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Idaho Dialed 9-1-1 for Help with Fire Costs – Congress Listened

March 7, 2008

Boise, ID – Congress is looking at helping Idaho and other states pay for firefighting in national forests. A bill has been introduced that would set aside a pot of money to cover the most expensive forest fires in Idaho and beyond, instead of draining the Forest Service budget to meet the costs. The goal is to free up more funds for other Forest Service responsibilities such as campground and trail maintenance.

The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (FLAME) would establish a separate fund to help pay for the most expensive forest fires in Idaho and elsewhere. Right now, the Forest Service budget is being drained by costs topping $1 billion a year.

Fire policy analyst Jaelith Hall-Rivera with The Wilderness Society says tapping a separate fund will free up money for other things on the Forest Service "to-do" list in Idaho.

"Invest funds in trails management, campground maintenance, fish and wildlife, habitat. These are things that they really have been largely unable to do in the past few years."

Hall-Rivera says straightening out how to pay for firefighting is just one piece of the puzzle in addressing expenses.

"We also need to continue to focus on cost-effective fire management and restoring our forests to a state where fire can once again play its natural role."

Critics wonder where the extra money for the fire-fighting fund will come from.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID