June 26, 2014

Crapo, Risch Call for Immediate Action on Fire Funding Proposal

Senators part of coalition letter to Senate leadership

Washington, D.C.-Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch want immediate consideration for their legislation that would pay for fighting the most severe forest and range fires with federal disaster funding.  S. 1875, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, would draw from disaster and emergency accounts whenever firefighting costs exceed 70 percent of the 10-year average cost of wildfire suppression. The legislation would leave in place fire prevention and forest health funding, which is all too often taken to pay for wildfire fighting expenses.

"Fire season is underway in the West, and the Senate must act immediately on this legislation," Crapo said.  "Pass it or pair it with other legislation.  We could see yet another disaster year for catastrophic fires.  This issue is certainly deserving of expedited action on the Senate floor."

"Not everyone understands the serious impacts of fires in the western part of our country, but the threat is very real," said Risch. "This legislation would give reassurance that  especially bad fire years won't break the bank and that those of us in the west can count on much-needed disaster funding."

The letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today, was signed by 14 Senators, including Crapo, Risch and Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

It reads in part:  "The current cycle of underfunding, and even raiding, programs used for critical forest restoration and wildfire prevention work  results in having to spend even greater amounts fighting ever larger and more severe wildfires.  This legislation's overarching policy goal is one of good budgeting.  The reality is that the government has historically - and will in the future -fully fund fire suppression….The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provided us with an analysis that found that since S. 1875 is a budget process bill, no cost is assigned to this legislation by OMB or CBO for enforcement of either the discretionary spending limits or PAYGO.  Furthermore, OMB's analysis concluded that under S. 1875 total funding for disasters is not expected to increase above currently estimated levels.  S. 1875 has bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, support from the Administration, and the endorsement of over 200 organizations including the Western Governors' Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, the National Rifle Association, and the National Association of State Foresters.

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