Congress Appropriates Additional Wildland Fire Suppression Funds

Before recessing in September, Congress passed appropriations legislation reimbursing the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) $400 million to cover cost overruns that each agency had incurred fighting wildland fires this year. On September 10, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) sent a letter to Congress and the administration asking that this additional funding be provided so that the USFS and DOI wouldn’t be forced to redistribute funding intended for other purposes, including wildfire mitigation and prevention.

An October 7 article in the Washington Post described how since 2002, $2.2 billion has been transferred from other parts of the USFS budget to pay for wildland fire suppression cost overruns. In 2009, Congress created the FLAME Act, which established an account that was envisioned as a supplemental funding source for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities on federal land. During years when wildfire suppression costs are lower, the FLAME account is supposed to run a surplus, which rolls over until it is needed during a particularly costly fire season like we’ve had this year. However, because Congress transferred funding from the FLAME account to the general treasury in 2011, there was no surplus to draw from. The supplemental appropriation provided last month restores the FLAME Act funds.

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