Updated October 17, 2008
Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
The Forest Service (FS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are
responsible for protecting most federal lands from wildfires. Wildfire appropriations
nearly doubled in FY2001, following a severe fire season in the summer of 2000, and
have remained at substantially higher levels. The acres burned annually have also
increased over the past 50 years, with the highest in three of the past four years.
Many in Congress are concerned that wildfire costs are spiraling upward without any
discernable decline in the damage caused. With emergency supplemental funding,
FY2008 wildfire funding was $4.46 billion, more than in any previous year. For
FY2009, the President requested 20% less money than was appropriated in FY2008.
The vast majority (about 95%) of federal wildfire funds are spent to protect
federal lands — for fire preparedness (for equipment, baseline personnel, and
training); wildfire suppression operations (including emergency funding); post-fire
rehabilitation (to help sites recover after the wildfire); and fuel reduction (to reduce
wildfire damages by reducing fuel levels). In addition, since FY2001, FS wildfire
appropriations have included funds for state fire assistance, volunteer fire assistance,
and forest health management (to supplement other funds for these three programs),
economic action and community assistance, fire research, and fire facilities.
Four issues have dominated wildfire funding debates. One is funding for fuel
reduction. Funding and acres treated rose (roughly doubling) between FY2000 and
FY2003, and have stabilized since. Currently about 3 million acres are treated
annually. However, 75 million acres of federal land are at high risk, and another 156
million acres are at moderate risk, of ecological damage from catastrophic wildfire.
Since many ecosystems need to be treated on a 10-35 year cycle (depending on the
ecosystem), current treatment rates are insufficient to address the problem.
Another issue is the federal role in protecting nonfederal lands, communities,
and private structures. In 1994, federal firefighting resources were apparently used
to protect private residences at a cost to federal lands and resources in one severe fire.
A federal policy review recommended increased state and local efforts to match their
responsibilities, but federal programs to protect nonfederal lands have also expanded,
reducing incentives for local participation in fire protection.
A third issue is post-fire rehabilitation. Agency regulations and legislation inth
the 109 Congress focused on expediting such activities, but opponents expressed
concerns that this would restrict environmental review of and public involvement in
salvage logging decisions, leading to greater environmental damage.
Finally, high wildfire suppression costs are raising congressional concerns.
Borrowing non-fire funds for fire suppression historically was not a problem, but is
now affecting other agency programs. Numerous recent studies have recommended
actions to try to control fire suppression costs, and the agencies have taken various
steps, but it is unclear whether these actions will be sufficient to control wildfire
suppression costs. Pending legislation would alter the funding structure to insulate
other agency programs from high wildfire suppression costs.
Suppression and Emergency Funds............................5
Assistance for Nonfederal Lands..................................7
Other Fire Funding............................................10
Fire Funding Issues...............................................10
Fuel Reduction Funding........................................11
Federal Role in Protecting Nonfederal Lands.......................12
Wildfire Suppression Costs.....................................15
List of Tables
Table 1. Acres Burned in Wildfires Since 1960..........................2
Table 2. Total Appropriations to Wildfire Accounts, FY1994-FY2009........4
Table 3. Wildfire Funding to Protect Federal Lands, FY1999-FY2009........6
Table 4. Federal Funding to Assist in Protecting Nonfederal Lands,
Table 5. Other Fire Management Appropriations, FY1999-FY2009..........9
Table 6. Lands At Risk of Ecological Damage from Wildfire..............12
Table 7. Total Acreage of Fuel Treatment, FY1995-FY2008...............13
Recent severe fire seasons have prompted substantial debate and proposals
related to fire protection programs and funding. President Clinton proposed a new
National Fire Plan in 2000 to increase funding to protect federal, state, and private
lands; Congress largely enacted this request. The severe 2002 fire season led
President Bush to propose a Healthy Forests Initiative to expedite fuel reduction on
federal lands. In 2003, Congress enacted the Healthy Forests Restoration Act to
expedite fuel reduction on federal lands and to authorize other forest protection
Wildfire funding has continued at relatively high levels since 2000, and now
constitutes a substantial and growing portion of land management agency budgets.
Severe fire seasons seem to have become more common (see Table 1), and agency
authorities to borrow other unobligated funds for emergency firefighting efforts
appear to be impinging on other land management activities. The high and rising
costs of firefighting are gaining attention; the Senate Energy and Natural Resourcesth
Committee held a hearing on fire suppression cost containment early in the 110
Congress. For FY2009, the President has requested a 20% decrease in wildfire funds
(including supplemental appropriations), with increased suppression funding and
decreased funding for all other wildfire accounts.
This report briefly describes the three categories of federal programs for wildfire
protection. One is to protect the federal lands managed by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service (FS), and by the U.S. Department of the Interior, whose
wildfire programs are coordinated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A
second category assists state and local governments and communities in protecting
nonfederal lands; these programs are used to reduce wildland fuels, to otherwise
prepare for fire control, to contain and control wildfires, and to respond after severe
wildfires have burned. A third category of federal programs supports fire research,
fire facilities, and improvements in forest health. The last section of this report
discusses the impact of high and rising wildfire costs.
The FS was created in 1905 with the merger of the USDA Bureau of Forestry
(which conducted research and provided technical assistance to states and private
landowners) and the Forestry Division of the General Land Office (a predecessor of
the BLM). An early focus was on halting wildfires in the national forests following
several large fires that burned nearly 5 million acres in Montana and Idaho in 1910.
Efforts to control wildfires were founded on a belief that fast, aggressive control was
efficient, because fires that were stopped while small would not become the large,
destructive conflagrations that are so expensive to control. In 1926, the agency
developed its 10-acre policy — that all wildfires should be controlled before they
reached 10 acres in size — clearly aimed at keeping wildfires small. Then in 1935,
the FS added its 10:00 a.m. policy — that, for fires exceeding 10 acres, efforts should
focus on control before the next burning period began (at 10:00 a.m.).1 Under the
10:00 a.m. policy, the goal in suppressing large fires is to gain control during the
relatively cool and calm conditions of night and early morning, rather than spending
major efforts during the heat of the day.
