Mixing Apples and Oranges

Today, Senate Energy Natural Resources Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell sent a letter to President Trump asking him to support more Forest Service wildfire spending. She says that the 10-year average spending amount of $2.4 billion Trump promises isn’t enough, which she illustrates with the following alarming statistic — “To date this year, wildfires have already burned 2.2 million acres: this level of activity is 400 percent above normal.”

She might just as well have cited the acres burned this year in Russia for how much relevance they have to Forest Service wildfire spending. Turns out that 1.3% (one point three percent) of the acres burned in 2017 are on national forest land. Private and state lands account for 96.9% of the acres, mostly grassland in Kansas and Oklahoma. And guess what? The U.S. Forest Service doesn’t pay the cost of fighting fires on private and state land.

Methinks the Trump administration, its OMB, the House Freedom Caucus, Heritage Foundation and other budget hawks have figured out that profligate wildfire spending is a Democratic Party-conceived federal jobs program that bears little, if any, relationship to actual on-the-ground needs. And, incidentally, does more ecological harm than good.

2 Comments

  1. Maybe we should compare state wildfire season predictions.. here’s Colorado

    “Colorado officials predicted an average or better wildfire season in 2017, but they cautioned against complacency despite no heightened warnings this year.

    “You can never predict the weather. But I do think Colorado is prepared,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday as he presented the state’s annual wildfire outlook.

    The eastern half of the state faces higher risks than parts of the Western Slope, where above-average snowpack will help reduce fire chances.

    An average year in Colorado equates to 4,500 fires, or 100,000 acres of state-owned or private property.

    The forecast is based primarily on weather models, and Colorado officials warned that it is merely a prediction.

    In 2016, the state’s fire season slightly exceeded predictions, numbering 4,783 fires that burned a total 42,112 acres, according to the state Department of Public Safety. An additional 779 fires covering 64,631 acres burned last year on federal property in Colorado.”

    So there was actually more public than private at the end of the season, but the federal land is still mostly under snow at this time.

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