Obama to propose changes to forest fire funding, because climate change

posted at 2:01 pm on February 23, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

Tucked inside of his 2015 “austerity”-ending budget request the White House will release next month, President Obama plans to propose a big change in how the federal government pays to fight wildfires — a move that, administration officials all too gladly contend, reflects the ways in which climate change is making those fires riskier and costlier than ever. Via the NYT:

The proposal will ask Congress to pay the costs of fighting extreme wildfires in the same way it finances the federal response to disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, the officials said. When unpredictable events like Hurricane Sandy are destructive enough to be declared disasters by the president, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is authorized to exceed its annual budget and draw on a special disaster account. The account is adjusted each year to reflect the 10-year average cost of responding to such events.

Mr. Obama’s budget proposal would create a similar exception for the Interior and Agriculture Departments, which have agencies that are responsible for wildfire response. In recent years, as wildfires have become more frequent and intense in the Western United States, the cost of fighting the fires has soared.

In real dollar terms, adjusted for inflation, the Forest Service and Interior Department spent an average of $1.4 billion in annual wildfire protection from 1991 to 1999, according to a report by Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group. But that spending has more than doubled — from 2002 to 2012, the agencies spent an average of $3.5 billion to fight wildfires.

As they NYT notes, the measure is likely to garner a heap of bipartisan support, as there are already similar bills floating around the House and Senate, and an outside coalition of environmentalists, sportsmen, and timber producers have all been lobbying in favor of the idea. Indeed, the government’s fire-fighting budget has been coming up woefully short the past few years, as forest fires have definitely been getting “more frequent and intense” — but not at all for the reason President Obama wants us to believe as he continues his campaign to make it look like he’s Doing Something about climate change. In environmentalists’ rush to classify any hint of “extreme” weather or any natural or ecological disaster as the dire evidence of anthropogenic global warming, they are completely and willfully misdiagnosing the real and glaring problem here.

For most of the 20th century, the federal government’s forest fire policy on the one-third of the surface area of the United States it now owns was dominated by suppression tactics that have resulted in overly dense forests choked with too many trees and too much vegetation, all competing for precious water resources. Fire is just nature’s way of thinning out trees, curing blights, and maintaining generally healthy ecosystems, but for decades the Forest Service actively prevented this cyclical light burning. Throw a match or a lightning strike into any of dense, dry forests today, and of course it’s going to explode into a massive runaway fire.

Nutshell version: Through environmentalists’ misguided land management policies, the federal government directly created a gigantic, terrible problem, and now they need more of our tax dollars to try and solve it. Perfect.


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I thought he was going to order the fire fighters to do their part for the environment and use less water to fight fires…

albill on February 23, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Throwing good money after bad. Shameful…

OmahaConservative on February 23, 2014 at 2:04 PM

With the drought conditions on the west coast firefighting this year should be interesting to say the least. My prayes for a mild fire season.

On a side note, I hope Hollywood burns to the ground!

D-fusit on February 23, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Nutshell version: Through environmentalists’ misguided land management policies, the federal government directly created a gigantic, terrible problem, and now they need more of our tax dollars to try and solve it. Perfect.

It’s still not solving it. Like most liberal policy, it’s reactive, not proactive.

BacaDog on February 23, 2014 at 2:16 PM

Through environmentalists’ misguided land management policies, the federal government directly created a gigantic, terrible problem, and now they need more of our tax dollars to try and solve it. Perfect.

It’s all about never letting a crisis go to waste – even if one has to create the crisis in order to leverage it in order to advance one’s agenda to expand government control, authority, and spending.

Athos on February 23, 2014 at 2:16 PM

tactics that have resulted in overly dense forests choked with too many trees and too much vegetation

living in the mountains of WY i can attest to this. there are such dense areas in our local forests that they are virtually impassable.We seem to have at least one significant fire every year and it’s always attributable to the undergrowth and dead fall that makes it bad. On another note I can’t tell you how many times that a “controlled burn” has gotten away resulting in a major fire.

Fred

jrsrigmvr on February 23, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Prayers not prayes, fatfingered the keyboard again.

D-fusit on February 23, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Three more years of this clown. I don’t know if I’ll make it.

jawkneemusic on February 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Getting another blast of Global Warming in my neck of the woods this week, gotta wear the parka again. Dang that Climate Change anyway!!

whatcat on February 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Three more years of this clown. I don’t know if I’ll make it.

jawkneemusic on February 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM

What makes you think he’ll leave? Laws are irrelevant to him, as is the Constitution.

Del Dolemonte on February 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM

whatcat on February 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM

One of the coldest winters for us in years…

OmahaConservative on February 23, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Maybe if our hack-golfer-in-chief didn’t require golf courses to be open for his person use, we would have effective irrigation of our fields.

blammm on February 23, 2014 at 2:27 PM

That account sounds like a slush fund & Obama is looking to enlarge the stash.

