Press Releases

Washington, DC – The Fiscal Year 2008 Emergency Supplemental Bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes an additional $450 million for U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department firefighting and fire-prevention efforts, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced today.

The emergency funding, approved by the Appropriations Committee at Thursday’s markup, would bring federal wildfire funding efforts in line with federal spending on firefighting and fire-prevention in recent years. It would be spent as follows:

  • $350 million for the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department to fight wildfires; and
  • $100 million to restore and rehabilitate federal lands scorched by wildfires; these efforts will involve replanting new trees and stabilizing soils to reduce the risk of mudslides in burn areas.

“California is hot and dry, and fire officials say the state is in for another long and challenging fire season this year. So there’s a critical need in California, and other fire-prone states, for this important new funding,” said Senator Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subommittee.

“Wildfires are a real and ongoing threat to our public lands, and to life and property. This is especially true in California, which has seen massive wildfires in recent years burn more than 1.25 million acres, destroy thousands of homes and businesses and kill 34 people. The fire risk is made worse by global warming and drought, and all indications are that the risk of wildfires this year will again be high.

“So, it’s imperative that Congress provides sufficient funding for the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for fire suppression and fire-prevention efforts. Today’s action by the Appropriations Committee is a major step forward. I want to thank Chairman Byrd for making it happen.”

 Background

With global warming and dry fire seasons, catastrophic wildfires are becoming an increasing threat, particularly in the Western United States.

In 2006, more than 9.8 million acres were burned by wildfires nationwide, the greatest damage from wildfires in 48 years of reporting. In Fiscal Year 2006, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior spent nearly $1.93 billion on firefighting efforts.

In 2007, more than 9.3 million acres were burned by wildfires nationwide. In Fiscal Year 2007, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior spent more than $1.8 billion fighting wildfires.

Wildfires are especially dangerous in California. In 2003 and 2007, massive wildfires in California burned 1.25 million acres, destroyed 6,000 structures, and killed 34 people.

Senator Feinstein’s Role

Senator Feinstein has played a key role in the fight against wildfires, including helping secure more federal fire funding in the wake of last year’s devastating Southern California fires.

Last year, with help from Representatives Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Senator Feinstein secured $500 million in emergency supplemental fire funding for wildland fire suppression, risk reduction and recovery. Of this, $93 million went toward hazardous fuels reduction, rehabilitation and restoration projects in Southern California.
 
The funding was sought in part to replenish the coffers of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, drained by extreme fires in many parts of the United States in 2007. In addition, the Southern California wildfires that began in October of last year had threatened to force both agencies to exhaust their Fiscal Year 2008 funding long before the fiscal year ends.

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