Wildfire Funding Fix Dropped From Omnibus Budget Bill

Dec 17, 2015

The U.S. Forest Service will have to wait before it can change how it pays to fight wildfires.

When federal fire suppression funds run out during bad fire years, the agency has to transfer money from its other programs to cover those costs. Firefighting now costs the agency over half of its $5 billion total annual budget.

A proposal that would instead allow it to use funds from established natural disaster emergency funds failed to clear congressional budget negotiations this week. Critics say that’s because it was linked to a controversial proposal to expedite logging projects.

The National Parks Conservation Association’s Ani Kame’enui calls it a "missed opportunity."

"Unfortunately it appeared to be quite weighed down by a number of forest management provisions that were untenable for a number of reasons both political and conservation."

The firefighting budget measure was attached to a rider that would have required bonding and binding arbitration from logging sale opponents. That rider was stripped from the omnibus bill.