Bitter Clinger on February 23, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Part of the problem is of Obama’s deliberate making. The aerial tanker fleet for firefighting is old [many planes are WW-II conversions] and has to be or is being retired. Money for the replacement planes was cancelled by Obama. Last year in Colorado we had 4 major forest fires going simultaneously threatening to jump into cities at one time, and had one or two major fires away from cities going all bloody summer. Part of the replacement was to be between 1 and two dozen converted DC-10 airliners by last year. They carry several metric Scheiss-tonnes of firefighting slurry per flight. Watching one of those in the mountains coming in at 300 feet and dropping on a burning forest is … impressive; both in the act and the effect.

Because of the budget cuts imposed by Obama, we had one (1) of those planes in the entire country.

Mind you, I am not saying that EVERY fire has to be stomped flat. But inhabited areas and critical watershed fires do. And we can’t. Here in Colorado, maybe 10-20% of the national forests are pine beetle killed. Thousands of acres of standing, dead, dry trees that will never grow back. Just waiting to burn. If the government had half a lick of sense, they would be running carefully controlled logging [I live here, I don't want my mountains destroyed], and carefully controlled burns to reduce the fuel load on the land. Followed, if they want, by massive replanting. That way, you don’t have as many or as big fires to deal with.

I will leave a discussion of the unmentioned source of the fires for another post sometime.

Subotai Bahadur on February 23, 2014 at 2:37 PM

For most of the 20th century, the federal government’s forest fire policy on the one-third of the surface area of the United States it now owns was dominated by suppression tactics that have resulted in overly dense forests choked with too many trees and too much vegetation, all competing for precious water resources. Fire is just nature’s way of thinning out trees, curing blights, and maintaining generally healthy ecosystems, but for decades the Forest Service actively prevented this cyclical light burning. Throw a match or a lightning strike into any of dense, dry forests today, and of course it’s going to explode into a massive runaway fire

…they were warned CONTINUOUSLY what the outcome would be…and we now see the results…along with the loss of memory!

KOOLAID2 on February 23, 2014 at 2:44 PM

tactics that have resulted in overly dense forests choked with too many trees and too much vegetation

Let it burn. I hike South of I-80 off of Donner Summit. There are huge areas with no brush of any kind under stands of trees. You walk above the ground on dead branches. A real dead zone. Nothing lives there except bugs. No direct sunlight has hit the ground for decades.

CW20 on February 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

What makes you think he’ll leave? Laws are irrelevant to him, as is the Constitution.
Del Dolemonte on February 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM

If that day comes, that will be the day the laws no longer apply to anyone.

jawkneemusic on February 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Federal Emergency Management Agency is authorized to exceed its annual budget

Since when has any Federal Agency – with the exception of the military – under this administration needed authorization to exceed its budget?

MrsGsBoyTommy on February 23, 2014 at 2:50 PM

The arrogance of the left. Trying to control nature.

Didn’t FDR have some plan to control the dustbowl that involved concrete?

They don’t let the natural burns happen. They create tinder traps.

All they have to do is get out of the way.

Let it burn has many meanings, these days.

wolly4321 on February 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Obama and his gaggle of fools are lost in a thick fog without a compass or a map.

rplat on February 23, 2014 at 3:08 PM

NYTimes has some strange ideas on how to use icicles

… to think Sarah Palin on had a map with crosshairs

J_Crater on February 23, 2014 at 3:20 PM

Nutshell version: Through environmentalists’ misguided land management policies, the federal government directly created a gigantic, terrible problem, and now they need more of our tax dollars to try and solve it. Perfect.

Erika Johnsen on February 23, 2014 at 2:01 PM

.
It’s all about never letting a crisis go to waste – even if one has to create the crisis in order to leverage it in order to advance one’s agenda to expand government control, authority, and spending.

Athos on February 23, 2014 at 2:16 PM

.
Athos gets it.

listens2glenn on February 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM

I don’t believe in man’s influence in climate change. It’s always changed and always will.

With that said, I believe there is an opportunity here. Can we open up the forests, that are most vulnerable to forest fires, to logging in an effort to 1) raise funds to fight fires, and 2) reduce the amount of available fuel that makes the fires difficult to put out.

Also the lumber that would result can be sequestered in the walls of new homes, so there’s that side benefit as well.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the jobs it would create.

There’s at least 4 reasons here for Conservatives to get behind some sort of initiative here.

strickler on February 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM

When we allowed sound forest management practices – cutting and thinning timber, and in some places using a “checkerboard” form of clear-cutting – we had far fewer devastating fires.

Controlled burning can help, but that and the other measures proposed are not cheap to implement. Cutting timber PAYS the government.

Environmentalists don’t help the environment. Conservationists do.

Adjoran on February 23, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Mark Steyn countersues Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann for 10 millon dollars: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/02/21/steyn-countersues-mann-for-10-millon-dollars/

anotherJoe on February 23, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Let It Burn.