Table 1. Acres Burned in Wildfires Since 1960
(in million acres)
Year Acres Year Acres Year Acres
1960 4.48 1977 3.15 1994 4.07
1961 3.04 1978 3.91 1995 1.84
1962 4.08 1979 2.99 1996 6.07
1963 7.12 1980 5.26 1997 2.86
1964 4.20 1981 4.81 1998 1.33
1965 2.65 1982 2.38 1999 5.63
1966 4.57 1983 1.32 2000 7.39
1967 4.66 1984 1.15 2001 3.57
1968 4.23 1985 2.90 2002 7.18
1969 6.69 1986 2.72 2003 3.96
1970 3.28 1987 2.45 2004 8.10
1971 4.28 1988 5.01 2005 8.69
1972 2.64 1989 1.83 2006 9.87
1973 1.92 1990 4.62 2007 9.33
1974 2.88 1991 2.95 2008a 4.48
1975 1.79 1992 2.07 2009
1976 5.11 1993 1.80 2010
a. As of October 15, 2008.
Source: National Interagency Coordination Center, at [http://www.nifc.gov/fire_info/fires_acres.htm].
Note that data for 1983-1991 have been revised downward.
In the 1970s, these aggressive FS fire control policies began to be questioned.
Research had documented that, in some situations, wildfires brought ecological
benefits to the burned areas — aiding regeneration of native flora, improving the
habitat of native fauna, and reducing infestations of pests and of exotic and invasive
species. The Office of Management and Budget challenged as excessive proposed
1 See Julie K. Gorte and Ross W. Gorte, Application of Economic Techniques to Fire
Management — A Status Review and Evaluation, Gen. Tech. Rept. INT-53 (Ogden, UT:
USDA Forest Service, June 1979).
budget increases based on FS policies and a subsequent study suggested that the fire
control policies would increase expenditures beyond efficient levels.2
Following the 1988 fires in Yellowstone, concerns were raised about unnaturally
high fuel loads leading to catastrophic fires and spiraling suppression costs. Congress
established the National Commission on Wildfire Disasters, whose 1994 report
described a situation of dangerously high fuel accumulations.3 The summer of 1994
was another severe fire season, leading to more calls for action to prevent future
severe fire seasons. In addition to the concerns about fuel loads, concerns were
voiced that federal firefighting resources on a fire in Washington in 1994 had been
diverted from protecting federal lands and resources to protecting nearby private
residences and communities.4 The Clinton Administration directed a review of
federal fire policy, and the agencies released the new Federal Wildland Fire
Management Policy & Program Review: Final Report in December 1995. The report
recommended altering federal fire policy from priority for private property to equal
priority for private property and federal resources, based on values at risk.
(Protecting human life is the first priority in firefighting.) The recommended change
became effective after the report was accepted by the Secretaries.
Concerns about wildfire threats persist. In 1999, the General Accounting Office
(GAO) issued two reports recommending a cohesive wildfire protection strategy for
the FS and a combined strategy for the FS and BLM to address certain firefighting
weaknesses.5 To address the severe 2000 fire season, the Clinton Administration
developed the National Fire Plan and a supplemental budget request. Congress
enacted this additional funding in the FY2001 Interior appropriations act, and has
since largely maintained the higher funding. (See Table 2.) During the severe 2002
fire season, the Bush Administration developed the Healthy Forests Initiative to
expedite fuel reduction projects in priority areas through administrative and
legislative changes. Some elements of the initiative have been addressed through
regulatory changes; others were addressed in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of
2003 (P.L. 108-148). (For information on regulatory and legislative developments
on wildfire protection, see CRS Report RL33792, Federal Lands Managed by theth
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service: Issues for the 110
Congress, by Ross W. Gorte, Carol Hardy Vincent, and Marc Humphries.)
2 Stephen J. Pyne, Fire In America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire
(Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), pp. 293-294.
3 R. Neil Sampson, chair, Report of the National Commission on Wildfire Disasters
(Washington, DC: 1994).
4 Bob Armstrong, Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management, U.S. Dept. of
the Interior, “Statement,” Fire Policy and Related Forest Health Issues, joint oversight
hearing, House Committees on Resources and on Agriculture, October 4, 1994 (Washington,
DC: U.S. GPO, 1995), p. 9. Serials No. 103-119 (Committee on Resources) and 103-82
(Committee on Agriculture).
5 U.S. General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office), Western
National Forests: A Cohesive Strategy is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats,
GAO/RCED-99-65 (Washington, DC: April 1999); and Federal Wildfire Activities: Current
Strategy and Issues Needing Attention, GAO/RCED-99-233 (Washington, DC: August
Table 2. Total Appropriations to Wildfire Accounts,
(in millions of dollars)
FY1994 FY1995 FY1996 FY1997 FY1998 FY1999 FY2000 FY2001 FY2002
FS 752.7 835.6 485.5 1 ,080.0 836.6 722.4 1 ,008.0 1 ,882.8 1 ,560.3
BLM 350.5 235.7 286.9 352.0 280.1 336.9 591.0 977.1 678.4
T o tal 1 ,103.2 1 ,071.3 772.4 1 ,432.1 1 , 116.7 1 ,059.3 1 ,598.9 2 ,859.9 2 ,238.8
FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007 FY2008Ena c t e d FY2009Request FY2009CR a
FS 2,290.0 2 ,347.0 2 ,128.5 1 ,846.1 2 ,193.6 3 ,269.5 1 ,976.6 1 ,943.4
BLM 875.2 883.6 831.3 855.3 853.4 1 ,192.1 850.1 808.1
T o tal 3 ,165.1 3 ,230.6 2 ,929.8 2 ,701.4 3 ,047.0 4 ,461.5 2 ,821.3 2 ,751.4
a. The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L.
110-329, Division A, the continuing resolution [CR]) provides FY2009 agency funding at
FY2008 levels, excluding FY2008 emergency supplemental appropriations.
Note: The totals in this table are the sum of totals in Tables 3, 4, and 5, excluding the wildfire
assistance programs funded through FS State and Private Forestry.
The tables below present data on funding for the three categories of federal fire
programs: protection of federal lands; assistance for protection of nonfederal lands;
and other fire-related expenditures. The FS and BLM use three fire appropriation
accounts — preparedness, suppression operations, and other operations — to fund
most federal fire programs. However, the agencies include different activities in the
accounts (e.g., the BLM historically included fire research and fire facility funding
in the preparedness account), and the accounts change over time (e.g., the agencies
split operations funding into suppression and other operations in 2001). Thus, the
data, taken from the agency budget justifications for the National Fire Plan, have
been rearranged for the tables in this report to present consistent data and trends on
the three categories of federal wildfire programs since 1999.
