Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Congress to increase funding to fight wildfires
Budget legislation headed toward approval by Congress includes an additional $610 million for the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires next year but no long-term fix to how the agency, year after year, has had to borrow money from other programs to keep up with the ever-growing cost of fighting fires.
The Forest Service spent a record $1.7 billion fighting fires this year. Firefighting now accounts for more than half of the agency’s budget, up from 16 percent 20 years ago.
The Obama administration wants to address the Forest Service’s firefighting budget shuffle by treating wildfires like other types of natural disasters for funding purposes. The proposal, however, didn’t make it into the budget legislation the House and Senate plan to vote on Friday.
Paying for wildfires the same way the government responds to hurricanes and tornadoes needs more review, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
One potential problem: A destructive tornado or hurricane is a single event, while a nasty fire season is series of events, some much worse than others. The tipping point at which federal disaster relief would be warranted for wildfires in any given year could be difficult to gauge.
“I believe the administration’s proposal could set a bad precedent, prove unworkable, and fall short of its own goals,” Murkowski said in a news release this week.
The budget legislation would provide $1.6 billion for firefighting, up from $1 billion in a season that killed seven firefighters and burned a near-record 15,000 square miles nationwide...more