On February 10, two bipartisan pieces of legislation that sustain key forestry programs in the face of rising wildfire costs earned support from a diverse coalition including members of the sportsmen’s conservation community.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and approximately 160 groups making up the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, sent a letter to members of Congress urging their support of bills introduced in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of Interior (DOI) to fight wildfires using emergency funds outside their discretionary budgets. The Partner Caucus represents a diverse set of international, national and local organizations interested in sustainable forest management on private, tribal, municipal, state, and federal lands.
The Partner Caucus believes that the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, S. 1875 and H.R. 3992, offers a promising approach to managing emergency wildfire suppression costs without impacting other priority programs within the responsible agencies. These bills would fund a portion of the USFS and DOI wildfire suppression costs through a budget cap adjustment similar to the one currently in use by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.
S. 1875, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) member Senator Mike Crapo, and H.R. 3992, introduced by CSC members, Representatives Mike Simpson and Kurt Schrader, are identical bills that seek to end the practice of “fire borrowing,” where the agencies raid non-fire programs to make up for shortfalls in wildfire funding.
Both the Senate and House bills seek to fund wildfire suppression costs similarly to hurricane, flood and tornado relief by allowing USFS and DOI to draw from an “off-budget” account whenever costs exceed 70 percent of the 10-year average cost of wildfire suppression. That formula was selected because federal agencies estimate that 1 percent of fires – the most severe blazes – account for 30 percent of the cost of wildfire suppression.
In March 2009, CSF, along with 113 other organizations, supported the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions’ principles and recommendations. To view these original recommendations, click here.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?