Many wildfire management funds are used to protect federal lands. Table 3
shows wildfire management appropriations for FY1999-FY2007, the FY2008
enacted level, and the FY2009 President’s budget request. The data in this table
exclude funding for the other two categories of federal wildfire funding — assistance
to state and local governments, communities, and private landowners; and other fire-
related activities (research, fire facility maintenance, and forest health improvement,
etc.). The BLM included funds for fire research and fire facilities under its
preparedness budget line item through FY2004; these funds have been excluded from
Table 3. The table shows appropriations by fiscal year, with emergency funding
identified for the year in which it was provided, rather than in the year it was spent.
The agencies are authorized to borrow from other accounts for fire suppression, and
emergency funds generally repay these borrowings. The table shows that total federal
land fire management appropriations rose substantially in FY2001 and have since
remained relatively high, with fluctuations generally depending on the severity of the
preceding fire season.
Preparedness. Fire preparedness appropriations provide funding for fire
prevention and detection as well as for equipment, training, and baseline personnel.
Preparedness funding rose substantially (58%) in FY2001, with BLM funding rising
more (81%) than FS funding (49%). In FY2004, preparedness funding rose by a
lesser amount (7%), with the rise entirely in FS preparedness. (BLM preparedness
funding declined slightly.) For FY2009, the President proposed a $76.2 million (8%)
decline in preparedness compared to FY2008 — a $1.2 million (0.4%) increase for
the BLM and a $77.4 million (12%) decline for the FS. However, the continuing
resolution (CR; P.L. 110-329, Div. A) provided funding at the FY2008 levels.
Suppression and Emergency Funds. Funds for fighting wildfires —
appropriations for fire suppression and supplemental contingency or emergency funds
— have fluctuated widely over the past decade, from less than $430 million (in
FY1999) to $2.50 billion in FY2008. For FY2009, the President requested $1.33
billion for fire suppression, an increase of $193.7 million (17%) from FY2008
suppression funding, but a decrease of $1.17 billion (47%) when supplemental
funding is included. As noted above, the CR provided FY2009 funding at FY2008
levels, excluding the emergency funding. Some of the variation results from
fluctuations in the severity of the fire season in the preceding year, particularly in
supplemental emergency funding. Such fluctuations have long been part of the
agencies’ funding, with total appropriations in FY1997 double the FY1996 levels
owing to severe season in the summer of 1996. (See Table 3.) Appropriations for
fire suppression have risen steadily and sharply for both agencies since FY2002.
The FY2008 Interior appropriations act (P.L. 110-161) included $300.0 million
in emergency wildfire funding in a separate Title V ($222.0 million for the FS and
$78.0 million for the BLM). Division B of the FY2008 Further Continuing
Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-116) contained $500.0 million for FY2008 wildfire
protection on federal lands — $150.0 million for firefighting ($110.0 million for the
FS and $40.0 million for the BLM); $215.0 million to repay FY2007 borrowed funds
($100.0 million for the FS and $115.0 million for the BLM); $90.0 million for fuel
reduction ($80.0 million for the FS, with $30.0 million available for S&PF programs,
and $10.0 million for the BLM); $31.0 million for burned site rehabilitation ($25.0
million for the FS and $6.0 million for the BLM); and $14.0 million for FS facility
reconstruction. Finally, Division B of the FY2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster
Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act (the CR, P.L. 110-329) provided
another $910.0 million of emergency wildfire money — $610.0 million for fire-
fighting and repayment of FY2008 borrowed funds ($500.0 million for the FS and
$110.0 million for the BLM); $175.0 million for fuel reduction (all for the FS, with
$125.0 million available for S&PF programs); and $100.0 million for burned area
rehabilitation ($75.0 million for the FS and $25.0 million for the BLM). Thus, for
FY2008, emergency supplemental wildfire funding for all purposes totaled $1.71
Table 3. Wildfire Funding to Protect Federal Lands, FY1999-FY2009
($ in millions)
FY99 FY00 FY01 FY02 FY03 FY04 FY05 FY06 FY07 FY08Ena c t e d FY09Req. FY09CR
eparedness 374.8 408.8 611.1 622.6 612.0 671.6 676.5 660.7 655.4 690.8 588.4 665.8
ession 180.6 139.2 319.3 255.3 418.0 597.1 648.9 690.2 741.5 845.6 993.9 845.6
ergency Funds a102.0390.0425.1266.0889.0699.2395.5100.0370.0932.00.00.0
65.0 70.0 205.2 209.0 236.6 258.3 292.5 280.1 301.3 565.1 297.0 310.1
M 327.9 577.7 929.1 640.6 845.0 853.6 801.3 831.8 841.6 1 ,174.1 840.0 790.1
ession 96.2 158.1 153.1 127.4 159.3 192.9 218.4 230.7 249.2 289.8 335.2 289.8
iki/CRS-RL33990ergency Funds a50.0200.0199.654.0225.0198.498.6100.095.0343.00.00.0
s.ora b ilita tio n 0.0 20.0 104.8 20.0 19.9 24.2 23.9 24.1 22.8 55.2 24.3 24.2
leake33.8 47.0 195.0 186.2 185.6 183.9 201.4 208.1 199.8 209.6 202.8 199.6
httpeparedness 522.7 561.3 887.9 875.7 867.2 925.8 935.4 929.5 930.2 967.3 866.1 942.3
ession 276.8 297.3 472.4 382.7 577.3 790.0 867.3 920.9 990.7 1 ,135.4 1 ,329.1 1 ,135.4
ergency Funds a152.0590.0624.6320.01,114.0897.6494.1200.0465.01,275.00.00.0
a b ilita tio n 0.0 20.0 246.6 82.7 26.9 31.1 36.8 30.3 29.0 166.0 24.3 35.0
98.8 117.0 400.1 395.2 422.3 442.2 463.9 488.2 501.0 774.7 499.8 509.7
Annual agency budget justifications and conference agreements on P.L. 110-116, P.L. 110-161, and P.L. 110-329.
This table differs from the similar table in CRS Report RL34011, Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: FY2008 Appropriations, coordinated by Carol Hardy Vincent
san Boren, because of adjustments for the two non-federal land categories of federal wildfire funding.
cludes emergency funds provided for other specified activities, such as site rehabilitation, fuel reduction, or state assistance.
identifiable amount funded from other budget line items, such as watershed improvement.
xcludes joint fire science research and facilities funding enacted within the BLM preparedness account through FY2004.
identified amount included in suppression funding.
alculated at 26% of wildfire operations (see page IV-36 of the FY2001 BLM budget justification).
