Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has included critical wildfire suppression funding for the Forest Service and Department of Interior in the short-term continuing resolution. The CR, which would extend government funding at sequestration levels through mid-December, provides $600 million to the Forest Service and $36 million to the Department of the Interior to restore wildfire suppression accounts that have been depleted during the devastating 2013 fire season. Simpson chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for public lands agencies like the Forest Service and the BLM.
The funding in the CR helps to address what is referred to as “fire borrowing.” When budgeted fire suppression funding is depleted, agencies are forced to take money from other non-fire accounts in order to continue fighting fires.
“One of the biggest problems with fire borrowing is that it perpetuates the cycle of catastrophic wildfires in forests that are not being adequately managed,” said Simpson. “Siphoning money away from resource management accounts during a bad fire year means that those forests will be more susceptible to devastating fires in the future—and when almost every year is a bad fire year, land managers’ hands are tied. Restoring this funding will help ensure that fire fighters can continue to put out fires without jeopardizing the important work of hazardous fuels removal, resource restoration, and timber harvests that we need to do in order to return our forests to health.”
Simpson added, “I cannot say enough good things about the men and women who have been on the front lines of these fires. They managed to save homes during the Beaver Creek fire that I would have thought couldn’t be saved. All summer they have worked tirelessly to save Idaho lands and communities, and I’m pleased that Congress recognized this by including the resources to manage and put out fires in the CR.”