Western Senators, Secretary of Agriculture Agree: Wildfire Funding Must be Fixed Now

Bennet Attends Fire Briefing at USDA, Forest Service on Record Fire Spending Year

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with a bipartisan group of western senators, today met with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and fire experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service for a discussion on record fire season spending and the problem of "fire borrowing."

"Today's briefing on the historical cost of this year's wildfire season emphasized the importance of changing the way we pay for fighting catastrophic fires," Bennet said. "It was good to hear from Secretary Perdue about the immediate need to end the penny wise, pound foolish practice of fire borrowing, ensuring the Forest Service can do its job to mitigate future fires. The opportunity to sit down with my colleagues and the Secretary to discuss the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017 is a testament to the bipartisan interest in passing this critical legislation."

Senators Bennet, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Jim Risch (R-ID) today attended a Washington, D.C. briefing where the Forest Service announced all-time record spending of more than $2 billion to pay to fight this year's wildfires, which have destroyed significant parts of the West. Once again, the senators noted, federal agencies have had to empty non-fire accounts of more than a half-billion dollars to pay for wildfires. More than 8.5 million acres have burned across the country this year - a 47 percent increase from the 10-year average of 5.8 million acres. The emergency preparedness levels for fire are at the highest point in five years.

The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017 would treat wildfires as natural disasters and stop the erosion of the Forest Service's budget by reforming the way the federal government funds wildfires. The legislation would end "fire borrowing," which has depleted funds intended for forest restoration, habitat programs, trail maintenance, and fire prevention programs. More than 250 private and public organizations have supported the legislation.

Earlier this month, Bennet sent a letter with a bipartisan group of senators to Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) urging them to include a wildfire funding fix in any future disaster aid legislation that passes through Congress.

Click HERE to watch a video of the briefing. 

Click HERE for a copy of the bill.