In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new report demonstrating how limited federal firefighting budgets have negatively impacted wildland fire preparedness, forest restoration efforts and other projects over the last two fiscal years, members of Idaho's Congressional Delegation are saying the report should serve as a call to action to overhaul the way in which the federal government funds fighting wildfires on public lands.
"This report further solidifies what we already know--the current way in which the federal government budgets for wildfire suppression is unsustainable. It is critical we begin treating the most catastrophic wildfires like the natural disasters that they are in order to break the costly and destructive cycle of underfunding forest management efforts vital to preventing future fires and maintaining the health of our nation's forests," the Delegation said in a joint statement.
The Delegation has repeatedly sought to bring this issue of great importance to the West to the forefront of debate in Congress, introducing legislation to dramatically revise the federal government's wildfire budgeting process. The measure seeks to maintain public lands restoration funding by shifting some firefighting money to disaster accounts in the worst of fire years, allowing budgeted funds for important restoration activities such as logging, prescriptive burning and habitat management to be used as initially intended. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act was originally introduced by Senator Crapo and Representative Simpson along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon). Senator Jim Risch and Representative Labrador are co-sponsors of the legislation.