Fires, Forests and Funding

Forest fires have been making the headlines a lot lately. It’s difficult to ignore the impact forest fires have on communities and resources. Fire seasons are getting longer and fires are burning more intensely. It is obvious fire fighting costs are on the rise but what may not be obvious is the USFS is footing some of the bill. When the USFS spends more money on fire fighting than what they have allocated other areas of their budget suffer. This means other projects that need to be completed may not be able to get done. A longer fire season in California could result in the Superior National Forest not getting something they need.

According to a letter from the Isaac Walton League, “Over the past 20 years, the portion of the U.S. Forest Service budget dedicated to wildfire suppression grew from 16 percent to 52 percent. When that falls short in a given year, funding for local wildlife management, timber sales, recreation, and all other programs are diverted to firefighting, resulting in a lost benefit here in Minnesota and across the nation.”

There is a solution to the problem and it is called the Simpson’s and Wyden’s Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.   The bill treats major catastrophic wildfires like natural disasters so the expense doesn’t come from the USFS budget.  When the money comes directly out of the USFS budget there isn’t money left to be spent on trails, recreation, infrastructure and programming.

This bill sounds like a good thing to me. I’m sure you can find more information about it and I encourage you to do so. If it makes sense to you then I encourage you to reach out to your politicians and ask them to support the bill. Something positive needs to be done to protect all of the forests, not just the ones burning.

Dave Granlund/Cagle Cartoons


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