Climate change is already having a measurable impact on ecosystems in the Intermountain West. Warming temperatures are altering complex interactions of watershed function, vegetation composition and forest health. These changes are and will continue to greatly increase fire frequency and severity.
This situation becomes explicitly clear when reviewing the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of Interior (DOI) budgets. These show that over the past twenty years the portion of funding for wildfire suppression has grown to over half of the USFS and DOI appropriated budgets, compromising federal land managers’ ability to proactively manage lands. Thus, the costs of fighting wildfires are being taken directly out of the basic USFS and DOI land management budgets -- budgets originally intended to pay for forest health, wildfire prevention, recreation, etc.
This report outlines this critical issues and proposes policy measures to ensure that firefighters receive the funding they need while also enabling DOI and USFS to conduct essential forest management activities.