Broad Coalition Praises Congress for Fire Funding Fix in Omnibus Spending Bill
ARLINGTON, VA. | March 23, 2018
The Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions—a broad, bipartisan coalition of conservation, timber, tribal, recreation, sportsmen and employer groups—praised congressional leaders and conservation champions for passing the FY2018 omnibus spending bill, which changed how the federal government budgets for the suppression of large wildfires to make that process similar to the way other disasters are funded.
This bill’s new approach to wildfire suppression funding will help avoid the disruptive practice of “fire borrowing.” But most importantly, it addresses the continued erosion of land management programs that results from the increasing suppression levels. The combination of cutting into programs when budgeting and then “borrowing” from those programs when suppression runs out toward the end of the year undermines the Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service, making it near impossible to meet their land management goals – including wildfire prevention programs that actually reduce wildfire risk and costs.
“Thank you to the congressional leaders and fire funding champions who spent considerable time and effort to get a fire funding solution passed in Congress this year,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Cecilia Clavet on behalf of the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions. “The comprehensive fire funding fix in the omnibus will stabilize land management budgets by ensuring funding for wildfire first responders while protecting critical land and water programs.”
Quotes from some of the many organizations who support the omnibus wildfire funding solution:
“The great bipartisan work on a fire funding fix shows what can happen when diverse constituents—from landowners to industry to conservationists—and a diverse coalition in Congress work together toward a common cause,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “As the voice of the nation’s family forest owners, we are thrilled to have this fix in place so we can get back to working together to improve our forests, neighbor to neighbor, across ownership boundaries, with public land managers.”
“We sincerely thank the congressional members and their staffs for their hard work in reaching this comprehensive wildfire suppression funding solution,” said Jad Daley, Vice President of Conservation Programs at American Forests. “When diverse groups come together around shared values and a common goal, we can find solutions to help our forests become more resilient and thrive. America’s forests have always been common ground, and this strong bipartisan agreement demonstrates that again.”
“American Hiking Society applauds the inclusion of a comprehensive wildfire funding fix,” said Tyler Ray, Director of Policy and Advocacy for American Hiking Society. “This will provide access to disaster funding for wildland firefighting and prevention and ensures that essential non-fire Forest Service programs, including those impacting hikers, are no longer put at risk for devastating cuts.”
“The wildfire funding budget crisis has severely hamstrung forest restoration efforts on our public lands for far too long,” said Peter Nelson, Director of Public Lands for Defenders of Wildlife. “Fixing this problem will allow the Forest Service to reinvest in critical programs and activities that restore forest resiliency and conserve forest-dependent fish and wildlife.”
“Counties applaud the effort to secure a responsible wildfire funding fix that will provide relief to land agencies and ease the strain from the growing cost of wildfires,” said Matthew Chase, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties. “This bipartisan solution will help to protect communities, improve landscapes and provide greater fiscal stability to federal land management agencies.”
“We wish to thank the senators and representatives for their commitment, diligence and perseverance in finding a comprehensive wildfire funding fix," said James Caswell, Chairman of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees. “Their bipartisan effort in this legislation is absolutely necessary for protecting communities and is critical for creating the resources needed to carry out active management in our national forests. This will allow the agency to not only attack the root cause of the ever-increasing risk of wildfire but will enhance rural economies with good, long-term jobs.”
“After over a decade of hard work, the nation’s state foresters could not be more pleased to hear that our lawmakers are moving forward with a permanent and bipartisan wildfire funding fix,” said George Geissler, President of the National Association of State Foresters and an Oklahoma state forester. “Because of their persistence, and the tremendous support of the forestry community, all of America’s forests—and the millions of Americans that depend on them—will benefit.”
“There are at least 15 national parks that border national forest lands; they are part of many dynamic park ecosystems,” said Ani Kame’enui, Legislative Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Given the impact fire borrowing has on land management agency budgets, including the National Park Service, the omnibus fire funding fix helps get agencies the capacity they need to effectively manage our national forests and other public lands. We’re thrilled to see this longstanding bipartisan issue better resolved in the FY18 bill and applaud leadership for ensuring its inclusion.”
