Bill approved by House includes funding for wildland fire

Dollar Sign(Originally published December 12, 2014; updated December 13, 2014)

On December 11 the House of Representatives passed a consolidated federal appropriations bill that if also passed by the Senate and signed by the President in its present form would fund most of the government for the remainder of this fiscal year that ends September 30, 2015.

The bill provides $3.53 billion for Interior Department and Forest Service wildland fire management activities, which is $223 million above the FY 2014 funding amount, meeting the 10‐year average.

It includes $65 million for “acquiring aircraft for the next-generation airtanker fleet” which “shall be suitable for contractor operation”. We have a call in to the Forest Service to find out what this is for exactly. It appears to be over and above what is normally appropriated for the contracting of air tankers, and may have something to do with management and retrofitting of the C-130Hs the agency is in the process of receiving from the Coast Guard. But those aircraft are not expected to be received until FY 2018. We would be surprised if the USFS plans to purchase additional air tankers. If our call to the USFS is returned, we will post an update here.

(UPDATE at 9:12 a.m. MST, December 13, 2014: Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson with the USFS, told us that their budget staff will not disclose how that $65 million will be spent until after Congress and the President pass and sign the bill.)

(UPDATE December 16, 2014: An article at Fire Aviation explores in much more detail how the Forest Service may spend the $65 million allocated for air tankers.)

Below are excerpts from the bill; the full text of which can be accessed here.

Forest Service
Page 745
WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT
For necessary expenses for forest fire presuppression
activities on National Forest System lands, for emergency
fire suppression on or adjacent to such lands or other
lands under fire protection agreement, hazardous fuels
management on or adjacent to such lands, emergency re-
habilitation of burned-over National Forest System lands
and water, and for State and volunteer fire assistance,
$2,333,298,000, to remain available until expended: …
[…]
Page 746
…Provided further, That of the
funds provided, $361,749,000 is for hazardous fuels man-
agement activities, $19,795,000 is for research activities
and to make competitive research grants pursuant to the
Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research
Act, (16 U.S.C. 1641 et seq.), $78,000,000 is for State
fire assistance, and $13,000,000 is for volunteer fire as-
sistance under section 10 of the Cooperative Forestry As-
sistance Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 2106): …
Page 747
…Provided further, That, of the funds provided, $65,000,000
shall be available for the purpose of acquiring aircraft for
the next-generation airtanker fleet to enhance firefighting
mobility, effectiveness, efficiency, and safety, and such air-
craft shall be suitable for contractor operation over the
terrain and forested-ecosystems characteristic of National
forest System lands, as determined by the Chief of the
Forest Service:
Page 749
FLAME WILDFIRE SUPPRESSION RESERVE FUND
(INCLUDING TRANSFERS OF FUNDS)
For necessary expenses for large fire suppression
operations of the Department of Agriculture and as a reserve
fund for suppression and Federal emergency response
activities, $303,060,000, to remain available until expended:
Provided, That such amounts are only available for trans-
fer to the ‘‘Wildland Fire Management’’ account following
a declaration by the Secretary in accordance with section
502 of the FLAME Act of 2009 (43 U.S.C. 1748a)…

Department of the Interior
Page 706-707
DEPARTMENT-WIDE PROGRAMS
WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT
(INCLUDING TRANSFERS OF FUNDS)
For necessary expenses for fire preparedness, fire
suppression operations, fire science and research, emer-
gency rehabilitation, hazardous fuels management activi-
ties, and rural fire assistance by the Department of the
Interior, $804,779,000, to remain available until
expended, of which not to exceed $6,127,000 shall be for
the renovation or construction of fire facilities: Provided,
That such funds are also available for repayment of
advances to other appropriation accounts from which funds
were previously transferred for such purposes: Provided
further, That of the funds provided $164,000,000 is for
hazardous fuels management activities, of which
$10,000,000 is for resilient landscapes activities: Provided
further, That of the funds provided $18,035,000 is for
burned area rehabilitation:..
Page 710
FLAME WILDFIRE SUPPRESSION RESERVE FUND
(INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS)
For necessary expenses for large fire suppression
operations of the Department of the Interior and as a
reserve fund for suppression and Federal emergency
response activities, $92,000,000, to remain available until
expended: Provided, That such amounts are only available
for transfer to the ‘‘Wildland Fire Management’’ account
following a declaration by the Secretary in accordance
with section 502 of the FLAME Act of 2009 (43 U.S.C.
1748a).

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. Google+

4 thoughts on “Bill approved by House includes funding for wildland fire”

  1. How about starting some conspiracy theories shall we??

    How about some of that 65 Mil for folks like Lockheed, Dyncorp, or L3 for getting start up dime for maintenance, spares, avionics, hiring etc may be even the USFS very own favorite….Avenger ……that helped the P3 world out

    People do not forget……

    Does that sound farfetched….don’t think so, especially when the USFS is in NO way set up for any sort of heavy maintenance let alone running its own or managing large aircraft over 12,500 lbs on a continual basis in both facilities and support for large aircraft

    The other conspiracy theory…..everyone saw how Colorado approached and got things accomplished….do not bet that there are those in WO FAM with their mouths a watering top be the “First LMA to operate C130’s” s so they can appear to be saviours of the land and bed down the MAFFS units after they get their taste of those new ponies with some T56 powered, kerosene burning, load haulin, retardant laying beauties for their own and making a new GS and SES layer of management to justify an existence

    Two “conspiracy theories” that have some merit….cuz that 65 million sure aint got USAF written on those checks for the Center Wing Box work that ought to be reimbursed

    Oh yeah…….transparency in the USFS as of late….anyone here seriously believe there is a PROFESSIONAL answer from these folks other than what they done in the past? Understandably, this all has to be approved by the Senate and then only can they answer the real question.
    Hey but if my two conspiracy theories are right……any one buying me a beer?

  2. FY14 levels.. FY13 levels.. FY12 levels.. FY11 levels.. FY10 level.

    It has been 5 years since the wildland fire agencies actually had a real budget based upon protection, prevention, and fuels management submitted to OMB and Congress.

    5 years of CR based upon 2010 levels means President Obama has yet to get Congressional approval of a BUDGET for the “mission”.

    If I get “un-funded” again… I’m retired from this sinking ship.

  3. Ken

    Sinking ship? Has the Agency lost their way?

    Is change within even possible? Proves one thing……LMA’s are doled out what they are given

    Even the high on mighty SES types have no pull on funding….apparently.

    Proves that they are not working hard enough for their wages at WO

    1. Actually, what was passed is not a CR, but is the actual FY15 budget. The land management agencies can propose what they will for funding, but OMB is still the gatekeeper for what is submitted as the final President’s Budget Request to Congress. And OMB is still smarting over the assurances they were given back in 2000 that if only the preparedness and fuels budgets were increased, wildfire acres and cost would go down. Since wildfire costs and acres have actually been increasing over time since then, it’s unlikely that OMB is going to support funding increases, regardless of how strongly fire staff may feel about the need.

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