Washington, D.C. – Legislation to create an emergency federal fund dedicated solely to fighting catastrophic, wildland fires, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives today.
The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act” (FLAME Act), will help cover the growing costs for federal agencies, whose budgets have been crippled by fighting forest fires.
Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva is an original sponsor of the bill, of which Chairman Nick Rahall, of the Natural Resources Committee, is also a sponsor.
“The cost of fighting catastrophic wildfires on public lands has engulfed federal agency budgets,” stated Grijalva. “Public land managers must have the resources for prevention and protection of communities without destroying their day to day operational budget. We cannot financially or environmentally afford to always be on the defensive when it comes to wildland fires.”
Under the bill, in order to access the FLAME fund, the Department of Agriculture or Interior would have to issue a wildfire emergency declaration, based on the size, severity, and threat of the individual wildland fire incident.
Over the last decade, the rapid increase in destructive forest fires across the United States has caused federal fire suppression costs to skyrocket– dramatically shifting spending priorities at the expense of other important Interior Department and Forest Service programs, especially programs that would reduce the intensity of fires and protect communities. In the case of the Forest Service, two percent of fires today account for 80 percent of the costs the agency incurs.
The Obama Administration has indicated their support for the FLAME Act and the President has requested funding in the FY 2010 budget to compliment the bill.
The FLAME Act is supported by the Wilderness Society, Natural Resource Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Outdoor Industry Association, Western Governors Association, National Association of Counties, National Federation of Federal Employees, and more than 50 other organizations.