Date: March 14, 2019
WASHINGTON – This week, President Trump requested $919.9 million in appropriations for the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Wildland Fire Management Program. The proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 represents a strategic investment in efforts to protect people and reduce the risk of wildfire through active management of DOI and Tribal lands.
The proposed budget includes $194 million for the Fuels Management program, an increase of $10.0 million over the FY 2019 CR level of funding, to support active vegetation management of Federal and Tribal lands. The request supports implementation of Executive Order 13855 and Secretarial Order 3372 that were signed earlier this year to promote healthy and resilient landscapes through active vegetation management.
“Wildfires know no boundaries, and this year’s budget affirms the critical role that active vegetation management plays in protecting people, communities and watersheds from the risks of wildfire,” said Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “We are committed to expanding our partnerships with all stakeholders to meet the goals and objective of both Orders and to work collaboratively to ensure healthy and resilient landscapes across DOI and Tribal lands.”
The FY 2020 budget proposal also includes $383.7 million for the Suppression Operations program. An additional $300 million for suppression is allocated to DOI as its preliminary share of the Wildland Fire Cap Adjustment authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. Actual resource allocation between DOI and the Forest Service will ultimately depend on suppression needs in the event of a severe wildfire season. Last year, more than 52,000 wildfires burned 8.5 million acres of Federal, Tribal, State and private lands. Total Federal spending on suppression topped $3.1 billion, the largest amount ever. DOI’s portion of that expenditure was $528.4 million.
The FY 2020 Budget proposal also funds the following Wildland Fire Management activities:
The Preparedness program funds firefighting resources such as aviation assets, equipment, personnel, training, and the services and technology that enable firefighters to safely and effectively manage wildfires. The requested level of funding would allow DOI to maintain an effective level of preparedness. This includes supporting more than 2,000 firefighters who safely and effectively respond to wildfires. In addition, the program funds the use of unmanned aircraft systems to support wildfire operations through mapping, monitoring, data relay, traffic management, and the analysis of fire behavior to support the safety of the public and firefighters.
Post-wildfire rehabilitation is critical to the long-term restoration and improvement of landscapes damaged by wildfire. The Burned Area Rehabilitation program funds the reseeding or planting of vegetation to prevent erosion and the introduction of invasive species; soil monitoring to ensure proper vegetation growth; minor repairs to infrastructure such as signs, footbridges and trails; and monitoring work to assess effectiveness. The FY 2020 request funds the treatment of approximately 250,000 acres of the most vulnerable and highest priority burned landscapes.
The FY 2020 Budget proposal complements a significant interagency package of forest management reform legislation, providing needed authority for the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to better manage critical landscapes and protect neighboring communities. The legislative proposals include categorical exclusions to expedite active vegetation management under certain circumstances. The proposed authorities would allow DOI to treat additional acres more quickly in order to reduce the risk of wildfire and make meaningful progress towards safe and effective wildfire response, resilient landscapes, and fire-adapted communities.
DOI remains committed to its Tribal trust responsibilities. The FY 2020 Budget proposal maintains $10 million to continue the Reserved Treaty Rights Land program that supports landscape restoration and the management of Tribal resources, primarily through collaborative fuels management projects. This program, coupled with other WFM funding, is essential to the economic and ecological sustainability of Tribal lands and forests.
The goal of the WFM program is to achieve an integrated, cost-efficient, and technically sound fire management program that meets resource and safety objectives. DOI’s WFM program is comprised of the Office of Wildland Fire and four bureaus with wildland fire management responsibilities, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.