Jul 212014

By Tammy Gray

Federal legislation that would ensure funding for fighting wildfires as well as forest treatment activities received support from Navajo County Supervisor David Tenney as he testified regarding the cost of fighting fires as opposed to preventing them.

The legislation is being sought by Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, and is attached as an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014. Together the senators seek to change the federal policy of funding wildfire suppression at a level based on the last 10 years, and instead base it on more accurate forecasts of the upcoming fire season so that firefighting operations are fully funded. If successful, the legislation would also prevent the federal government from borrowing from other non-emergency funds to fight wildfires, an act that Tenney called “fire plundering,” noting that the funds are not returned to other Forest Service programs once they are taken.

In addition to funding firefighting efforts, the legislation, known as the FLAME Act Amendments, would require the federal government to set aside money for forest treatments intended to prevent fires.

Tenney told the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that not only is it poor policy to fight fires rather than prevent them, it is also much more expensive.