NASF policy director to learn more.
Wildfire must be treated as a national land management issue. Hotshot crews, fire fighting equipment, and other valuable resources are shared among states, the federal government, and other agencies countrywide, year round, and across landscapes fragmented by varying ownership and political jurisdictions.
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy ("Cohesive Strategy") is the roadmap for interagency wildland fire management across the country that allows diverse stakeholders to work collaboratively using the best science to make meaningful progress toward three goals:
- Resilient Landscapes
- Fire Adapted Communities Safe
- Effective Wildfire Response
Other Federal Programs
The State Fire Assistance (SFA) and Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) programs provide crucial financial and technical assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In addition to helping ensure that the nation’s first responders are prepared, the programs provide funding to complete hazardous fuels treatments designed to protect local communities from wildland fire and reduce the risk of future fires.
In 2016, SFA/VFA funding trained more than 48,000 firefighters and provided more than $14 million dollars in new or upgraded equipment. The programs engage more than 15,000 communities to develop and implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans.