Wildfire Mitigation Losing Steam; Senators Push FEMA for Answers
Several U.S. Senators, including Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, are pushing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for details on its plans to mitigate fires. Senators are requesting that FEMA spell out funding obstacles for current mitigation programs so that representatives can better address those obstacles via the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.
Claims Journal excerpt, July 23, 2013 – “Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior announced a partnership aimed at better leveraging federal, state and local resources to thin and restore forests around reservoirs and dams. The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership aims to reduce the risk of wildfires that could harm water supplies.”
Of primary concern: wildfire prevention and mitigation is losing steam despite the chronic and catastrophic wildfire conditions that are plaguing the U.S. The cost and intensity of wildfires continues to increase simultaneously with fire mitigation programs losing much-needed funding. A serious budget crisis associated with the high costs of battling existing blazes holds a threat towards funding future fire prevention.
Claims Journal article excerpt, June 21, 2013 – “Because the fires have gotten bigger and bigger, we’ve spent more of our money on suppression and less on fuel removal,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in an interview. We’ve gotten behind the eight-ball on this.” Federal firefighting officials say there is no question the program prevents some fires and makes others less dangerous to homeowners and firefighters alike. But they say they are caught in a bind. “It’s a wicked public policy question,” said Tom Harbour, the Forest Service’s director of fire and aviation management. “We’ve got to make trade-offs. We’re living in a time of constrained budgets.”
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