Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, worked with the full House Appropriations Committee to support efforts to provide necessary federal resources to address wild fires in the west. As fires ignite and spread throughout the Western United States, the federal government has an important role to play in supporting firefighting, prevention and suppression. The bill passed the full committee this week.
"With wildfires spreading across Montana and throughout the West, I'm working with my colleagues to make sure the federal government plays an appropriate role in preventing and suppressing these fires," said Rehberg. "Montanans are losing their homes and livelihoods. This just isn't a partisan issue. With so much of our land under federal control in Montana, the federal government has an obligation to step up and support wildfire response."
Among the provisions included in the bill, wildfire fighting and prevention programs receive $3.2 billion, which is an increase of $6 million above last year. This is divided between wildland fire management programs ($2.8 billion) and the FLAME reserve fund program ($407 million).
The Rehberg-supported bill fully funds the 10-year average wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of Interior (DoI) and the Forest Service. This figure is important because the annual costs of wildfires fluctuates tremendously between good years and bad ones. By maintaining an annual contribution in line with the 10-year average, the budgetary impact of a particularly expensive year can be mitigated.
Among the programs funded:
This program provides funding for baseline staffing, training, and equipment.
This program funds agency fire control activities while wildfires are burning (e.g., for initial response for most fires), but before they meet the criteria for FLAME funding.
Other Wildfire Operations
Other wildfire operations include a variety of activities. The largest is fuel reduction treatments, followed by FS state fire assistance.
FLAME Funding (emergency funds)
The Rehberg-supported Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act modified the traditional approach to funding wildfire suppression. To account for the variable cost of wildfire activities between years, two reserve funds were established -- one for the Department of Interior and one for the Forest Service -- to save money in low cost years to be used for high cost years. The agencies may use those funds to support wildland fire management programs upon a secretarial declaration for any fire that covers at least 300 acres or threatens lives, property, or resources.