Federal funding for fighting wildfires is now imperative, with an USDA official commenting that the spending bill at the federal level should include this pressing issue too.
Wildfires have been spreading their blazes at an alarming rate this year in several U.S. states. The costs of mobilizing emergency services including air tankers, firefighters, fire trucks and others has seen over half of the budget of the U.S. Forest Service being depleted.
With these funds going into mobilizing an impressive array of forces to contain wildfires, preventive projects temporarily lose funding too. For instance, in Wyoming, one such project oversees the clearing of vegetation on one swath of land assigned to the Medicine Bow National Forest. Clearing built-up random vegetation prevents the potential fuelling of another wildfire. With controlled fires and equipment set in place, the prevention project can work wonders. However, it all may come to a halt when a large part of the U.S. Forest Service budget goes into fighting the increasingly often wildfires.
According to Robert Bonnie, the Under Secretary for USDA, Congress repays the sum invested in such actions. However, projects are disrupted with funding being redirected to fighting wildfires even if for a season. Against this background, a bill is being sought that would include wildfires as natural disasters. With this classification funding should be included in the following federal spending bill to address such issues. Federal funding for fighting wildfires is now imperative as the rampantly blazing flames have burned through lands and budgets increasingly often.
This year alone the wildfires engulfing California and Washington have been the largest and most damaging on records. Over 60 percent of the budget was spent on containing the disastrous flames. Longer wildfire seasons result in more acres of land being burnt and more dangerous wildfire encroachment on urban spaces. Containing fires before they reach the wildland-urban barrier is of outmost importance.
While some fires are in fact a beneficial factor in forest growth and wildlife habitat improvement, others threaten to reach homes and businesses, leading to severe losses. To avoid and prevent this from happening, projects that emphasise vegetation thinning play an important role. In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service thinned 4.6 million acres. With funding being divested to fighting wildfires, these projects are delayed.
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