Forest Service Cutting Suppression by 37% in 2014? And Responding to Climate Change?

I picked this up from a Colorado Springs news clip..

is the link to the story, below is an excerpt.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, questioned U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell Tuesday about how the agency plans to grapple with budget cuts that could impact its ability to fight fire this season.

The forest service expects to add next generation, or modernized air tankers, to its fleet this month, but will still have to deal with cuts to its fire suppression programs. In short, although it has yet to get seriously underway, wildfire season 2013 could be an expensive endeavor for the agency.

As of last week, the 2014 budget was a done deal–and the forest service announced that it will be cutting funds to its fire suppression program by 37 percent. For the committee of senators from Oregon, Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado and Minnesota, that will come as big blow, particularly as the country gears up for another potentially record-breaking wildfire season.

Both fire suppression and preparedness funds were cut, Tidwell told the committee. There are about 87 million acres of forest lands that need fuel treatment–the cutting down of trees, and thinning of forests to make them less of a breeding ground for megafires–but the forest service’s hazardous fuel reduction budget will be focused entirely on red zones, where people live.

That doesn’t mean that other forest lands won’t get the treatment they need, Tidwell said; instead, those projects will be funded by other projects besides hazardous fuels reduction.

The sequester will also impact the agencies wildfire fighting resources–it has cut 500 firefighters and between 50 and 70 engines from its pool, Tidwell said.

“We’ll start off the season with less resources,” Tidwell told the committee. “Because of the sequester it will probably just cost us more money when it comes to fire.”

Watch the two-hour committee hearing and read Tidwell’s witness statement by clicking here.

My other question would be that if the President said that climate change is a priority as in story here, and fires are worse, in some part, due to climate change, then wouldn’t it be logical to increase what you spend on fire?

But as Bob Berwyn points out here. at the same time, the Park Service is getting an increase in the 2014 budget. According to Bob, these increases include:

Key increases include $5.2 million to control exotic and invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels, $2.0 million to enhance sustainable and accessible infrastructure across the national park system, and $1.0 million to foster the engagement of youth in the great outdoors. These increases are partially offset by programmatic decreases to park operations and related programs totaling $20.6 million.

If we are working on climate change, and the budget is the “policy made real” then WTH??? Is climate change only about helping energy industries go low carbon, or is it also about mitigating impacts? We could easily spend more bucks studying potential future impacts than dealing with today’s impacts. Seems to me you gotta pick a lane.. either fires are worse due (partially) to CC or they are not. If they are, they should be part of the Climate Change budget and actions.

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