Tuesday, April 22, 2008

House bill would set aside US$1 billion to fight wildfires

Desastres.org, via AP: Lawmakers stunned by a dramatic jump in federal spending on wildfires say they have found a way to pay for the next disaster. A bill approved Thursday by the House Natural Resources Committee would set aside up to $1 billion to pay for fighting major wildfires such as those that devastated Southern California last fall.

In recent years, the Forest Service and other federal land management agencies have overspent their budgets for fire suppression and sought emergency funding from Congress. Lawmakers have long complained that the Forest Service and other agencies routinely submit budgets that are inadequate to pay for wildfires, since officials are confident that additional funding will be provided — or spending in other areas curtailed — if needed for firefighting.

"Agencies of the Interior Department and the Forest Service have been forced to 'rob Peter to pay Paul' by borrowing funds from other agency accounts to cover the escalating costs of fire suppression," said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the natural resources panel. "This unnecessary and unfair diversion of funds has severely undermined the overall missions of the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies," affecting everything from trail maintenance to education and land acquisition….

2007 Zaca fire near Santa Barbara, shot by John Newman ("from the interagency," whatever that means) US Forest Service, Wikimedia Commons

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