State foresters are responsible for wildfire protection on nearly two-thirds of America’s forested lands.
With more people living in fire-prone landscapes close to wildlands, protecting these state and private forests from wildfire has been increasingly difficult. Today, many of the nation’s state foresters are charged with managing millions of acres of overstocked, drought- and pest-comprised forests prime for burning.
In 2017, the federal government spent nearly $3 billion on fire suppression. State forestry agencies paid an additional $1.4 billion.
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 wildfires burn 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.”
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations omnibus provided a wildfire funding fix. Starting in FY 2020, $2.25 billion for wildfire suppression will be available to the USDA and the Department of the Interior. This budget authority will increase by $100 million each year, ending at $2.95 billion in FY 2027.
For the duration of the eight-year fix, the fire suppression account will be funded at the FY 2015 president’s budget request of $1.011 billion. If funding over the cap is used, the USDA secretary will be required to submit a report to Congress documenting the decision-making and cost drivers that led to the additional expenditures. Learn more about the wildfire funding fix and the federal forest management reforms included in the FY 2018 appropriations omnibus.
In 2017, more than 71,000 wildfires burned more than 10 million acres of land.
Because wildfire is a national land management issue, it must be treated like one. 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 of varying ownerships.
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 resilient landscapes, fire-adapted communities, and effective wildfire response.
training and Equipment
SFA and VFA provide swift response capability for fighting fires on federal lands.
The State Fire Assistance and Volunteer Fire Assistance (SFA and VFA) programs provide 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 that protect communities from wildfires.
In 2017, SFA and VFA funding trained more than 58,000 firefighters and provided more than $13.5 million dollars in new or upgraded equipment. The programs also helped more than 3,100 communities develop and implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans, risk assessments, or fire management plans.