Post-Fire Rehabilitation. Wildfire appropriations for rehabilitating burned
areas have been relatively stable, except in FY2001 and FY2002. Most wildfire site
rehabilitation funds have been to the BLM for treating burned Interior lands. Except
for the five-fold increase for FY2001 and the doubling in FY2008, BLM site
rehabilitation funds generally have ranged between $20.0 and $25.0 million annually
since FY2000. The FS generally receives few wildfire funds for site rehabilitation
(none prior to FY2001), and instead uses funds appropriated to other accounts, such
as watershed improvement and vegetation management. However, the FS was
appropriated $141.7 million of wildfire funds for site rehabilitation in FY2001, $62.7
million in FY2002, and $110.8 million in FY2008 (including $100.0 million in
emergency supplemental funding). These three years account for 89% of FS wildfire
appropriations for site rehabilitation in the past decade. For FY2009, the President
requested $24.3 million for site rehabilitation, all for the BLM. However, the CR
provided $35.0 million — $24.2 million for the BLM and $10.8 million for the FS.
Fuel Reduction. Fuel reduction funding is intended to protect lands and
resources from wildfire damages by lowering the fuel loads on federal lands, and thus
making the fires less intense and more controllable. Total fuel reduction funding
more than tripled in FY2001. Except for a drop in FY2006 and proposed drop in
FY2009, FS fuel reduction funding has continued to rise slowly since FY2001. For
the BLM, fuel reduction appropriations have been relatively stable since FY2001,
ranging from $183.9 million in FY2004 to $208.1 million in FY2006. Emergency
supplemental funding raised FY2008 funding for FS fuel reduction significantly (by
$255.0 million, 82%), although up to 61% of the funds ($155.0 million) are available
for fuel reduction work on non-federal lands. For FY2009, the President proposed
$299.8 million in fuel reduction funding — a $6.8 million (3%) decrease for the
BLM and a $268.1 million (47%) decrease for the FS — including the $265.0 million
in emergency funds for fuel reduction. The CR provided $509.7 million for fuel
reduction in FY2009 ($310.1 million for the FS and $199.6 million for the BLM).
Assistance for Nonfederal Lands
States are responsible for fire protection of nonfederal lands, except for lands
protected by the federal agencies under cooperative agreements. The federal
government, primarily through the FS, has a group of wildfire programs to provide
assistance to states, local governments, and communities to protect nonfederal (both
government and private) lands from wildfire damages.
Most FS fire assistance programs are funded under the agency’s State and6
Private Forestry (S&PF) branch. State fire assistance includes financial and
technical help for fire prevention, fire control, and prescribed fire use by state
foresters, and through them, to other agencies and organizations. In cooperation with
the General Services Administration (GSA), the FS is encouraged to transfer “excess
personal property” (equipment) from federal agencies to state and local firefighting
forces. The FS also provides assistance directly to volunteer fire departments. Since
FY2001, fire assistance funding also has come through wildfire appropriations. In
6 For more details on these programs, see CRS Report RL31065, Forestry Assistance
Programs, by Ross W. Gorte.
addition, the 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171) created a new community fire protection
program, authorizing the FS to assist communities in protecting themselves from
wildfires and to act on nonfederal lands (with the consent of landowners) to assist in
protecting structures and communities from wildfires.
Wildfire funds have also been provided for economic assistance. For three years
(FY2001-FY2003), FS wildfire appropriations were added to the S&PF Economic
Action Program (EAP) for training and for loans to existing or new ventures to help
local economies. In addition, in FY2001, the FS received fire funds to directly aid
communities recovering from the severe fires in 2000. The BLM received funding
to assist rural areas affected by wildfires for FY2001-FY2006 and again in FY2008
Funding for these assistance programs is shown in Table 4. Total assistance
funds for protecting nonfederal lands increased substantially in FY2001, from $27.2
million (all FS S&PF funds) to $148.5 million. Funding dropped about 20% in
FY2002 (to $117.5 million) and has fluctuated widely (as much as 40% annually)
since. Wildfire funds for these programs were enacted initially in FY2001, and have
been maintained for FS state and volunteer assistance programs. For FY2008,some
of the emergency funds provided for FS fuel reduction (in P.L. 110-116 and in P.L.
110-329) are available for fuel reduction on nonfederal lands; whether any of the
funds have been or will be used for fuel reduction on nonfederal lands appears to be
at the discretion of the agency. For FY2009, the President proposed a substantial
(50%) decline in FS assistance funding. This includes a small ($0.1 million, 2%)
increase in volunteer fire assistance, and a large ($43.0 million, 55%) decrease in
state fire assistance, including the $30.0 million of emergency funds (as noted
above). The CR continues FY2008 funding levels for FY2009.
FS community assistance to aid communities affected by fires in the summer of
2000 was a one-time appropriation, and FS EAP funds from wildfire appropriations
were enacted for only three years. (The Administration has proposed terminating
S&PF EAP funding in each budget request since FY2005.) Appropriations for BLM
rural assistance were enacted annually for FY2001-FY2006, but no funds were
provided for FY2007, none were requested for FY2008, and the House approved
none. The Senate provided $8.0 million for BLM assistance, and the conference
agreement included $5.9 million. For FY2009, the President again proposed
eliminating BLM rural assistance funding.
Table 4. Federal Funding to Assist in Protecting Nonfederal Lands, FY1999-FY2009
($ in millions; includes emergency appropriations)
, Wildfire Mgt.0.00.0108.577.179.418.104.22.1684.085.843.085.8
te Fire Assistance0.00.052.956.466.322.214.171.1246.278.035.078.0
M Rural Assistance0.00.010.010.09.99.99.99.90.05.90.05.9
tal Wildfire Funds0.00.0118.587.189.369.158.963.454.091.743.091.7
t Service, S&PF22.927.229.930.430.563.338.838.838.838.530.038.5
e Fire Assistance 20.923.924.925.325.558.232.932.932.932.625.032.6
iki/CRS-RL33990unteer Fire Asst.2.03.25.05.15.05.05.95.95.95.95.05.9
leak Annual agency budget justifications and conference agreement on P.L. 110-161.
