Simpson Pushes for Better Wildfire Budgeting
Washington–Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today discussed funding for wildfire suppression with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Tidwell testified on the Forest Service’s FY15 budget request before the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, on which Simpson serves. They talked at length about Simpson’s legislation to end the practice of fire borrowing as a way to pay for wildfire suppression.
When Simpson questioned Chief Tidwell about perceived concerns about his proposal, Tidwell confirmed that it would not provide more discretionary funding, but would instead allow the agencies to budget better for both fire suppression and forest management.
“Really what we’re trying to do is to not decimate non-fire budgets with fire borrowing,” said Simpson. “We’re either going to pay for fires by taking the money from other budgets and try to repay them later, which doesn’t work, or we are going to find a better way to manage this account.”
Simpson thanked the Forest Service for the good work it did during fires in Ketchum last summer. “There is absolutely no reason some of those homes should still be standing, except for the good work that your people did in protecting them,” he said. But he also warned Chief Tidwell that unless his wildfire disaster funding proposal passed, the Forest Service would be in worse shape under the President’s budget request than it is now.
After the hearing, Simpson reiterated the importance of managing these accounts in a way that doesn’t rob non-fire accounts each year. “We need to be able to manage federal lands. In order to manage them, we need to stop using funding intended for land management to fight fires. This is a devastating cycle and is destroying our forests. I’m hopeful my bill will pass so Congress can write a reasonable and responsible wildfire fighting budget.”