WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) continues to push for a fix to how the federal government funds wildfire prevention and suppression efforts. He spoke on the Senate floor yesterday, again urging for passage of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act he says would end the cycle of underfunding. "The wildfire season raging across our forests and special places is no longer limited to a single time of the year. Fighting fires has become a continuous battle virtually year round, throughout the country."
Senator Wyden acknowledged similar failed attempts in recent years, but says he won’t give up. He called the early start to this year’s fire season in the west "a wake-up call," saying, "To understand how important it is to fix this broken system of fighting fire, because the funding system for doing so is leading to dysfunction throughout the Forest Service and contributing to the breakdown of national forest management that is needed to prevent catastrophic wildfires in the first place."
The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), aims to end the current practice of borrowing from prevention funds to pay for fighting the nation’s largest fires, treating them instead as natural disasters. "It is time for the Congress to find a solution to ensure, one: that wildfires can be fought, and two: to control the costs of fighting these wildfires by better preparing our forests and making them healthier." A similar effort failed to pass Congress, last year.