://wikiTable 5. Other Fire Management Appropriations, FY1999-FY2009
http($ in millions; includes emergency appropriations)
FY99 FY00 FY01 FY02 FY03 FY04 FY05 FY06 FY07 FY08Ena c t e d FY09Req. FY09C.R.
t Service, Fire0.00.071.867.647.954.654.355.355.369.341.069.3
int Fire Science0.00.00.08.07.97.97.97.97.97.98.07.9
M 9 .0 13.3 38.0 27.8 20.2 20.1 20.1 13.6 11.7 12.0 10.1 12.0
int Fire Science4.04.08.08.07.97.97.95.94.05.94.05.9
Annual agency budget justifications and conference agreement on P.L. 110-161.
Other Fire Funding
Wildfire appropriations are also provided for several other activities, including
wildfire research, construction and maintenance of fire facilities, and forest health
management, as shown in Table 5. Wildfire funds for fire research have been
enacted for both the BLM and the FS for the Joint Fire Science program. The
President proposed a $1.8 million (13%) decrease in FY2009 — a $1.9 million (32%)
decrease for the BLM and a $0.1 million (2%) increase for the FS. BLM’s
appropriations were $4 million annually for FY1999 and FY2000, about $8 million
annually for FY2001-FY2005, and about $6 million for FY2006. Funding for
FY2007 and the request for FY2008 were $4.0 million each year, but Congress
enacted $5.9 million for FY2008. The President proposed returning BLM funding
to $4.0 million for FY2009. FS funds for Joint Fire Science have been about $8
million annually since FY2002 (and previously included an unidentified portion of
FS research funds). The FS also has been appropriated wildfire funds for fire
research and development, beginning in FY2001, and averaging about $22 million
annually. For FY2009, the President requested $22.0 million, $1.5 million (6%) less
than the FY2008 level. These funds supplement monies for wildfire research in the
FS research account; however, because the portion of funds in the FS research
account used for fire research cannot be determined, total FS fire research funding
Both the BLM and the FS have received funds to improve deteriorating fire
facilities. The BLM has long used a portion of its fire preparedness funds for
“deferred maintenance and capital improvements” (i.e, for fire facilities), but the
level has fluctuated. For FY2008, the President requested $6.1 million, matching the
FY2008 funding. FS wildfire funds for fire facilities declined after the initial $43.9
million in FY2001 and ended in FY2004, but P.L. 110-116 provided $14.0 million
of emergency funds for FS fire facilities. The FS also builds and maintains fire
facilities with its capital construction and maintenance account, but the portion used
for fire facilities is unknown.
Finally, the FS has received wildfire funds for forest health management. This
S&PF program focuses on assessing and controlling insect and disease infestations
on federal and cooperative (i.e., nonfederal) lands, but includes efforts to control
invasive species. In FY2001 and FY2002, the FS received nearly $12 million
annually in wildfire funds for forest health management. Appropriations rose to
nearly $25 million in FY2004, and have remained near that level. For FY2009, the
President proposed $24.3 million, $0.4 million (2%) above the FY2008 level.
Fire Funding Issues
Four issues related to wildfire funding have arisen in the last few years. The
first to arise was level of fire protection funding to reduce fuel loads on federal lands.
A second, related issue is the federal role in fire protection of nonfederal lands andth
structures, and the funding of the relevant federal activities. During the 109
Congress, a third issue was raised about post-fire rehabilitation. Finally, a growing
concern has been the rising cost of fire suppression and its effect on other aspects of
federal land management.
Fuel Reduction Funding
Fuel management is a collection of activities — primarily prescribed burning
and thinning — intended to reduce the threat of significant damages by wildfires.
The FS began its fuel management program in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, earlier
agency policies of aggressive suppression of all wildfires had been modified, in
recognition of the enormous cost of the organization needed to achieve the goals of
the 10:00 a.m. and 10-acre policies and of the ecological benefits that can result from
some fires. These understandings have in particular led to an expanded prescribed
Since 1990, recognition of unnaturally high fuel loads of dead trees, dense
understories of trees and other vegetation, and non-native species has spurred interest
in fuel management activities. Attention and efforts have expanded with and
following development of the National Fire Plan in 2000. Table 6 shows acreage by
ownership class of lands at low, moderate, and high risk of significant ecological
damage from wildfire due to high fuel loads.
Increasing fuel reduction activities was one of the primary rationales for
enacting the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2000 (HFRA; P.L. 108-148). Many
observers described the need for expeditious action to reduce fuel loads and fuel
ladders,7 and the difficulties in achieving expeditious action because of the
environmental documentation and public participation required by the National
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; P.L. 91-190, 42 U.S.C. §§4321-4347).
HFRA established an expedited process for environmental review and public
involvement in fuel reduction activities. In addition, the FS and BLM established
categorical exclusions from NEPA for hazardous fuel reduction activities. (These
authorities are discussed further under “Post-Fire Rehabilitation,” below.) It is
unclear how many fuel reduction activities have occurred under either of these
Fuel treatment acreage has increased since the mid-1990s. Table 7 shows that
the acreage treated from FY1995 to FY2004 increased by 400%. However, treatment
acreage fell in FY2005 and again in FY2006, and has not been proposed to return to
the FY2004 level. Data on FY2007 actual treatments, FY2008 planned treatments,
and FY2009 proposed treatments are not included in Table 7, because the FS and
BLM have revised their reporting systems to include acreage of wildland fire use
(natural wildfires that are allowed to burn within the prescriptions of fire plans) as
fuel treatments; previous data did not include wildland fire use acreage. At the
average treatment level of roughly 3 million acres annually, it would take nearly 25
years to treat the FS and DOI lands at high risk of ecological damage from wildfire,
and another 52 years to treat the lands at moderate risk.
7 A fuel ladder is a stand structure with continuous fuels, in the form of tall grasses and
forbs, shrubs, and low branches, between the ground and the tree crowns that allow surface
fires to spread upward.
Table 6. Lands At Risk of Ecological Damage from Wildfire
(in millions of acres)
LandownerTotalAcreageLow RiskModerateRiskHigh Risk
Dept. of the Interior227.72128.4275.8323.47
Other federal, state, 825.01404.60313.54107.18
& private lands
Total 1,249.25 597.97 469.82 181.77
Source: Kirsten M. Schmidt, James P. Menakis, Colin C. Hardy, Wendel J. Hann, and David L.
Bunnell, Development of Coarse-Scale Spatial Data for Wildland Fire and Fuel Management, Gen.
