Wyden, Merkley Seek to Protect Funding for BLM and Forest Service Wildfire Prevention Efforts

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today, along with a bipartisan group of senators, urged that savings from the Wildfire Disaster Account be reinvested in the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ensure the agencies can continue critical wildfire prevention, as intended.

Wyden and Merkley were joined by U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, in sending a letter to the Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ranking Member Tom Udall, D-N.M. The senators requested that savings from the Wildfire Disaster Account, which for fiscal year 2020 amounts to $650 million, is reinvested back into the agencies, which was the intent when the Wildfire Disaster Account was created.

“For over a decade, the growing costs of wildfire suppression forced these agencies to borrow billions of non-wildfire funds to pay for wildfire suppression, which consistently meant less hazardous fuels thinning, less forest management, and a growing maintenance backlog … Therefore, in order to get the agencies back to work in the woods and on the rangeland, we request that you reinvest the full amount of [Wildfire Disaster Funding Act] savings back in the Forest Service and BLM,” the senators wrote.

The Wildfire Disaster Account, established by the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act(WDFA) included and passed in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, was created to save the Forest Service and BLM hundreds of millions in wildfire suppression costs.  Previously, the Forest Service and BLM had to raid the accounts used for things like timber sales, removing fuel from forests, and road and trail maintenance.  The Wildfire Disaster Account was intended to provide a dedicated source of funding to fight large wildfires and prevent that budgetary “fire borrowing” so the agencies would not need to compromise future fire prevention in order to fight current fires.

A copy of the letter is available here.