Western senators push wildfire funding change

Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both Idaho Republicans, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, have been pushing the change for the past three years, aimed at ending so-called “fire borrowing” – where land-management agencies gut their prevention budgets to cover the soaring costs of fighting increasingly catastrophic fires. 

The three want to tap the same disaster funds that pay for responses to hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes to cover the 1 percent of wildfires that turn catastrophic – and currently account for 30 percent of the nation’s firefighting costs. That would leave land management agency budgets intact to fund prevention projects.

“Again and again, the three of us have pointed out the cost to the rural West and to America for this broken, dysfunctional mess of a budget which is how we fight fire in America today,” Wyden said Monday at a news conference at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Outside, smoke from the giant Pioneer Fire in the mountains to the northeast blanketed the valley.

Via Betsy Z. Russell