(Washington, D.C., September 26, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hosted U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for a 2017 fire briefing to hear about this year’s efforts to contain wildfires out west as well as the way the USFS is funded. Currently, the agency has to borrow money from prevention programs to combat ongoing wildfires. Secretary Perdue believes Congress should treat major fires the same as other disasters and should be covered by emergency funds so prevention programs are not raided.
“This has been a tremendous fire season,” said Secretary Perdue. “As wildfire costs exceed $2 billion, I appreciate those in Congress who recognize this funding issue and are working to make a permanent fix that allows us to manage our forests preemptively. While we can’t stop these wildfires, we know we can be prepared in a much better way.”
Recently, wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year exceeded $2 billion, making it the most expensive year on record. This summer, wildfires have ravaged states in the west, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rockies regions of the United States. Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, consuming a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. This increase forces agency to take funds from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Secretary Perdue’s proposal would ensure both fire suppression and prevention efforts receive the proper funding they need. Just last week, Secretary Perdue urged State Foresters to call on Congress to fix this fire funding problem. You may click HERE (MP3, 263 KB) and HERE (MP3, 253 KB) to listen to excerpts of his remarks.