The Hill: U.S. needs a proactive approach to wildfire

Scott Steen, the CEO of American Forests, has written an editorial for The Hill, in which his focus is on how the United States should invest in forest health and in strategies to decrease the risk of future fires. Here is an excerpt:


…”First, Congress must approve the recommended $413 million for funding of the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act. This act sets aside specific funds for directly fighting fires — from the wages of the firefighters to the cost of planes and equipment. Every year since 2000, firefighting expenses have exceeded $1 billion a year, so FLAME’s budget is essential to protecting our homes and communities. Even the best fire prevention plans are not going to make wildfires go away overnight.

Next, $110 million is needed for State Fire Assistance, which is partially funded through the Forest Service’s wildfire accounts and partially through their cooperative programs with states. This federal program helps communities prepare Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) to reduce hazardous fuels and other wildfire threats in their local communities. Removing hazardous fuels is a key component of fire prevention. The greater the fuel load, the more intense the fire. Through CWPPs, communities are able to identify sites and methods for fuel reduction to protect their most at-risk areas, expediting federal aid to these areas. Federal support of CWPPs ensures consistency across county lines and within forests. By funding fire prevention, the budgetary needs for firefighting will decrease in the coming years, saving Americans millions of dollars.

Science has proven that fires can be a normal, healthy part of forest ecosystems — returning nutrients to the soil and removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects. But too many years of suppression and hands-off management have made our public lands overgrown, leading to hotter, larger and more destructive fires.

Wildfires cost lives, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to property, crops and livestock, not to mention the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems. We can no longer simply react to the problem, but must work harder to prevent it. And to do that, Congress needs to monetarily support both firefighting and fire prevention efforts.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “The Hill: U.S. needs a proactive approach to wildfire”

  1. It is amazing that so many $$$ are available to state and local entities with “secondary missions” are being funded through federal grants.. but the PRIMARY federal agencies are so UNDERFUNDED for their mission.

    Something is broken.

  2. In addition to having funds for CWPPs, communities can also develop Natural Hazard Mitigation Plans to help identify and reduce their risk to wildfire and other natural hazards that affect their communities. Funds could be sought through FEMA’s PDM or HMGP Grants. I realize that this doesn’t necessarily support the funding of the FLAME Act, but there are different avenues to the same goal of reducing wildfire risk.


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