Tech. Rept. RMRS-87 (Fort Collins, CO: USDA Forest Service, April 2002), pp. 13-15.
The presumption behind fuel treatment is that lower fuel loads and a lack of fuel
ladders will reduce the extent of wildfires, the damages they cause, and the cost of
controlling them. Numerous on-the-ground anecdotes support this belief. However,
little empirical research has documented this logical presumption. As noted in one
research study, “scant information exists on fuel treatment efficacy for reducing wild-
fire severity.”8 This study also found that “fuel treatments moderate extreme fire
behavior within treated areas, at least in” frequent fire ecosystems. Others have
found different results elsewhere; one study reported “no evidence that prescribed
burning in these [southern California] brushlands provides any resource benefit ... in
this crown-fire ecosystem.”9 A recent summary of wildfire research reported that,
although prescribed burning generally reduced fire severity, mechanical fuel
reduction did not consistently reduce fire severity, and that limited research had
examined the potential impacts of mechanical fuel reduction with prescribed burning
or of commercial logging.10 Thus, it is unclear whether, or to what extent, increasing
fuel treatment funding and efforts will protect communities and ecosystems from
Federal Role in Protecting Nonfederal Lands
The states are responsible for protecting nonfederal lands from wildfires, but
Forest Service cooperative fire assistance to states has been authorized since the
Clarke-McNary Act of 1924. Cooperative fire assistance was questioned during the
Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations, with budget proposals to
8 Philip N. Omi and Erik J. Martinson, Effects of Fuels Treatment on Wildfire Severity:
Final Report, submitted to the Joint Fire Science Program Governing Board (Fort Collins,
CO: Colorado State University, Western Forest Fire Research Center, March 25, 2002).
9 Jon E. Keeley, “Fire Management of California Shrubland Landscapes,” Environmental
Management, vol. 29, no. 3 (2002), pp. 395-408.
10 Henry Carey and Martha Schumann, Modifying WildFire Behavior — The Effectiveness
of Fuel Treatments: The Status of Out Knowledge, Southwest Region Working Paper 2
(Santa Fe, NM: National Community Forestry Center, April 2003).
substantially reduce funding (generally to less than 30% of enacted appropriations)
from FY1984 through FY1995.
Table 7. Total Acreage of Fuel Treatment, FY1995-FY2008
(in thousands of acres)
FY1995 FY1996 FY1997 FY1998 FY1999 FY2000 FY2001
FS 541.3 599.5 1 ,097.7 1 ,489.3 1 ,280.0 772.0 1 ,361.7
BLM 57.0 298.0 474.0 632.0 827.8 1 ,020.0 728.1
To tal 598.3 897.5 1 ,571.6 2 ,121.3 2 ,107.8 1 ,792.0 2 ,089.8
FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007P la nned FY2008Proposed
FS 1,257.9 1 ,453.3 1 ,803.8 1 ,663.9 1 ,454.7 1 ,750.0 1 ,800.0
BLM 1 ,059.0 1 ,258.8 1 ,205.9 1 ,269.4 1 ,106.1 1 ,055.0 1 ,061.0
Total 2,316.9 2 ,712.2 3 ,064.7 2 ,933.3 2 ,560.8 2 ,805.0 2 ,861.0
Source: Annual agency budget justifications. The agencies no longer report fuel treatment on the
same basis, and thus FY2007 actual, FY2008 planned, and FY2009 proposed cannot be shown.
The debate over the federal role in assisting states shifted following the severe
fire season in summer of 1994. The Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy &
Program Review: Final Report, released in December 1995, altered federal fire
policy from priority for private property to equal priority for private property and
federal resources, based on values at risk. (Protecting human life remains the first
priority in firefighting.) The increased emphasis on state and local responsibility for
protecting nonfederal lands also led to a recognition of the importance of federal
assistance to state and local agencies. (Sharing fire suppression costs with state and
local governments is discussed below, under “Wildfire Suppression Costs.”)
In contrast to White House efforts to cut fire assistance funding in the 1980s and
early 1990s, state and volunteer fire assistance funding more than tripled in 2001,
rising from $27.2 million to $91.1 million, pulled along by the broad rise in federal
wildfire funding under the National Fire Plan. (See Table 4, above.) State and
volunteer fire assistance funding continued to rise for a few years, peaking at $124.4
million in FY2008.
The 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act
of 2002) authorized a new fire assistance program, the Community Fire Protection
Program. The program authorizes the Forest Service, working with and through state
forestry agencies, to assist local fire protection planning, education, and activities.
The program is authorized at $35 million annually for FY2002-FY2007, and “such
sums as are necessary” thereafter; to date, no explicit budget line items have been
enacted for this program.
Questions persist about the appropriate role of federal firefighters and funds in
protecting structures, communities, and privately owned resources. States bear the
responsibility for fire protection on all nonfederal lands. The Forest Service and
others also support the FIREWISE program to educate landowners and communities
about how to protect their properties and structures from wildfire. The National
Interagency Fire Center coordinates the movement of firefighting forces (federal,
state, and private contractors) to areas with lots of wildfires. The federal agencies are
also directed to give “excess personal property” (such as surplus firefighting
equipment) to state or local fire departments. Some question whether these programs
are sufficient, and suggest that perhaps the federal financial assistance could be
terminated. Others question appropriate federal firefighting actions, where state or
local responsibility for structure fires has been used as an excuse for inaction.11 On
the other hand, federal firefighters are not trained to fight structure fires, and such
efforts without proper training might endanger the firefighters, it has been argued.
The appropriate federal response following wildfire damages to private lands
and resources has also been questioned. Catastrophic wildfires sometimes lead to
disaster declarations, and thus to recovery efforts coordinated and assisted by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland
Security. Wildfire damages not in declared disaster areas are sometimes, but not
always, covered by private insurance (which is regulated by the states). Homeowners
without fire insurance or whose fire insurance does not cover wildfires may be left
without compensation for their losses. Similarly, landowners with resource losses
(e.g., many trees killed by wildfire) may receive no compensation or assistance to
help recover from the losses. It seems unfair to some that wildfire damages are
substantially covered only when total damages are sufficient to declare the area a
disaster. Some have suggested that the National Flood Insurance Program might
provide an appropriate model for federal wildfire insurance for private landowners.12
Others assert that private insurance exists and is more efficient than a government
insurance program, and that the National Flood Insurance Program has not prevented
building in flood zones or repetitive flood losses, despite these being part of its goals.
