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ARLINGTON, VA, Sept. 26, 2016 – More than 70 organizations sent a letter to Congress outlining their recommendations for a comprehensive solution to the problem of funding wildfire suppression efforts. Download a PDF of the letter or read the text of the letter below:

PARTNER CAUCUS on FIRE SUPPRESSION FUNDING SOLUTIONS – SEPTEMBER 13, 2016

Dear Chairman Roberts, Chairman Enzi, Ranking Member Stabenow, and Ranking Member Sanders,

The undersigned organizations represent the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, comprised of a diverse group of international, national, and local organizations. The caucus is seeking a comprehensive solution to the wildfire suppression funding issue. We are commenting on the wildfire suppression funding provisions in HR 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, and proposed substitute legislation.

Historically, the need for transfers of funding from non-fire programs has limited the ability of the Department of the Interior and USDA Forest Service to suppress wildfires without impacting budgets of other fire prevention and management programs. Of more concern is how the increasing ten-year average for wildfire suppression has exacerbated this funding problem. Longer fire seasons, increasing development in the wildland-urban interface, and growing fuel loads are among the many factors that contribute to wildfire suppression costs.

The fire funding solution in both HR 2647 and the proposed substitute would ban the practice of transferring additional funds when appropriated funding is spent, but that’s only a partial fix in addressing the impacts from rising wildland firefighting costs. These proposals do not address the larger problem of shifting funding from non-fire programs to fire programs, which results from the way firefighting funds are calculated, budgeted, and allocated. As that ten-year average is used to calculate suppression increases, and as budgets remain relatively flat, less is available for forest management and restoration, research, recreation, and other critical private and public land objectives. The proposed legislation is also unclear as to whether declarations would be necessary for each fire incident, which may still force agencies to transfer funding from other programs.

Last November, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing, “Wildfire: Stakeholder Perspectives on Budgetary Impacts and Threats to Natural Resources on Federal, State and Private Lands”, highlighting the challenges associated with wildfires on forests. Every stakeholder witness testified that fire funding is the biggest challenge facing forest managementand each supported a comprehensive fire funding solution. A comprehensive fire funding fix would 1) address the continued erosion of agency budgets that results from the increasing ten-year average, and stabilize the level of funding for suppression within the agencies; 2) access disaster funding for extraordinarily costly fires, including those that may be calculated as part of the ten-year average; and 3) significantly reduce the need to transfer from non-suppression accounts and programs. To meet all these criteria, we recommend any fire funding proposal be amended to fund suppression at 70 percent of the ten-year average, similar to the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, or alternatively, to freeze the ten-year average and access disaster funding for levels beyond that amount.

Thank you for your consideration and for continuing this important discussion of wildfire suppression funding issues. We look forward to continuing to work together.

Sincerely,

Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solution

List of Partner Caucus Signers

ALLEGHENY HARDWOOD UTILIZATION GROUP, INC. (AHUG)
AMERICAN HIKING SOCIETY
APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB
APPLEGATE PARTNERSHIP &WATERSHED COUNCIL
ARID LAND INNOVATION, LLC
BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS &ANGLERS
BLACK HILLS FOREST RESOURCE ASSOCIATION
BLUE GOOSE ALLIANCE
BLUE MOUNTAINS FOREST PARTNERS
BOONE AND CROCKETT CLUB
CHOOSE OUTDOORS
CITY OF ASHLAND, OREGON
COALITIONS AND COLLABORATIVES, INC.
COLORADO TIMBER INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
CONSERVATION LEGACY
CONSERVATION NORTHWEST
DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE
FLATHEAD ECONOMIC POLICY CENTER
FOREST BUSINESS NETWORK
FOREST LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION
FOREST STEWARDS GUILD
GREAT OLD BROADS FOR WILDERNESS
IDAHO FOREST OWNERS ASSOCIATION
ILLINOIS FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION
INDIANA FORESTRY &WOODLAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION
INTERMOUNTAIN FOREST ASSOCIATION
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WILDLAND FIRE
LITTLE COLORADO RIVER PLATEAU RC&D
LOUISIANA FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
MOUNTAINTRUE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FOREST SERVICE RETIREES
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RV PARKS &CAMPGROUNDS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FORESTERS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY FOREST RESOURCES PROGRAMS
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
NATIONAL FOREST HOMEOWNERS
NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
NATIONAL SKI AREAS ASSOCIATION
NATIONAL WILDFIRE INSTITUTE
NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION
NATIONAL WOODLAND OWNERS
NEW MEXICO FOREST AND WATERSHED RESTORATION INSTITUTE
NEW MEXICO FOREST INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
OUTDOOR ALLIANCE
OUTDOOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
PARTNERSHIP FOR THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM
PUBLIC LANDS FOUNDATION
QUAIL AND UPLAND WILDLIFE FEDERATION
RUFFED GROUSE SOCIETY
SALMON VALLEY STEWARDSHIP
SIERRA CLUB
SIERRA INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENT
SIUSLAW INSTITUTE
SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER
SOUTHERN OREGON CLIMATE ACTION NOW
SUSTAINABLE NORTHWEST
TEXAS FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
THE CONSERVATION FUND
THE LANDS COUNCIL
THE MOUNTAIN PACT
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND
THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
THEODORE ROOSEVELT CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP
TROUT UNLIMITED
VERMONT WOODLANDS ASSOCIATION
WALLOWA COUNTY, OREGON
WALLOWA RESOURCES

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.