Here’s the letter for those interested:
Below is an excerpt:
In a time when fire activity and costs are steadily rising, the 10-year rolling average budget formula that the agencies have used to set the annual budget request for suppression expenditures has translated into shortfalls in available suppression funds nearly every year since the mid-1990s. When the budgeted amount is insufficient, the agency continues to suppress fires by reallocating funds from other non-fire programs. This practice is called fire borrowing. This approach to paying for firefighting is nonsensical and further increases wildland fire costs.
The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act was enacted in 2009 to address these very issues. The FLAME Act authorized the establishment of two reserve accounts to provide additional suppression funding for large, emergency wildfire incidents, above and beyond the 10-year average annual suppression expenditures. In addition, any balances remaining in the FLAME accounts were to carry-over into future years so that funds would be available for the inevitable, high cost years and not have to be borrowed from other program accounts. Despite Congressional intent, OMB has forced the agencies to implement the FLAME Act in a manner that makes it ineffective: instead of funding the FLAME account in addition to the 10-year average cost of suppression, the account is funded as part of the 10-year average cost of suppression. Although authorized, no additional funding has been requested for the FLAME reserve accounts above the 10-year average cost of suppression. Thus, fire borrowing has continued to occur.
We are also concerned about the dramatic cuts to hazardous fuels treatments proposed in the FY2014 President’s budget request. For example, the Forest Service treated 1.87 million acres for hazardous fuels in FY2012, but expects to treat only 685,000 acres in FY2014. Our understanding is that these cuts were based on OMB’s continued skepticism about the efficacy of hazardous fuels treatments. We whole-heartedly disagree with OMB on this point.