Washington, D.C., September 20, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today urged State Foresters to join in calling on Congress to address the way the U.S. Forest Service is funded. Currently, the agency has to borrow money from prevention programs to combat ongoing wildfires. Secretary Perdue believes Congress should treat major fires the same as other disasters and be covered by emergency funds so prevention programs are not raided. Secretary Perdue made his remarks earlier today at the National Association of State Foresters’ annual meeting in Charleston, West Virginia.
“Every one of you has a member of Congress, and you all are well-respected in your states and in your industry. You’ve got influence there,” Perdue told the State Foresters. “I want to implore you to leave this meeting and just write a note to your Congressional delegation saying, ‘Please support the permanent fire funding fix so the U.S. Forest Service can manage its forests in a way to get ahead of these forest fires.’”
Audio (MP3, 263 KB)
Audio (MP3, 253 KB)
Last week, wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year exceeded $2 billion, making it the most expensive year on record. Wildfires have ravaged states in the west, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rockies regions of the United States this summer. Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, chewing up a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. The agency has had to borrow from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Secretary Perdue’s proposal would ensure both fire suppression and prevention efforts would receive the funding they need, and he hopes the State Foresters will join his call for Congress to adopt his solution.