Senator Feinstein Asks for $910 Million for Emergency Federal Funds for Wildfire Suppression, Fuels Reduction, Burn-Area Rehabilitation
-Cites high risk federal funds will be depleted in face of catastrophic 2008 fire season-
Jul 09 2008
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced she will seek $910 million in emergency federal funding for fire suppression, hazardous fuels reduction and rehabilitation projects across the United States.
Senator Feinstein’s request came in a letter to Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In her letter, Senator Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, noted that hundreds of wildfires burning in California threaten to deplete federal firefighting resources early in the fire season.
Following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s letter:
July 9, 2008
The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Byrd:
Thank you for considering a second Emergency Supplemental package to meet the growing domestic disaster and emergency needs of the nation. I am requesting that you include $910 million in this Supplemental to meet the immediate needs of the firefighters battling wildfires in California and across the country, as well as prevention and rehabilitation efforts.
As you know, the President last week declared a State of Emergency in California where fires have destroyed 45 homes and scorched over 630,886 acres in recent days.
The situation in California is explosive: Excessive Heat Warnings have been issued, more dry-lightning strikes are expected, our resources are stretched to the breaking point, and the state remains tinder-dry. The Governor has informed the President that without more help, we can no longer adequately protect lives and property. This emergency funding is necessary to counteract this untenable situation. For your reference, I have attached the letter sent on behalf of Governor Schwarzenegger to FEMA Administrator Paulison detailing the situation in my state.
Due to the major scope and consequence of these early season fires, wildland fire suppression costs for the U.S Forest Service are expected to greatly surpass the 10-year suppression average and the Fiscal Year 2008 non-emergency appropriation of $845.62 million. With the bulk of the fire season still to come, the U.S. Forest Service has already expended $704 million, more than half of the $1.2 billion in available funds and, if agencies have to continue spending suppression funds at this rate, they may experience budget deficits to run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Thanks to your support, $450 million was included in the Senate-passed Supplemental to meet these needs, but not in the bill the President signed into law last week.
Indicators suggest that fire suppression this year will even surpass the record-breaking costs in 2006 and 2007. For instance, in many areas of my state, moisture levels in fuels, a key indicator in the likelihood of wildfires, is lower than at any point in the recorded 27-year history of such data.
We must also provide funding to prevent these fires through hazardous fuels management. While hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land across the country will burn this fire season, many more acres of dead and dying trees will remain as tinderboxes for future seasons. In seven counties in Southern California alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cataloged more than 60,000 acres of forest that need to be cleared of these fuels. A relatively small investment can save the federal government the millions more that would be spent to fight fires that we know will occur in these areas should these fuels remain.
I am requesting $910 million in emergency funding for the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior. Specifically:
- $610 million for wildfire suppression;
- $125 million for State and private lands fuels reduction;
- $100 million for rehabilitation;
- $50 million for Federal lands fuels reduction; and
- $25 million for firefighter recruitment and retention in high-risk areas.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working with you in the Appropriations Committee in crafting this legislation.
United States Senator