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Measure Passes to Help Fund Wildfire Fighting

(Nov 2, 2009) - This has been a great week for national forests: the FY2010 Interior Appropriations bill is on its way to the President’s desk.  It includes a provision aimed at ensuring adequate Federal funding to fight large, complex wildland fires.  This will help the Forest Service avoid raiding other accounts to pay for fighting such expensive fires, thus preventing shortfalls in other necessary forest management programs.

“Our wildfire funding practices have been broken for a decade, and that has negatively impacted not only the Forest Service, but also the communities, businesses, and natural resources it serves,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The success of this legislation ultimately depends on the support of the Administration and Congress, but we have charted a new and clear course to that success, and that is a significantly accomplishment.”

“The Forest Service and the Department of the Interior now have the extra flexibility they need to better pay for fire suppression, which do not burn according to our appropriations schedule.  This new funding method has been a long time coming but I am very pleased that the Interior Appropriations Committee included the FLAME Act language that Senator Bingaman and I co-sponsored in our committee,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

For some time, I have been pressing for a better system to fund the fighting of catastrophic emergency wildland fires – a system that prevents the costs of that firefighting from also burning up the limited budgets of our federal agencies.  It is gratifying that the FLAME Act, which I authored, served as the foundation for a new funding mechanism for wildand firefighting.  These funds will help knock down future catastrophic fires, while preserving the scarce funds needed to stop those fires from starting in the first place,” said U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Interior Appropriations bill also provides $10 million for the Forest Landscape Restoration Act, a program authored by Bingaman to select and fund landscape-scale forest restoration projects.

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Protecting Our Natural Landscapes
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