Monday, August 18, 2014

Western Governors Urge Congress to End 'Fire Borrowing'

Western Governors have reiterated their strong support for an end to the practice of "fire borrowing" in outreach to President Obama and Congressional leadership.

The outreach -- signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Vice Chairman and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber -- was delivered to the President, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, among others.

The Governors noted that in the past decade wildfires have increased in size and the fire season now extends 60-80 days longer than historic averages. Ineffective management, droughts and insect infestations also have left western forests more susceptible to catastrophic fires. (Learn more.)

Even so, federal wildfire budgets have not increased to meet this escalating trend and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of the Interior must use funds from non-suppression accounts to pay for firefighting ("fire borrowing"), reinforcing this damaging wildfire cycle.

The issue is highlighted by the fact that over 2.4 million acres have burned in Washington and Oregon so far this season, with widespread fires also in California and across the West. (Washington Gov. Jay Inslee just extended a burn ban for a third time in Central and Eastern Washington.)

USFS is again on pace to borrow funds from non-suppression accounts and recent efforts to pass legislation failed in Congress as a result of partisan differences.

"Western Governors greatly appreciate the high-level attention being paid to this issue," concluded the letter from Governors Sandoval and Kitzhaber. "We strongly urge Congress and the Administration to resolve this burgeoning problem for the West without further delay." 

For more information, contact WGA Communications Director Joe Rassenfoss at 303-803-8008

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