Fire season shouldn’t mean robbing Peter to pay Paul

Conservation organizations like ours love to ask supporters to contact their congressmen to vote yes on all kinds of bills. But, the truth is that a lot of federal legislation doesn’t easily fire people up.

We’ve got a bill for you that does just that and it’s about, well, wildfires. We need your help to get Congress to pass this bill. The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday, March 25.

What’s the problem?

The length of the fire season is growing because of global warming, greater numbers of people moving into fire-prone areas and other causes. The cost of suppressing wildfires, meanwhile, has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the budget for suppressing them is chronically under-funded. Way too often, the Forest Service (the agency primarily responsible for suppressing wildfires) has to “rob Peter to pay Paul” — transferring money out of other vital programs and services in order to fund fire suppression.

Programs that regularly get moved to the backburner include:

  • campground maintenance
  • recreation and wilderness management
  • fish and wildlife habitat protection
  • watershed restoration
  • land acquisition
  • global warming research

The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act, a bill re-introduced in Congress in March, could help address this problem by creating a separate fund for suppressing large-scale wildfires. It would do some other technical things, too, but creating a separate fund would be a huge step toward solving the under-funding problem — and restoring budgets for all the programs and services we love.

Prospects look good in the House and Senate this year...if more people make their voices heard. You could help The Wilderness Society build more momentum for the legislation by contacting your member of the House of the Representatives today. Click here to find your representative and drop him or her a note asking for a yes vote on the FLAME Act.

Once we get the bill through both sides of the Capitol and to a presidential signature, it will be time to celebrate a milestone public policy win that makes a real on-the-ground difference across the country. Hiking, camping or fishing anyone?

photo: Firefighter using drip torch. Photo by John McCarthy.

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