The United States Legislature currently has a bill, HR 3992, The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2014, which would change to funding mechanism for handling wildfire disasters to align with other disaster funding streams such as those already in place for “predictable” emergencies such as hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. The intent is to forestall raiding the funds budgeted for land management and wildfire risk-reduction activities that serve to reduce the severity of future wildfire damages.
The Farm Bureau reports, “The U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior are the two federal entities responsible for wildfire suppression. Suppression funding levels are based on the 10-year average of suppression costs; currently, that’s not enough to provide the necessary level for suppression activities nationwide. When suppression funding runs out, which happens regularly, both the USFS and DOI have the authority to transfer funds from within their budgets to make up for shortfalls. So money is usually taken away from non-suppression programs, including land management programs that decrease long-term wildfire risk and costs.”
Land management is gardening on a landscape scale. Just like backyard gardeners, land managers need to thin overgrowth and remove weeds and dead plants so healthy plants can sprout and grow. And just like backyard gardeners, if you divert your attention to other activities, your garden becomes nothing but a choked up weed lot.
This is a model that the California legislature should emulate. CalFire has its own catastrophic wildfire hazards and its own languishing fuels management programs. California will never get a handle on its wildfire problem without active hazard reduction programs that include thinning, prescribed fire and we can’t get it done if our funding gets diverted to wildfire suppression every year.
Commentary: Legislation would help manage forests, prevent wildfire
By Rayne Pegg and Erin Huston
Ag Alert July 9, 2014