USA: FLAME Act legislation seeks to redesign how USFS spends money fighting fires

The FLAME Act, re-introduced in Congress in March, would address the
problem of the Forest Service robbing Peter to pay Paul. Specifically,
in order to pay for the skyrocketing costs for fire suppression, which
now accounts for about half of the Forest Service budget, the agency
takes money away from vital agency programs including: maintaining
public campgrounds and trails, watershed restoration, and wildlife

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The National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the
National Wildlife Refuge System are also dealing with these same
problems. With longer fire seasons on the horizon, we cannot continue
to bankrupt the agencies every year at the expense of protecting and
promoting the values all Americans expect from their public lands.

What the bill does: The FLAME Act creates a separate fund for
suppressing large-scale wildfires and would limit the need for
agencies to take funds away from other Forest Service programs.

The bill requires the agencies to provide Congress with a review of costly
wildfires, a report containing a cohesive wildland fire management
strategy, science-based budget predictions, and annual reports on the
use of the fund.

The bill also authorizes a grant program to encourage communities to reduce fire risks. The bill may be subject to a change as Members offer amendments. Unfortunately, one of them is problematic.

The Goodlatte amendment (#14) would waive important
forest laws to increase the ability of non-federal entities to log on
national forests with limited oversight. This amendment must be

To read the bill, go to:

Please call your Representative and ask them to vote YES on the FLAME
Act, HR 1404, and NO on the Goodlatte amendment. To look up your
Representative, go to: The number for the
Congressional switch board is 202-224-3121.

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Update: FLAME Act approved by house 412-3March 28th, 2009 at 11:26 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exasperated by the escalating cost of fighting wildfires, the House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill to help pay for the next disaster.

The bill, approved 412-3, would create a separate fund to cover the costs of combating major wildfires such as those that have devastated parts of California and other Western states in recent years.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Lawmakers in both parties have long complained that the Forest Service and other federal agencies routinely overspend their budgets for wildfires, figuring that additional money will be provided if needed. The Forest Service and Interior Department spent about $2.4 billion last year fighting fires, a $500 million increase over the previous year and double the average amount spent a decade ago.

Lawmakers hope a reserve fund will make it less likely the agencies will have to dip into other parts of their budgets that are dear to Congress members to fight fires.

Spurred by global warming and drought, wildfire seasons have grown longer and more intense by the year, experts say. Fighting the fires is complicated by an increase in small trees and underbrush that serve as fuel for catastrophic blazes, and lawmakers said the money budgeted by the Forest Service to thin forests and clear underbrush is inadequate.

The special fund is dubbed the Federal Land Assistance Management and Enhancement Act, or FLAME. President Barack Obama in his budget proposed a similar fund for wildfires of $357 million. The House bill doesn’t specify a dollar amount, which would be set later in spending bills.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said about half the Forest Service budget is now devoted to fire suppression and prevention.

“The agency is no longer the U.S. Forest Service, but rather the U.S. Fire Service,” Rahall said. “Fighting these fires is eroding other non-fire programs and impacting the core mission of the federal land management agencies.”

The wildfire fund would not be part of usual agency budgets and would be used only for emergencies, such as a catastrophic fire. Top officials would have to certify that a particular fire is eligible for FLAME Act funding, lawmakers said.

The bill also includes provisions aimed at reducing the threat of wildfires in an estimated 4 million acres of Rocky Mountain forests suffering a massive die-off of trees due to mountain pine beetle infestations.

The problem is increasing rapidly, especially in Colorado and Wyoming, with the number of acres affected in those states doubling since 2006.

The beetle is expected to eventually kill virtually every mature lodgepole pine in Colorado. Montana, Idaho and other Western states are also affected. Small towns, ski resorts, recreation facilities and electricity transmission lines in all three states are at risk.

A provision by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., permits the use of FLAME Act funds to clear pine beetle infested areas during a wildfire to prevent the spread of the fire. Another provision by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., requires the Interior and Agriculture departments to update their fire management plan every five years to take into account landscape changes that may have taken place due to beetle infestation, global warming and other factors.

Jeff ArmstrongOctober 15th, 2009 at 7:19 am

This FLAME act is totally misleading from the aviation standpoint. The use of DC-10 and 747 aircraft as tankers is a folly. They are literally useless as they do not get slow or low enough to be efficient. The use of military helicopters is another folly as they are not designed for firefighting and the pilots, while very proficient, are not trained well enough for the mission and the cost for a Blackhawk is at least three times that of a commercial “medium” helicopter. The politicians who defend this bill are not aviation people and have no idea how the system works. The military helicopters are not “free”. The Forest Service should look at how they utilize helicopters and discontinue the practice of using “Large Helicopters” for initial attack and call them in when a fire becomes a “large incident”. Paying millions of dollars to have a Type I large helicopter to sit on a designated base in case there is a fire is insane when a “medium helicopter” if used correctly on initial attack will do a great service to the forest and the taxpayers at 80% less the cost. The mental philosphy of bigger is better is whats costing the taxpayers dearly.

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