WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) has asked the leadership of the U.S. Senate to consider changes to how Congress funds the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior’s wildfire fighting operations.
In the letter, signed by 57 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Royce highlighted the nearly $700 million federal land agencies borrowed from land management and other important activities to fight wildfires during 2015.
“As California faces another wildfire season during this historic drought, Congress needs to adjust the federal wildfire budget to better protect our citizens and their property,” said Rep. Royce. “In seven of the past 10 years, the costs of fighting wildfires has exceeded the Forest Service’s firefighting budget – clearly an unsustainable operating model. Funds to fight wildfires should instead be treated like those used during hurricanes and floods, which will allow the Interior Department to stop robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Text of the letter can be read here or below:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Chairwoman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell:
Many Members of Congress are concerned about the costly practice of fire borrowing. As we continue to work with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to end this practice, we would like to urge the Senate to take up similar legislation.
As you know, most of the American West is still experiencing severe drought conditions which has significantly increased the danger for damaging wildfires. These wildfires cause serious damage to property and threaten lives. In 2015, more than 10 million acres were burned by wildfires. Federal land agencies borrowed nearly $700 million from land management and other important activities to fight these fires. This leaves these agencies with fewer resources to conduct thinning, timber harvests, and controlled burns which can reduce the severity of these wildfires.
Before the 2016 fire season begins, we believe it is critical that Congress change the way in which we provide funds to the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior to fight catastrophic wildland fires. In seven of the past 10 years, the costs of fighting wildfires has exceeded the Forest Service’s firefighting budget. This forced the agency to borrow funds intended for forest management practices.
In addition, the portion of firefighting costs out of the U.S. Forest Service budget has risen steadily over the past 20 years. In 2015, wildland fire suppression costs were more than 50 percent of the Forest Service’s total budget. Redirecting funds to firefighting takes funds away from other important programs that can help land managers more actively manage forests to reduce the risk of future wildland fires.
We believe that Congress needs to address this problem through legislation that would treat wildfires like other natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. This change would eliminate the need for the Forest Service to use funds appropriated for other programs to cover the costs of fighting wildfires.
The House has shown strong support to end fire-borrowing and we are committed to addressing this problem during the remaining months of the 114th Congress. We hope that you will do the same and take action to give the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior the ability to fight wildland fires without limiting their ability to carry out the rest of their missions. We stand to ready to work with you to fix this critical problem.
Member of Congress
Contact: Saat Alety (202-225-4111)
Source: U.S. Representative Ed Royce