Rehabilitation of burned sites following intense wildfires has been a generally
accepted practice. As shown in Table 3, the BLM has traditionally received modest
appropriations for rehabilitation; in contrast, the Forest Service has funded burned
area rehabilitation from regular appropriations for vegetation management, wildlife
habitat, watershed management, and other accounts, with little or no special
appropriations for rehabilitation except in FY2001 and FY2002.
Attention to post-fire rehabilitation has increased in recent years. The Bush
Administration finalized regulations authorizing NEPA categorical exclusions for
11 At least two houses on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation burned down in the summer
of 2006, because firefighters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs apparently were not allowed
to fight fires in private dwellings, only grassland fires and government structure fires; the
policy was modified in July 2006 (“Dorgan: BIA Changing Policy on Standing Rock Fires,”
Associated Press, July 15, 2006).
12 See CRS Report RS22394, National Flood Insurance Program: Treasury Borrowing in
the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, by Rawle O. King.
post-fire rehabilitation activities affecting up to 4,200 acres in June 2003.13 These
(and other) regulations were successfully challenged as violating the Forest Service
Decision Making and Appeals Reform Act (§322 of P.L. 102-381; 16 U.S.C. §1612
note), and the FS suspended many proposed actions in response to the court’s order.14
In the 109th Congress, the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act of 2006
(H.R. 4200) was introduced to direct the Forest Service and BLM to establish
research protocols for catastrophic events affecting forests, to provide an expedited
process for recovery of forests from catastrophic events, and to authorize financial
assistance to restore landscapes and communities affected by catastrophic events.
The expedited process would have required catastrophic event recovery assessments,
with pre-approved management practices and alternative NEPA arrangements, and
foreshortened administrative and judicial reviews of related activities. The bill was
reported by the House Committee on Resources (H.Rept. 109-451, May 4, 2006),
discharged from the House Committees on Agriculture and on Transportation, and
passed the House on May 17, 2006. The Senate Committee on Agriculture,
Nutrition, and Forestry held hearings on the bill on August 2, 2006, but took no
further action on the bill.
No data or assessments have examined the adequacy of current rehabilitation
activities. It is unclear how often rehabilitation activities are necessary, and what
activities are involved. It is also unclear whether NEPA environmental reviews or
public involvement have delayed rehabilitation activities significantly. Opponents
of the legislation expressed concerns that it would ease environmental review of and
public participation in salvage logging decisions, since salvage logging was not
precluded as a rehabilitation activity. They note that salvage logging can cause
significant environmental damage. Proponents of the legislation contend that timber
salvage can help in site rehabilitation, both by reducing costs and by removing dead
biomass that may interfere with vegetative regrowth on the site.
Wildfire Suppression Costs
Federal costs for wildfire suppression are substantially higher than they were a
decade or more ago, as shown in Table 3. Wildfire suppression appropriations
(including emergency supplemental funding) exceeded $1 billion in FY2001 and
annually since FY2003. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
held a hearing on suppression costs on January 30, 2007; Chairman Bingaman
observed that FY2006 suppression costs were nearly $2 billion, and that $900 million15
was needed in supplemental appropriations. (FY2006 appropriations for wildfire
suppression were $920.9 million, and $465.0 million in emergency supplemental
funds were included in the emergency supplemental appropriations act, P.L. 110-28.)
13 68 Fed. Reg. 33814 (June 5, 2003)
14 Earth Island v. Pengilly, 376 F.Supp. 2d 994 (E.D.Cal. 2005).
15 U.S. Senate, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Costs of Wildfire Suppression,
S.Hrg. 110-10 (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 2007), pp. 1-2. Hereafter referred to as Senate
ENR, Hearing on Wildfire Suppression Costs.
How can an agency spend more than its appropriations? In most situations, it
can’t. However, provisions in the annual Interior appropriations acts authorize the
BLM and the FS to borrow unobligated funds from other accounts for emergency
firefighting. This is, in effect, an open-ended reprogramming authority.
Historically, this borrowing authority was not a significant problem. Prior to
about 1990, the FS had several mandatory spending accounts, funded from timber
receipts, with substantial running balances. The Knutson-Vandenberg (K-V) Fund
was particularly useful for borrowing. The K-V Fund was created in 1930 to retain
deposits from timber purchasers primarily to reforest the timber sale areas; annual
deposits were $150-$200 million, with about a three-year lag between the deposits
and reforestation expenditures, leaving a running balance of about $500 million.
Thus, firefighting funds could be borrowed from the K-V Fund, and repaid later with
supplemental or regular appropriations, without a significant effect on the
reforestation program. The decline in timber sales has led to a comparable decline
in K-V (and other mandatory account) balances, and thus the Forest Service has had
to turn elsewhere to borrow funds to pay for firefighting.
Another reason why the borrowing authority was not a problem historically is
that, for FY1994-FY2000, wildfire suppression expenditures were only about 30%
of agency discretionary appropriations (30.6% for the FS, 29.0% for the BLM),
leaving significant funds in other accounts to borrow from. (This is even more true
for the BLM, since it can borrow from any Interior Department accounts, not just
BLM accounts.) However, since FY2001, wildfire suppression expenditures have
averaged 44% of agency discretionary appropriations (43.7% for the FS, 44.2% for
the BLM), and totaled 47% of agency discretionary appropriations in FY2008 (49.5%
for the FS, 42.6% for the BLM). Thus, there are relatively fewer funds available to
borrow, and borrowing to pay for firefighting is having a relatively greater effect on
those other accounts. Various interests have increasingly expressed concerns about
the effects of firefighting borrowing on the agencies’ abilities to implement other
Numerous organizations have examined wildfire suppression costs and made
recommendations to the agencies for how to contain those costs.16 These reports
16 The organizations’ reports include:
U.S. General Accounting Office (now Government Accountability Office), Western
National Forests: A Cohesive Strategy is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats,
GAO/RCED-99-65 (Washington, DC: April 1999), 60 p.; Wildland Fire Management: Lack
of a Cohesive Strategy Hinders Agencies’ Cost-Containment Efforts, GAO-07-427T
(Washington, DC: January 30, 2007), 13 p.; and more than a dozen other reports.
National Academy on Public Administration, Wildfire Suppression: Strategies for
Containing Costs (Washington, DC: September 2002), 2 volumes.
