Forest Service’s Fire Budget is 10 X’s larger per acre than National Park Service’s Fire Budget

According to this information complied by Michael Kellett of RESTORE: The North Woods, the U.S. Forest Service’s wildland fire budget is about 10 times larger per acre than the National Park Service fire budget.

Kellett writes: “There are some differences in the details of each agency’s budget. But the big-ticket items appear to correlate to each other. Regardless, it is clear that the Forest Service fire budget is magnitudes larger than the NPS fire budget. (And this does not include ‘restoration,’ much of which is supposedly for ‘fuel reduction,’ or post-fire ‘salvage’ logging, which together total more than $800 million of the USFS budget.)”


  1. As it should be. The USFS manage’s a much larger land mass than the NPS. Additionally, the USFS often has agreements in place to manage the fire response on other agency’s (such as BLM and NPS) land/administrative units. NPS budgets are historically much smaller and it would be difficult for them to assemble the resources the USFS has to effective fight fire independently of the USFS. Also, in some cases it would be a duplication of resources and not an efficient use of funds. Federal land management agencies commonly share fire fighting resources and equipment.

  2. The national park system is much smaller than the national forests in the lower 48 states. Also the landscapes are more flammable. That is why the budget is different. Also natural process is a management policy for parks. And, the forest service also provides firefighters and airtankers etc to park service when needed at no cost to the park service as there is no cross billing for costs

  3. I seriously doubt that salvage logging is budgeted for in the fire suppression budget, (and no, it shouldn’t be). Timber work is timber work, with salvage and thinning never being in the fire suppression budget. I never (Edit: That’s not true at all! Some worked out well and some didn’t. LH ) see USFS firefighters marking dead trees, laying out boundaries, doing NEPA work or controlling loggers. It is rare when firefighters do timber work, at all. (Some of them still don’t know their tree species!)

    We should also be adding the expenses of taking out the miles and miles and miles of hazard trees, within those National Parks, too. (Yes, the Yosemite folks are finally getting around to felling the dead roadside trees from the Rim Fire, within the Park.) Which budget that belongs in is unclear but, it IS a cost of “doing business” in letting fires burn. More aggressive firefighting tactics could reduce those kinds of costs. I have seen multiple examples of how letting fires burn have resulted in lighting panicked backfires along miles of Park roads, killing many hundreds of roadside trees.

    • I also wonder if their budget numbers include their expensive “Oopsies”, like the middle of summer Yosemite burning project, lit during near record heat, burning 17,000 acres and torching $17,000,000 of Federal money. Of course, that money didn’t come out of their budget, either. I’ll bet it was paid from the “General Fund”. Remember, the Park Service isn’t tied to the same burning prescriptions that the Forest Service has to follow.

  4. Some of the comments seem to miss the “per acre” part of the argument.

    Honest question: Does the FS really fight fire on NPS land without seeking any compensation from the NPS? These two agencies are not even in the same Department.

    • I would bet money that there is a special management code that is used in those situations, as most departments cherish opportunities to use someone else’s dime. (Meaning that the Park Service probably pays the USFS in shared situations.) Some Parks, like Yosemite, have their own organization, and they have enough work to support it. I often filled in on an engine based out of Manzanita Lake, in Lassen National Park. We did patrol the north side of the Park, as well as the south side of the Ranger District. We (USFS) supplied the engine and the people.

    • yup , this is a common occurrence, and it depends on what is outlined in a given agreement. this cooperation ensures initial attack and fire resources are shared across administrative units regardless of agency or department. MOUs – memorandum of understandings, IGOs – intergovernmental orders and other types of “agreements” facilitate these relationships between government agencies (including state and local governments). these are detailed instruments, with “articles” outlining the types of work to occur, time frames that the agreements are active, locations, and fund sources. very routine way of doing business.

      the “per acre” part of the argument is not missed in the comments above, it is understood that the forest service bears the brunt of costs and that is reflected in the per acre cost. usfs fire resources and fire organization are just that much more developed and relied upon outside the usfs agency boundaries. the usfs not only covers other federal agencies, but in many cases it also covers state and private land fire response/management as well.

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