This is nature’s way to renew itself. Stopping fires just builds up underbrush until you get a fire that you can’t handle. Nature’s course is best.

That is the lesson from the Yellowstone fires.

Protect buildings, yes. Protecting a forest from a natural process is asinine.

Let It Burn.

ajacksonian on February 23, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Cue the cute Smokey Bear ads.

“Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Only the U.S. Forest Service, enviro-whackos, and a drug-addled president can ensure that forest fires get increasingly devastating.

New bumper sticker:

“Prevent Forest Fires: Impeach Obama! Kill an Environmentalist!”

ZeusGoose on February 23, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Obama to propose changes to forest fire funding, because climate change socialism

Using any excuse he can find to spend more.
Because spending more gives him a chance to enrich his allies.

“We’re going to reward our friends & punish our enemies.”

itsnotaboutme on February 23, 2014 at 3:57 PM

tactics that have resulted in overly dense forests choked with too many trees and too much vegetation

Let it burn. I hike South of I-80 off of Donner Summit. There are huge areas with no brush of any kind under stands of trees. You walk above the ground on dead branches. A real dead zone. Nothing lives there except bugs. No direct sunlight has hit the ground for decades.

CW20 on February 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Here in New Hampshire around the turn of the 20th century, a series of huge forest fires burned much of what would later become the White Mountain National Forest straight down to the soil.

The forests made a remarkable recovery. In less than 50 years.

Del Dolemonte on February 23, 2014 at 4:26 PM

What makes you think he’ll leave? Laws are irrelevant to him, as is the Constitution.

Del Dolemonte on February 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM

If that day comes, that will be the day the laws no longer apply to anyone.

jawkneemusic on February 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Laws haven’t applied to O’bama and his crime family since January of 2009.

Del Dolemonte on February 23, 2014 at 4:27 PM

There’s at least 4 reasons here for Conservatives to get behind some sort of initiative here.

strickler on February 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Problem is that the Left will tell us that Spotted Owls are much more important.

Del Dolemonte on February 23, 2014 at 4:28 PM

whatcat on February 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM

One of the coldest winters for us in years…

OmahaConservative on February 23, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Yup, for most the Plains-UpperMidwest. Last year was a long one, too. Snowed in Minneapolis the first week of May, drat that Global Warming, anyway.

whatcat on February 23, 2014 at 4:44 PM

A complete list of things caused by global warming

whatcat on February 23, 2014 at 4:46 PM

LOL, and added to daily! Someone took a lot of time to put that together.

bluefox on February 23, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Rewarding the failed stewardship of those forests by the feds. We need to sell the national forests to private owners (who do a much better job of stewardship)and pay down the debt.

jalegend on February 23, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Nailed it Erica.

The freaking idiots don’t address the REAL issue. Or making changes in ill-conceived policies (most recent being ObamaCare).

Nah, much better to use the issue to push other agendas.

Remember, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

GarandFan on February 23, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Remember, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

GarandFan on February 23, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Addendum:

If you don’t have a crisis, create one.
If your crisis isn’t severe enough, deepen it.

Rinse and repeat.

xNavigator on February 23, 2014 at 5:53 PM

I wonder how the cost has been calculated. If it includes the value of timber lost to the fires, then I think there is something amiss.

After decades of pursuing a stop every fire ASAP, a decade or so ago the feds realized the error of that approach and as I recall they established a new strategy to let fires burn until they endanger buildings and lives. So, the higher costs might just be the short-term result of the new approach.

in_awe on February 23, 2014 at 6:10 PM

Plus the environmentalists are laundering campaign money to democrats, gotta suck up to them a bit in an election year.

RushBaby on February 23, 2014 at 9:47 PM

Climate change funding? Has anyone bothered to tell our President that the reason that wildfires have been so much worse in recent times is because his Federal Interior Department and Environmental types have actively elected to not take the normal steps of proper forestry in order to prevent fires and minimize them when they do occur. Periodic controlled fires. Well maintained fire breaks. Scrub areas reduced in buffer zones to housing and civilization. These are important to the health of the forests and the forest ecosystem. Stewardship is not simply letting it grow wild. We have known this for well over a century. This has nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with poor maintenance and stewardship of our natural resources.

patches on February 24, 2014 at 12:14 AM

As stated, these fires happen in nature. The problem is, the eco wacks dont understand that controlled burns would help so much to thin things out, instead of letting it all build up, and then when nature decides its time to burn, you got so much fuel for the fire, its too late. Where as controlled burns happen on our time, and can be contained and planed much better.

The uneducated think its due to global warming because that is what they hear. This is also why politicians are so happy that the population is too dumb to understand such things because then its an easy excuse to funnel more tax payer money.

watertown on February 24, 2014 at 6:12 AM

So is the Geriatric Old Progressives going to do anything to stop funding or push back against this global warming hoax? Haa…. I made a funny!!

Brock Robamney on February 24, 2014 at 6:14 AM