In the past decade, wildfires have increased in frequency and severity, burning 57 percent more land than in the previous four decades, the fire season is two months longer, and the average size of fires is five times greater than in the 1970s. In order to protect communities in the wildland urban interface, significant levels of funding – particularly wildfire prevention – is needed to address this increase in frequency and severity of wildfires.
Moreover, communities surrounded by public lands are hurting economically when the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior transfer funding away from important functions like fire prevention and maintenance on recreation infrastructure for fire suppression.
The Mountain Pact has worked and will continue to work together with national coalitions to shape and inform a long-term and comprehensive policy that will not only provide additional funding for wildfire suppression, but address how the increasing ten-year average cuts into the U.S Forest Service and Interior Departments budgets impacting funding for programs crucial to ensuring adequate forest management.
MOUNTAIN PACT ACTION
The Mountain Pact is working closely with our towns to ensure a comprehensive fire funding fix.
- In fall of 2014, communities including Aspen, Vail, and Durango in Colorado, Park City, Utah, Ketchum, Idaho, Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California, and Bend, Oregon, sent individual letters to and met with their respective Congressional delegations in support of wildfire funding reforms. Together, we submitted a letter to Congressional leadership, which you can read here.
- In fall 2015, Park City and Lake Tahoe submitted individual letters to their Congressmen in support of action for funding reforms.
- In fall 2016, the Mountain Pact release a new report, Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities: Protecting Western Forests in the Era of Climate Change and Wildfire.
- On October 31,2016 fourteen towns sent a letter to Congressional leadership pointing out the impact that shrinking Forest Service and Interior Department budgets have on our western mountain towns urging them to take this into account in the fall budget negotiations.
In FY 2016, Congress has fully funded the 10-year average for wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. This is good news for the fiscal year so long as on the ground conditions and suppression responses are true to forecast. Although this is a relief to hear, this solution is only for one year. Our communities and land manager should have more stability to ensure long term budgetary stability for restoration, recreation, fish and wildlife, and forestry management among so many others.
We will be actively involved in the support of wildfire funding reform for our mountain towns. If you are interested in more information about this or The Mountain Pact in general, please email email@example.com.