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A New FLAME for Congress – Compliments of a WV Rep.

March 7, 2008

Charleston, WV – A West Virginia congressman has suggested creating a new pot of money to douse the flames of forest wildfires. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) is sponsoring a new bill that would help stretch already-scarce U.S. Forest Service resources in West Virginia and beyond.

The legislation would establish a new fund to be used for fighting the most expensive fires, instead of taking money away from other Forest Service responsibilities, such as trail and campground maintenance. Jaelith Hall-Rivera, a wildfire policy analyst with The Wilderness Society, gives Rahall high marks for introducing the bill.

"Mr. Rahall, with his leadership on the House Natural Resources Committee, is really a key person to get this dialogue started and get this process moving."

The newly-introduced bill is the "Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act" (FLAME). Hall-Rivera explains it also could help set the stage for more guidelines about forest-fighting policy, including letting some fires burn naturally to restore forest health.

"The costs of suppression continue to skyrocket, topping out at over $1 billion per year for five of the last seven years. Something has to change."

However, in this tight budget year, critics question where the money will come from for the new fund.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WV