The US Forest Service just released a report detailing how the agency’s budget is increasingly consumed by wildfire operations. In 1995 firefighting made up 16 percent of their budget, in 2015 it will be more than 50 percent and is projected to grow to roughly 67 percent by 2025.
Maybe we should rename the department. The U.S. Firefighting Service seems like a nice fit.
The report suggests the agency stands “at the tipping point” because other individual programs, like vegetation and watershed management, facilities, roads, recreation, etc. are receiving reduced appropriations. Those funds have been shifted to fires.
Naturally the report blames “changing climatic conditions across regions of the US are driving increased temperature.” So, climate change has caused more fires and yet the report fails to mention huge reductions in logging and other forest-thinning activities, conscious choices by our federal government.
This may sound harsh, but this may be a disaster of the Forest Service’s own making by aligning themselves with preservations and others in the environmental community. These groups have endless contempt for logging and responsible land management.
Consider: Logging on federal land in Idaho is down about 90 percent since its peak in the 1970s.
The Forest Service would like to off-load these budget responsibilities by treating “wildfires more like other natural disasters,” or so the agency suggested in the document.
From my perspective, the huge growth in the number of acres burned by fires is not a natural disaster, but a man-made one. Bad policies that vastly curtailed logging and thinning brought this about and until the Forest Service is willing to recognize this publicly – no bailout should be forthcoming.