New wildfire funding fix simmers as costs keep rising

From E&E Daily — I think it’s open access. Steve Ellis, a Smokey Wire member, is quoted.

“Lawmakers are looking for ways to extend a wildfire funding fix that ends in 2027 to avert a return of “fire borrowing” at the Forest Service.”

A push to extend — and expand — a wildfire funding deal struck five years ago is beginning to show signs of life, as the cost of fires threatens to overwhelm the measures Congress devised to tackle them.

In their debt ceiling bill that passed the House on April 26, Republicans floated an extension from 2027 to 2033 for the so-called wildfire funding fix, which established a disaster fund for the Forest Service and the Interior Department to tap when the annual cost of fire suppression exceeds the amount appropriated annually.

Before the agreement took effect in fiscal 2020, the Forest Service had to borrow money from other non-fire accounts to cover suppression costs that exceeded the budget, a practice known as “fire borrowing.”

Although the debt ceiling bill, with its budget cuts across federal agencies and policy proposals opposing the Biden administration, isn’t going anywhere, the inclusion of the wildfire provision is a sign that lawmakers are looking for a legislative route to keeping the disaster fund going. An extension could also ride on the 2023 farm bill, according to forest policy groups supporting it.

The challenge shows in the National Interagency Fire Center’s statistics on wildfire. The 10-year average cost for wildfire suppression hit $2.35 billion for the two agencies for fiscal years through 2021. Of that amount, $1.88 billion was attributed to the Forest Service.

1 thought on “New wildfire funding fix simmers as costs keep rising”

  1. It is paywalled.. even to some subscribers! Here’s the Ellis quote:

    “Merkley chairs the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee,
    the first stop for an annual spending bill for the Forest Service and the Interior Department in
    fiscal 2024, which begins Oct. 1. The bill hasn’t been released, and a final spending package may
    not be in place until late in the year.
    Merkley told E&E News earlier this year that he believes Congress may need to reconsider the
    now-outdated average cost of fire suppression that formed a basis for the funding fix.

    If a new arrangement doesn’t take shape, the Forest Service might have to return to its budget-
    raiding past, risking the programs the agency relies on for its 10-year strategy, said Steve Ellis,
    chair of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees.
    “It is essential that the fix remain in place,” Ellis said. “We support all congressional efforts to
    extend it as is. It would be unfortunate if dollars associated with recent legislation for firesheds
    and implementing the agency’s 10-year strategy for addressing the wildfire crisis were adversely


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