Since Congress instructed the five federal land management agencies in 2001 to work together to pool their dollars and firefighting resources, not much has actually occurred toward accomplishing that goal. The objective was to allocate fire management budgets in locations with the greatest need, enhancing efficiency. This would mean reducing the money going to areas with low fire occurrence, and transferring those excess funds to underfunded areas with a higher incidence of fires.
The agencies paid a forest economics professor, Douglas Rideout, to develop a computer model that would, if not make decisions about where to allocate fire funds, at least provide information to enable managers to redistribute dollars. While the first version of the model called Fire Program Analysis (FPA) died a painful death, a revised edition is now being considered by fire managers for the US Forest Service, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
An article in the Denver Post states that the U.S. Forest Service was unwilling to face politicians who had firefighting budgets reduced in their states. The article appears to be very well researched, and quotes some people who were very involved with the FPA, including Steve Botti, the retired fire budget guru for the National Park Service, and Chester Joy, a retired U.S. Government Accountability Office natural resources expert.
Here is an excerpt from the article.
Joy, the retired GAO expert, said the initiative “got strangled in the crib.”
He said the Forest Service was unwilling to take on Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who served as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
In Interior, “the Bureau of Land Management was on board. The BLM was willing to do it. The Forest Service sunk it,” Joy said. “The Forest Service responded, ‘There’s no way we’re taking this to the Hill. There’s no way.’ And that was the beginning of the end.”
Thanks go out to Gary