Yikes: Feds already running low on wildfire funds
posted at 9:31 pm on August 21, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
We’re barely in the middle of peak fire season across the United States’ arid west, but once more, the federal government finds itself approaching fiscal crisis-mode trying to cope with the ragingly stubborn problem, via Politico:
Running out of money to fight wildfires at the peak of the season, the U.S. Forest Service is diverting $600 million from timber, recreation and other areas to fill the gap.
The nation’s top wildfire-fighting agency was down to $50 million after spending $967 million so far this year, Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said Wednesday in an email.
Chambers says the $50 million the Forest Service has left is typically enough to pay for just a few days of fighting fires when the nation is at its top wildfire preparedness level, which went into effect Tuesday.
There are 51 large uncontained fires burning across the nation, making it tough to meet demands for fire crews and equipment. …
Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell sent a letter Aug. 16 to regional foresters and other top officials telling them to come up with the cuts by Friday.
While we’re always fairly certain that we’ll hear plenty from so-called environmentalists about how the increasing infernos across the United States’ more arid landscapes are the result of an uptick in global warming, we’re less likely to hear about how those same environmentalists’ influenced awful land-use policies over the past few decades that have contributed plenty to these blazing hotboxes just waiting to happen.
The Forest Service’s governing policies have certainly improved in recent years (watch this quick video from PERC for some good stuff on effective resource management), the decades of fire suppression, private-use prevention, and top-down bureaucratic inefficiency that created overly dense and dry forests are a big part of what’s landed us in our current situation. If these three senators have their way, we should get some good debate on the expensive and consequence-heavy ongoing issue this fall:
BOISE — Three U.S. senators called for a national commitment to better manage public lands to help prevent catastrophic wildfires Aug. 20 during a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The senators will lead an effort this fall to provide federal agencies better tools to manage the nation’s public lands, a plan that includes more thinning of overgrown forest stands and proper grazing. …
“The fires that are ripping their way through Oregon, Idaho, California and much of the West are proof the federal government’s policy for fire prevention is broken,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The mega-fires that have plagued Western states in recent years are not natural fires, said Wyden, who was joined by Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.
“They are infernos that come about as a result of years and years of neglect,” said Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. …
The senators’ plan calls for better management of public lands by reducing fuel loads, increasing local decision-making and allowing for more collaborative land management efforts.