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.