Subscribe by Email

Connect with


Opinion: More Fires Mean Less Funding For Local USDA Forest Service Projects

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

By Randy Moore, Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

Last year, more than 1,500 wildfires burned over 640,000 acres on National Forest System lands in California, including the Thomas Fire, the largest fire in California’s recorded history. The surrounding communities are still dealing with damage from debris flows caused by a charred and barren landscape that no longer has the protection of trees, grass and other vegetation.

We see and empathize with those affected, and are working to reduce the potential for future loss by performing hazardous fuel reduction treatments which include thinning overstocked forests and prescribed burning.

The Forest Service is increasingly challenged to provide the personnel and management needed to maintain these services; infrastructure, such as roads, trails and campgrounds; and the health and resiliency of our public forests.

The Pacific Southwest Region spent in excess of $500 million preventing or suppressing wildfires over the past year. While nationally, Forest Service suppression costs exceeded $2.4 billion last year, more than ever before. Fire alone accounted for 57 percent of the agency’s budget in 2017, up from just 16 percent in 1995. At this rate, suppression costs will take up 67 percent of the Forest Service’s budget by 2021.

Currently, 10 million acres of National Forest System lands in California are at moderate to high risk from insects, disease or fire. The science, data and monitoring shows that hazardous fuel treatments positively affect fire behavior and lowers the catastrophic risk of fire damage.

Essentially, the more acres we treat, the healthier our forests become, contributing to safer and more resilient communities. In 2017 alone, we performed fuels reduction treatments on over 310,000 acres of Forest Service lands across the state, but there is more to be done.

Funding for suppression efforts performed by the Forest Service on National Forest System lands as well as those under other ownerships, comes from the agency’s overall budget which means less money for other Forest Service programs and services. The Forest Service is the only federal agency that is required to fund its entire emergency management program through its regular appropriations.

About a third of the Forest Service’s total spending on fire goes toward 1 to 2 percent of the fires it fights. Megafires, like the Thomas Fire, are national disasters. It would make sense to deal with them as such: through a separate national emergency fund to stop the drain on the funding for the work we care most about.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Forest Service deeply appreciate the ongoing work of Congress to pass new legislation to reform the way wildfire suppression is funded, supporting our efforts to meet the many different needs of the communities we serve, for the benefit of generations to come.

Acting Lassen National Forest Supervisor, Ted McArthur, added this comment: “The Lassen National Forest supports local, regional and national wildland firefighting efforts by immediate response with engines, crews, equipment and support personnel upon request. We will continue this effort with these incidents when we are in need. We will adjust to any funding deficiencies as needed while recognizing that some projects may be detrimentally affected by the transfer of funds to the firefighting efforts.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by guest authors and those providing opinions on SusanvilleStuff are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of Couso Technology and Design, SusanvilleStuff or any of our employees.

If we could have a moment of your time...

In the last 15 years SusanvilleStuff has become Lassen County's most influential media source with an average of 21,000 people visiting and reading stories about our little corner of the world each week.

SusanvilleStuff is our area's only locally owned news and information source and our commitment is to our friends and neighbors, with the goal of creating the best, all-around, most reliable content, while at the same time highlighting what makes Susanville and Lassen County so incredibly unique.
Why We Need Reader Support
Our independent, local coverage takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. While we make most of our money from advertising revenues, these days those can only go so far to support what we do. Every dollar our readers contribute goes towards making SusanvilleStuff a stronger voice in the community with better, more comprehensive content. We increasingly need the help of our readers to support us with either a voluntary subscription or a one-time contribution.

You don't have to subscribe to SusanvilleStuff, but we will be incredibly thankful if you do!

If you would like to contribute to SusanvilleStuff you can click here for subscription options

Posted by on . Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

>Email us News
115 S. Roop Susanville, CA