We oversee the preparation and execution of a department-wide, annual wildland fire management budget to promote efficiency within the Department and ensure alignment with goals set by Congress and the executive branch.
A helicopter drops water on the 2017 West Mims Fire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The cost to suppress wildfires remains the most expensive component of the annual Department of the Interior budget for wildland fire management. (Josh O'Connor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
$1.5 billion: 2023 Wildland Fire Management Budget (requested)*^
$1.53 billion: 2022 Wildland Fire Management Budget (appropriated)*^~
$993 million: 2021 Wildland Fire Management Budget (appropriated)*
$952 million: 2020 Wildland Fire Management Budget (appropriated)*
$941 million: 2019 Wildland Fire Management Budget (appropriated)
$948 million: 2018 Wildland Fire Management Budget (appropriated)
* Includes funding available through the Wildfire Suppression Operations Reserve Fund, which makes additional funding for emergency wildfire response and suppression available when regular funding is not sufficient for the need.
^ Includes funding provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
~ Includes funding provided through the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022.
Funding for all wildland fire-related activities on land administered by the Department of the Interior flows through a single pot of money (or appropriation) managed by the Office of Wildland Fire. Working alongside staff from each of the bureaus involved in wildland fire (Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), our team leads the process of creating and administering the annual budget describing how that pot of money will be spent. The budget cycle for a single fiscal year spans the course of at least three years. During this process the budget team coordinates strategic planning, formulation, congressional justification, funding allocation, execution, performance monitoring, and reporting.
The annual appropriation for wildland fire is one facet of the overall federal budget that you hear about every year. Learn more about the process of creating a budget for the federal government.
An illustration showing how Congress appropriates money for federal wildland fire managment.
The Department of the Interior organizes expenditures for wildland fire management activities into a suite of programs: these include preparedness, suppression, fuels management, facilities, burned area rehabilitation, and science. Once Congress approves a budget, the Office of Wildland Fire coordinates the distribution of funding to the four bureaus with wildland fire management responsibilities: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bureaus use this funding to carry out work in the programs listed above in accordance with approved operating plans.
Wildland fire may ignore administrative boundaries, but we can’t. The land management bureaus within the Department of the Interior have different missions that require different strategies and tactics for managing wildland fire. We can sell timber from land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but not from national parks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an obligation to enhance and protect habitat for plants and wildlife, while the Bureau of Indian Affairs works to enhance and protect opportunities for American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.
A centralized budget helps us honor the bureaus’ individual missions while making sure that we’re all working toward a common goal in managing wildland fire on America’s public lands. It provides a level of oversight that safeguards and makes the wildland fire program more efficient, cohesive, and provides greater accountability to leadership, Congress, and the executive branch.