Senator urges President to reverse funding cut for fighting wildfires

wildfire flamesOn Thursday, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) sent a letter to President Trump calling for the use of science-based approaches to restore forest health and for a reversal of the $600 million cut to firefighting proposed in the President’s budget.

In the letter, Senator Cantwell argued that the government’s approach to managing wildfires is inadequate in the new era of intense wildfires we now face. Wildfires have already burned 2.2 million acres this year. This level of activity is 400 percent above normal, and the science tells us this trend will continue.

The Senator wrote, “Wildfires are serious business in the West and, increasingly, throughout our nation. I am writing to implore you to implement policies based on science to govern our country’s response to these potentially deadly blazes and to grow the economy of rural areas.”

Cantwell explained that underfunding the Federal wildland fire program will almost certainly force agencies to restart the practice of transferring funding from non-fire accounts to pay for the cost of managing fires. These transfers impose additional costs to companies due to delayed or cancelled projects and harm local communities that depend on National Forests operating efficiently. Cantwell called on President Trump to work with the appropriate Congressional committees to implement a permanent fire-budgeting fix this year.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

13 thoughts on “Senator urges President to reverse funding cut for fighting wildfires”

    1. I don’t understand your point.

      I do fight wildfires, and have for the last 19 years. We need to adequately fund our suppression activities in our forests, in the Wildland Interface and other rural areas.

      Land Managers have had to use funds intended for other activities to pay for suppression activities, to the detriment of those programs, trail building, park and forest maintenance, logging planning and oversite to name a few.

      While I disagree with Senator Cantwell on many of her points of view, she is right, this time.

      1. I have been fighting wildlamd fires for the US Forest Service for over 16 years on A Hotshot Crew , I start work in another week , fighting these fires are getting worse like she said but not to have the suppression Resources to fight them can cause human or firefighter lives, especially when it comes to the aircraft that are needed to help with these massive fires. I hope to see some type of resolution on this topic to have the funds to fight these fires so we are not risking our lives when we don’t or can’t have the resources to help us in our efforts , in fire terms that’s called the Swiss Cheese affect,meaning : another hole in the safety of our Firefighters on the lines.

  1. If the Federal Wildfire Program is underfunded, it will be because the committee that Senator Cantwell serves on makes a decision to underfund it when they write the appropriations language for the Senate’s part of the budget. Or it will be the fault of the Congress if they fail to pass that particular portion of the budget.

    The House appropriations committee recommended appropriation for wildland firefighting and prevention was for $3.9B which level funded the 10 year average suppression expenses. Hazardous fuels management was increased over the 2016 budget. The usual Congressional practice of driving down the budgeting freeway by looking in the rear view mirror practically insures no significant changes for what they consider to be routine budget issues.

    Maybe what gets missed in all this is that the President’s budget is basically a political request by the executive branch for the Congress to appropriate the requested amounts. Congress is ultimately responsible for making U.S. budget decisions and appropriating the money. If Congress goes along with the Presidential budget request, they are taking the easy way out and giving themselves a political out if the budget turns out to have been inadequate or excessive.

    If you don’t like how things are going on this issue contact your representatives.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. Of course, it is easier to point fingers and wail than to take a stand. I’ll write Senators Cantwell and Murray today.

    2. https://www.senate.gov/general/committee_membership/committee_memberships_SSEG.htm

      Bean is right. If your Senator is on the list give them a call. One would think, given the number of western states represented on this list, that wildfire suppression and timber resource protection would rank high on their to do list.

      Realize that though Cantwell is the ranking minority member on the subcommittee her voice within the committee counts for just a shade above diddley-squat. She’s in the minority of a subcommittee that is one of six subcommittees that make up the Senate Finance Committee. And the Senate is only half of Congress. Sending an open letter to Trump is sadly the most effective way to represent her constituents.

  2. Sent:

    Dear Senator Cantwell;
    While it is popular to gnash teeth and wail about the horrible job President Trump is doing, in your recent letter to him calling for the use of science-based approaches to restore forest health and for a reversal of the $600 million cut to firefighting proposed in his budget you ignore the fact it is the job of Congress to enact legislation setting budgets and spending priorities.

    As a firefighter with 29 years of experience, 19 responding to the large wildland fire in the Pacific Northwest, I have seen firsthand the results of shortsighted spending priorities. I agree that we need to fully fund land management activities, and ensure that the nations firefighting resources have an ongoing funding source, but it is not accurate to point the finger blaming President Trump for underfunding the programs.

    If the Federal Wildfire Program is underfunded, it will be because the committee that you serve on makes a decision to underfund it when they write the appropriations language for the Senate’s part of the budget. Or it will be the fault of the Congress if they fail to pass that particular portion of the budget.

    The House appropriations committee recommended appropriation for wildland firefighting and prevention was for $3.9B which level funded the 10 year average suppression expenses. Hazardous fuels management was increased over the 2016 budget. The usual Congressional practice of driving down the budgeting freeway by looking in the rear view mirror practically insures no significant changes for what they consider to be routine budget issues.

    Maybe what gets missed in all this is that the President’s budget is basically a political request by the executive branch for the Congress to appropriate the requested amounts. Congress is ultimately responsible for making U.S. budget decisions and appropriating the money. If Congress goes along with the Presidential budget request, they are taking the easy way out and giving themselves a political out if the budget turns out to have been inadequate or excessive.

    Now to hunt down the appropriate Congresscritters and send them a letter based on the same template.

    1. Gordie,

      Did you read Cantwell’s letter? https://www.eenews.net/assets/2017/04/20/document_pm_04.pdf I don’t see the gnashing of teeth, wailing and accusations of “the horrible job President Trump is doing”.

      In an earlier post you say you agree with Cantwell but you’re somehow opposed to her sending an open letter to Trump? How does that make sense? Ranking member or not she is a minority member of a subcommittee within a committee, within the Senate within Congress. I think it’s safe to say that her influence is pretty limited. Furthermore as a member of the minority party I’m betting that Cantwell is not really interested in going along with the President’s budget request.

      So sending a open letter to Trump is likely the most direct method of representing her constituents. Is that not her right and responsibility?

  3. I am a mother of Wild land fire fighter. I am mad as hell and will be fighting the budget cuts. Safety first!

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