“Fixing fire funding will dramatically help the USFS recreation budget, which in turn helps rural economies,” said Geraldine Link, Director of Public Policy for the National Ski Areas Association. “This change could not come at a better time, as climate change will only increase fires down the road, making it imperative that Congress act now to address this problem.”
“Congressional leaders of both parties deserve credit for rising above partisan politics to reach a comprehensive solution that ensures the Forest Service has the resources to proactively restore our forests and reduce escalating threats of catastrophic megafires,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This deal is a result of years of tireless advocacy by bipartisan champions from the Senate and House, conservation organizations, the forest products industry, state governors and county governments—all of whom joined forces to address this growing crisis.”
“OIA thanks the outdoor industry for its tireless efforts to educate Congress on the importance of fixing wildfire funding, and we thank Congress for getting it done in this omnibus package,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director of Outdoor Industry Association. “By stopping the practices of borrowing money, Congress has assured communities and businesses, particularly in the West, that recreation, conservation and other public land funding accounts won’t get siphoned when wildfires strike and that the necessary resources will be there when firefighting season begins in earnest.”
“This is a landmark moment for our nation's forests and rural communities,” said Karen Hardigg, Director of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. “This bill proposes a fiscally responsible approach that will allow federal agencies to get more work done on the ground, improving the health of our forests and communities. We are thrilled to see this bipartisan solution included and applaud legislators for their tireless work.”
"It's heartening to finally see a long-view, proactive approach to fire that will benefit our communities and public lands,” said Athan Manuel, Director of Public Lands Protection for Sierra Club. “Effective fire management requires long-term planning that includes both funding to fight current fires and funding for projects to help reduce the risk of future megafires."
“This comprehensive wildfire funding fix would not have been possible without the passion and relentless commitment of countless individuals, organizations, agencies and congressional members and staff,” said Dave Lewis, President of the Society of American Foresters. “It’s refreshing to see bipartisanship and collaboration finally prevail. Forestry and natural resources professionals across the country are beyond grateful for all those who contributed to this effort, and are excited to move forward and focus on improving the health and productivity of our nation’s public and private forests.”
“Sustainable Northwest is thrilled that Congress has come to terms on a wildfire funding fix that will provide agency and community partners with the structure and tools they need to more effectively respond to wildfire, manage our federal lands and protect communities,” said Dylan Kruse, Policy Director at Sustainable Northwest. “The work to stem the tide of increasingly severe fire seasons is ongoing, but this was a massive step in the right direction and recognition of a better path forward. We send our gratitude to Congress for proving that bipartisan solutions to big problems are still within our grasp, and to countless voices and leaders across the country for standing up for the health and well-being of our federal lands and communities.”
“For years Western mountain communities and The Mountain Pact have pushed for wildfire funding reform,” said Anna Peterson, Executive Director of The Mountain Pact. “Emergency relief funding, coupled with sustainable forest restoration investments, is imperative to protect our communities from more frequent and severe wildfires. It is critical to sustaining our towns’ and cities’ economic and environmental vitality. We are thankful that Congress has added and passed a bipartisan funding fix to the omnibus spending package that will free up urgently needed resources for catastrophic wildfires while keeping necessary funds for public lands conservation and recreation programs intact.”
“The bill’s much-needed comprehensive solution to the wildfire funding problem is a significant win for our nation’s forests and communities,” said Mark R. Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “The federal government will now be able to use disaster relief dollars to pay for fighting catastrophic wildfires, which will fund wildfire suppression like other natural disasters. This will free up federal agencies to spend more of their budgets on programs that make forests healthier and less fire prone, ultimately protecting people and property across the U.S.”
“We applaud Congress for including a long-overdue solution to the problem of how we budget and pay for wildfire suppression,” said Mike Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst at The Wilderness Society. “The omnibus bill delivers more funding for fighting and preventing wildfires and provides a long-term solution to address the rising cost of wildfire, making more resources available for recreation and restoration.”
“This comprehensive fire funding fix would be a defining conservation victory for this Congress, and hunters and anglers have every reason to celebrate the Forest Service being able to get back to the business of maintaining healthy habitat and excellent facilities,” says Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This kind of deal doesn’t get done without the hard work of many people, including conservation groups, sportsmen, industry stakeholders and all levels of government—from appropriators and authorizers to leadership. The hunting and fishing community should be proud of what our decision-makers have accomplished in finding consensus.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.