Senate Passes Interior Spending Bill, Fire Programs Receive Strong Funding

WASHINGTON, DC — The Senate has passed, by voice vote, an $18.5 billion FY 2002 Interior spending bill (HR 2217). The bill included a total of $13.315 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program. It also included $10 million for the Department of Interior Rural Fire Assistance program. These are the same funding levels that were approved for these two programs in the House version, which passed on June 21.

The Interior bill, one of thirteen spending bills Congress must pass each year, funds such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Commission of Fine Arts.

The Senate bill’s funding exceeds the President’s $18.1 billion budget request, but is less than the $18.9 billion bill passed by the House of Representatives. The bill now have to go to a conference committee to work out the differences in the two versions.

The VFA program is a 50/50 matching grant program administered to fire departments in communities smaller than 10,000 by the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with the State Foresters. Until recently the program had been seriously under-funded, receiving only $2 million in FY 1999 and $3.25 million in FY 2000.

The new Department of Interior Rural Fire Assistance Program is aimed at enhancing the fire protection capabilities of rural fire districts in the wildland urban interface. The program assists with training, equipment purchase, and prevention activities, on a 90/10 cost-share basis. The rural fire department must serve a community with a population of 10,000 or less.

For more information on the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program visit: http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/planning/help or contact your State Forester.

For more information Rural Fire Assistance Program visit: http://www.nfvc.org/news/hn_interorallocation.html.

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