FLAME Act Proposed to Address Escalating Fire Suppression Costs

Washington, DC (April 1, 2007)- Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks is co-sponsoring a bill that would address the need for better budgeting for fire suppression costs by the federal government. The bill is similar Congressman Goodlatte’s Emergency Wildland Fire Response Act of 2008 in its goals, would establish a special federal fund to be used only for suppression of catastrophic, emergency wildland fires.

Bill Status:
March 14, 2008- Introduced by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA).
March 14, 2008- Referred to House Committee on Natural Resources.
March 27, 2009- H.R. 1404 passes the House 412 to 3.
ACT supports both bills because they would address the central financial dilemma that puts all other programs at risk in the Forest Service. Until fire suppression budgeting is fixed, stewardship programs like Urban and Community Forestry will be under severe budget pressure.
Bill Summary:
The FLAME bill would establish a special federal fund to be used only for suppression of catastrophic, emergency wildland fires. Monies for the fund would be appropriated annually based on the average costs incurred by the federal land management agencies for emergency wildland suppression activities during the preceding five fiscal years. To utilize the fund, the appropriate Secretary would have to declare a wildland fire eligible for the fund, based on an evaluation of the size, severity, and threat of the individual wildland fire.
Why a Change is Necessary:
The cost of suppressing fires has grown enormously in recent years and projections indicate that this trend will only increase as a result of climate change, increased population growth in/near our fire-prone wildlands, and hazardous fuels build-up. The Forest Service has spent over $1 billion per year in five of the last seven years to extinguish fires. Wildland fire management activities (the largest component of which is suppression) rose from 13 percent of the agency’s budget in fiscal year 1991 to a staggering 48 percent projected for fiscal year 2009.
Because the Forest Service and Interior budgets have been essentially flat for the past several years, both federal agencies have had to “rob Peter to pay Paul” by borrowing funds from other agency accounts to cover these escalating costs, which has significantly reduced their ability to meet other important goals such as fire preparedness, community forestry, trail restoration, campground maintenance, managing habitat for wildlife, or road repairs to lessen sediment damage.
Related Resources:
Group Sign-on letter
Fact sheet by The Wilderness Society
HR 5541, The FLAME Act
HR 5648, The EWRP Act (Goodlatte’s Bill)