New study report says states do not adequately budget for wildfire

Posted on Categories WildfireTags ,

Increased spending on wildland fire suppression risks states’ fiscal stability, according to a recent report from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Over the last ten years, the five major federal fire agencies within the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture have nearly doubled combined spending on wildland fire.

State governments, particularly those in the West, operate under differing budgetary constraints and organizational approaches to wildfire management, according to the report, but unlike the federal agencies, states are required to balance spending and revenue every budget cycle. After their extensive review of existing research and available data, the Pew researchers completed 18 semi-structured interviews between December 2021 and July 2022 with wildfire and budgeting experts in six states — Alaska, California, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Washington. They also interviewed key fire officials with the DOI, the USFS and FEMA, and the National Association of State Foresters — which has information on all states’ wildfire management online.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that the Pew study looked at how states budget for wildfire costs, the challenges with those budgets, and what might be done for improvement. Each of the analyzed states primarily uses general fund appropriations to pay for wildfire costs upfront; revenue for the general fund comes from state taxes and fees and is used for general state operations.

“To the extent that more expensive and unpredictable wildfires are being pulled from that same pool of money, it’s a problem for state fiscal stability moving forward,” Colin Foard with the Pew Trusts told OPB. “As fires have grown, so has government spending on the costs associated with them.”

The report and other related studies are available online from