Strategic Issues Panel on Fire Suppression Cost, Large Fire Suppression Costs:
Strategies for Cost Management, A Report to the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (August
26, 2004), available at
[ ht t p: / / www.f or e st sandr ange l a nds.gov/ r epor t s / document s / 2004/ cost ma nage me nt .pdf ] .
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Western Region, Audit Report:
Forest Service Large Fire Suppression Costs, Rept. No. 08601-44-SF (November 2006), 47
present three general conclusions: (1) a fair share of wildfire suppression be paid by
state and/or local governments; (2) more, better, and better-focused fuel reduction
efforts; and (3) better accountability for cost control.
Several reports have noted that wildfire suppression cost-share agreements are
inconsistent and inequitable, and that cost apportionment and responsibilities among
the various levels of government are unclear. This has led to increasing reliance by
homeowners and local governments on federal fire protection, despite the relatively
clear direction in the 1995 federal fire policy review to increase local responsibility
for wildfire protection and suppression for nonfederal lands and structures.17 The
reports note that significant local cost responsibility is necessary to give incentives
to homeowners and local governments to take actions to protect themselves, and that
without such incentives, federal costs will continue to escalate.
Fuel reduction efforts, as discussed above, are commonly proposed as a means
of reducing wildfire suppression costs. However, as shown in Table 7, the annual
fuel treatment acreage has stabilized at less than 3 million acres annually, less than
the amount needed to treat lands at high and moderate risk of ecological damage
from wildfire. (See discussion above.) The proportion of fuel treatments in the
wildland-urban interface (WUI) has increased since FY2001 (the first year for which
such data area available), from 37% (45% for the FS, 22% for the BLM) to about
60% from FY2003 to FY2006 (73% for the FS, 42% for the BLM), and 70% in
FY2008 (83% for the FS, 47% for the BLM). Nonetheless, at the same hearing,
Robin Nazzaro of GAO noted that the agencies still needed to:18
... develop a cohesive strategy that identifies the options and associated funding
to reduce fuels and address wildland fire problems.... In 2005 and 2006, because
the agencies had not yet developed such a strategy, we reiterated the need for a
cohesive strategy and broadened our recommendations’ focus to better address
the interrelated nature of fuel reduction efforts and wildland fire response.
Finally, the reports also discussed the need for better cost control and
accountability. Most have noted the inconsistent cost tracking and the weak
measures of the benefits of fire suppression efforts. GAO noted:19
... the agencies need to establish clear goals, strategies, and performance
measures to help contain wildland fire costs. Although the agencies have taken
certain steps to help contain wildland fire costs, the effectiveness of these steps
may be limited because agencies have not established clear cost containment
goals for the wildland fire program, including how containing costs should be
considered in relation to other wildland fire program goals such as protecting
17 U.S. Dept. of the Interior and Dept. of Agriculture, Federal Wildland Fire Management
Policy & Program Review: Final Report (Washington, DC: December 18, 1995).
18 Senate ENR, Hearing on Wildfire Suppression Costs, p. 15.
19 Senate ENR, Hearing on Wildfire Suppression Costs, p. 15.
lives, resources, and property; strategies to achieve these goals; or effective
performance measures to track their progress.
The Strategic Issues Panel noted that the high cost of large fires was the result
of the “unwillingness to take greater risks, unwillingness to recognize that
suppression techniques are sometimes futile, the ‘free’ nature of wildland fire
suppression funding, and public and political expectations....”20 The panel then
recommended better fire cost data and “a benefit cost measure as the core measure
of suppression cost effectiveness.”21
Another part of cost control and accountability is integration of wildfires and
fire control efforts and effectiveness in land and resource planning, fire planning, and
budgeting. One aspect of this integration is maintaining local capacity for initial
attack on new wildfires. Most of the reports assert that, without that local capacity,
new fires could become conflagrations if resources are too focused on suppressing
The Administration has responded to some of these concerns. In testimony on
January 30, 2007, Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey noted the agencies have
adopted “appropriate management response” for tactical decisions, such that wildfire
control efforts are related to values at risk.22 In conjunction with this, the agencies
are to maintain their initial attack success. The FS Chief is to identify an individual
to “provide oversight on fires of national significance and assist local units
coordinate with DOI on DOI lands.” Finally, “national resources,” such as aviation
resources (helicopters, etc.) and personnel (smokejumpers, hot shot crews, etc.) will
be pre-positioned, based on predicted services and planning levels, to provide “a
more centralized and flexible management of these response resources and more23
efficient use ...” It is unclear how well these actions will address concerns about
cost control and accountability.
Legislation has been introduced to address the situation.24 Two Senate and two
House bills have been introduced to establish a separate fund for major wildfire
suppression efforts. The Stable Fire Funding Act of 2006 (S. 1770) would create a
special fund, from current and previous annual appropriations, to provide up to 80%
of the cost of emergency wildfire suppression, initially authorized at $200.0 million
for the BLM and $600.0 million for the FS.
The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act
(H.R. 5541/S. 3256) would establish a separate fund, designated as an emergency
20 Large Fire Suppression Costs: Strategies for Cost Management, p. 6.
21 Large Fire Suppression Costs: Strategies for Cost Management, p. 33.
22 Senate ENR, Hearing on Wildfire Suppression Costs, p. 7.
23 Senate ENR, Hearing on Wildfire Suppression Costs, p. 7.
24 For the status of pending legislation, see CRS Report RL33792, Federal Lands Managed
by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM and the Forest Service (FS): Issues for the 110th
Congress, by Ross W. Gorte, Carol Hardy Vincent, Marc Humphries, and Kristina
pursuant to H.Con.Res. 376 (109th Congress), for severe wildfires of at least 300
acres that threaten lives, property, or critical resources. The fund is authorized at the
five-year average of emergency fire suppression expenditures, with transfers from the
Treasury and any unused fire suppression appropriations. The Emergency Wildland
Fire Response Act of 2008 (H.R. 5648) amends the Cooperative Forestry Assistance
Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2111) to establish a fund from appropriations,
emergency appropriations, and other transfers for declared emergencies for wildfires
where a cooperative agreement exists and that either are 300 acres with potential for
extreme fire behavior or could cause life, property, or other losses. It also would
provide assistance to “fire-ready communities” and authorize “good neighbor
partnerships” for states to implement HFRA projects on federal lands. To date, none
of these bills have been enacted, although H.R. 5541 was passed by the House on
July 9, 2008.