USDA Forest Service forced to fire borrow

WASHINGTON—The USDA Forest Service has begun the first of two transfer increments, to total up to $450 million, from other programs within the agency in order to fund wildfire suppression.

National Association of State Foresters President and Florida State Forester Jim Karels said today:

“As the United States continues to experience historic wildfire activity, state forestry agencies are working around-the-clock with their partners to safely and efficiently suppress wildfires. This week’s announcement of fire transfers will have widespread impacts on important forest management, research and development, and technical assistance programs funded by the USDA Forest Service (USFS).

“Whether you reside in Florida, in the west, or elsewhere in the United States, these transfers from non-suppression accounts directly impact your state forestry agency’s ability to deliver critical forest conservation and management programs. As the USFS soars past spending more than half of its entire agency budget on wildfires for the first time in history, these transfers only further inhibit the ability of federal land managers to invest in critically needed proactive forest management.

“The USFS estimates that in a decade the agency will be spending more than two-thirds of its budget to battle our growing wildfire problem. The lack of emergency funding for the USFS and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to cover disastrous fire seasons, like the one we’re in now, robs these agencies of the funds they need to deliver forest conservation and management programs as directed by Congress and as expected by the American people.

“The multitude of benefits that forests provide to the public—including clean air and water, recreation, forest products, and jobs—are at risk because of the broken federal wildfire funding system. Funds that should be used to manage forests to improve their health and resilience, which reduces long-term fire danger, are instead being redirected towards fire suppression expenses.

“It’s too late for Congress to act to prevent transfers this fire season. But Congress must act soon to ensure this is the last time we rob resources to fund fire suppression at the expense of our nation’s forests’ long-term health.”

Media Contact: Amanda Cooke, NASF communications director at acooke@stateforesters.org or 202-624-5417