Wildfires: Congress can't reach deal on Forest Service's fire funding problem

  • Source: Oregonlive.com
  • Published: 12/17/2015 12:00 AM

A potential deal to fix the U.S. Forest Service's chronic wildfire funding problem collapsed Wednesday in Congress. The lack of action means the Forest Service continues to face the prospect of cannibalizing its budget to fight wildfires while having fewer resources to reduce fire danger in the first place. Negotiators did agree to give the agency more money for the upcoming fire season, but all bets are off after that. The deal, which also included several forest management changes aimed at increasing timber harvests on federal land, was scuttled in part because of opposition from several environmental groups. Conversely, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, complained that the deal didn't do enough to allow more logging in the vast Tongass National Forest. Still, the deal's failure upset Obama administration officials and numerous western lawmakers from both parties who said they came close to a deal. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has been pushing for years to shift funding for combating the nation's most severe fires out of the Forest Service budget, said he would continue his fight next year. "Fire prevention has always been getting the short end of the stick," Wyden said. "This is a textbook case of inefficiency in federal budgeting."


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