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Simpson Secures Wildfire Funding in House Budget Bill

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today supported a continuing resolution that extends government operations through the end of the fiscal year with a provision specifying that cuts under sequestration must be enacted for all non-security accounts as required by current law.  Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, was instrumental in ensuring that the CR included adequate funding for fire suppression shortfalls in FY13. 

“Idaho and the West faced an intense fire season in 2013, requiring more funding than initially budgeted to protect communities and manage resources,” said Simpson.  “While we do our best to predict a fire season and budget accordingly, some years are worse than expected, and it’s not until all is said and done that we can take stock of the costs and respond appropriately.”

H.R. 933 provides $570 million to address shortfalls in fire accounts.  This includes $97 million for the Department of the Interior and $473 million for the Forest Service.  With carry-over and reserve wildfire funds exhausted through budget cuts in recent years, the Forest Service had to borrow roughly $600 million from non-fire accounts to meet fire suppression needs in FY13, the largest transfer in recent history.  With the entire fire season accounted for, the continuing resolution fully restores these accounts.

“If we continue to rob land management accounts to pay for fire suppression, we are going to see fires that are bigger, more catastrophic, and much, much more expensive,” said Simpson.  “This funding makes those accounts whole so that the agencies can do the work necessary to improve the health of our forests and rangelands.  More work needs to be done to remove hazardous fuels buildup and prevent catastrophic fires, and so in addition to this funding we need to review or existing fire policy and continue to look at management reforms.”

H.R. 933 passed the House by a vote of 267-151.   The current funding resolution expires on March 27, and the bill will now be considered by the U.S. Senate.