Omnibus Spending Bill Increases Money for Wildfire Management

The $1-trillion dollar spending plan passed by Congress last weekend and signed by President Obama this week includes money for wildfire mitigation and management and that budget is up from years prior.

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A helicopter drops water on the fire near Soldotna Monday night (Ariel Van Cleave photo)
A helicopter drops water on the fire near Soldotna Monday night (Ariel Van Cleave photo)

The omnibus spending plan includes $1.4 billion dollars for wildfire management and mitigation.

“That’s about 64 million dollars above fiscal year 2014 enacted level,” said Kent Slaughter, Manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service.

“So, there is definitely an increase in the amount appropriated,” he said.

The money is based on a 10-year average funding level but, it is not allocated by state. It will be split between the US Forest Service and the Department of Interior, which oversees the BLM.  Slaughter said 804 million dollars will go to the DOI, but it will be another month or two before he knows exactly how much funding will go to the Alaska Fire Service.

“I think the process went as the process is going to go. It’s nice to have a budget to know… where we’ll be for the rest of the fiscal year,” said Slaughter.

The federal budget for wildfire management has been strained in recent years. According the Forest service, the wildfire season in the United States has increased by between 60 and 80 days in the last 30 years.

When the President proposed his Fiscal Year 2015 budget earlier this year, it included a proposal to create an emergency fund for catastrophic wildfires. The goal was to decrease the amount of money that is pulled from other programs like forest restoration and management as well as research. But during the congressional process, that proposal was scrapped.