Tuesday, October 09, 2012

U.S. runs out of funds to battle wildfires

Each year that money was removed from brush disposal and timber salvage programs, the Forest Service’s efforts to prevent fire fell “further and further behind,” said Jake Donnay, senior director of forestry for National Association of State Foresters. “Even with the appropriations they get, they’re not able to catch up. We’re thankful that Congress did act to repay them this time, but that hasn’t always been the case.” Three years ago, Congress appeared to find a solution that satisfied all parties. It created the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement fund, or FLAME. The premise was simple. In the few good fire years, when the Forest Service and Interior isn’t compelled to spend every penny appropriated to fight fires, the balance would go into the FLAME account to pay for suppression in seasons when things really heat up. Congress allocated $415 million for FLAME’s first fiscal year, 2010 — a mild fire season, it turned out. As luck would have it, the following season also presented fewer fires, and a small budget surplus went into FLAME. But in 2011, Congress went right in after it, taking at least $200 million from the fund and placing into the general treasury to use for other expenditures...more

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