Budget-Busting Wildfires Prompt a “FLAME” Solution
Monday, March 10, 2008
Portland, OR – Almost 20 million acres have been lost to wildfires in the U.S. over the past two years, and some of the biggest blazes have been right here in Oregon. A new bill in Congress proposes a new way to pay for fighting these fires. The "FLAME" Act would create a special, federal fund to be used only for the largest and most dangerous wildfires, which also are the most expensive.
Jaelith Hall-Rivera, a wildfire policy analyst for The Wilderness Society, says budgeting emergency money for the toughest fires makes sense.
"The costs of suppression continue to skyrocket, topping out at over a billion dollars per year for five of the last seven years. Something has to change."
Hall-Rivera reports a few, very large fires use up about 85 percent of the fire suppression budget. She also thinks if a special fund has to be tapped, it will prompt greater consideration of when to keep "hands off," and some let fires burn out naturally.
The fires have consumed more than acreage -- they're also consuming the already-tight budgets of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Hall-Rivera believes the bill would allow the agencies to pick up other public priorities that have been neglected.
"They can invest funds in trails management, campground maintenance, fish and wildlife habitat are things that they have been largely unable to do in the past few years."
The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act, HR 5541, was introduced in Congress last week.
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