Costa Statement on Introduction of Wildfire Disaster Funding Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Representative Jim Costa (CA-16) joined Representatives Mike Simpson (ID-2) and Kurt Schrader (OR-5) to introduce the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017. The legislation addresses the budgeting process for fighting wildfires, aiming at fixing the escalating costs of wildfire suppression crowding out funding for forest management.
Currently, Congress provides the Forest Service and other land management agencies funds to suppress wildfires based on the average cost for fighting these fires over the past ten years. When the costs for suppressing wildfires exceed the amount budgeted, the agencies must pay for firefighting with money allocated for other purposes. This budgetary process within the agencies is referred to as “fire borrowing.” Fire borrowing ultimately means that the Forest Service and other land management agencies have fewer resources for forest maintenance, the removal of hazardous fuels, and other practices that prevent fires from sparking.
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would end fire borrowing by changing the budget process for wildfire suppression. Under the act, once the funds budgeted for wildfire suppression have been exhausted, continuing to fight wildfires will be paid for like other natural disasters. As a result, the Forest Service and other land management agencies can use the resources allocated for maintenance and other practices that prevent wildfires for their intended preventative purposes.
“Recent wildfires have caused incredible hardship to California’s mountain communities,” said Rep. Costa. “What’s more, it’s estimated that there are over 100 million dead trees in California’s forests right now. This is unprecedented, and is a result of a combination of the effects of a 5-year long drought and an increasing pace of bark beetle infestation. Our forest managers, as hard as they have tried, simply cannot do their jobs effectively while arcane Congressional budget rules divert funds needed for active management of our forests to combatting wildfires. It’s time to treat wildfires like the natural disaster they are and stop the never-ending cycle of taking money needed for forest management. This legislation will do exactly that, in a commonsense way, and I urge Congress to bring this to the President’s desk as rapidly as possible.”
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017 has 16 original cosponsors, including Congressman Costa, and has strong bipartisan support. Similar legislation was also introduced in the 113th and 114th Congresses, and Rep. Costa cosponsored both of those bills as well.