The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow about the Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act of 2016 discussion draft. California State Forester Ken Pimlott will testify on behalf of NASF; check back on the NASF blog tomorrow for the full testimony.
In terms of fire transfers and borrowing, NASF appreciates the draft bill language which will curtail this late season practice. State Foresters are also supportive of many of the forest management and fire operation provisions and believe they will add to enhanced fire fighter safety as well as more active forest management, ultimately reducing the impacts of wildfires. State Foresters remain concerned with the increasing impact of the fire suppression budget on non-fire suppression programs. Read NASF’s June 10 comments to the committee about the discussion draft.
NASF and a group of more than 100 environmental, industry, business and recreation groups have expressed concern with the eroding budgets facing the USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior.
With such a steep amount of the money being used for wildfire suppression, agencies are left with significantly less for forestland management projects, including those projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires. As more funding is allocated to fight fires, less is allocated to other areas of the USFS budget. As funding for critical programs such as Forest Health, Forest Stewardship and State Fire Assistance are reduced, active management and rapid response capabilities are also reduced at the time they are needed most.
There is a critical need to find a way to access disaster funding to pay for catastrophic wildfires—placing these fires on par with other natural disasters or fund wildfire suppression beyond a certain limit in increasingly challenging wildfire years.
State Foresters deliver technical and financial assistance, along with forest health, water and wildfire protection for more than two-thirds of the nation’s 751 million acres of forests. In 2014, 80 percent of nation’s wildfires—representing 27 percent of the acreage burned—were on state and private lands where fire suppression is the responsibility of the State Foresters. Download NASF’s wildfire funding one pager at https://www.stateforesters.org/sites/default/files/issues-and-policies-document-attachments/Support%20a%20Wildfire%20Funding%20Solution.pdf.