Last week, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, joining several of her colleagues, called for a vote on the House floor on the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, a bill that would ensure adequate funding is available for both wildfire suppression and land management practices that help prevent and reduce the impact of catastrophic wildfires in the future. Capps is a co-sponsor of the bill.
Currently, wildfire prevention funds are designated to pay for wildfire response; however, wildfire fighting costs for the coming fire season are already expected to vastly exceed the budget currently set aside for this purpose.
This funding process differs from the way any other natural disaster is addressed. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would make the common sense change to treat the federal wildfire budget like other major disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, ending the disruptive practice of using funds allocated for fire prevention for fire response.
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would not increase spending. It would mean that agencies would no longer be forced to divert funding from practices that actually reduce the risk of wildfire — like hazardous fuels removal, timber harvest, and grazing management — to deal with fighting the fires.
“As Californians, we know that fire season is now year round,” Capps said. “We’ve experienced some devastating fires over the last several years along the Central Coast, so we know the importance of ensuring that both our fire suppression and fuels management budgets are fully funded as well as the danger of diverting these important prevention resources in order to fund our fire response. It is time for Congress to act to ensure that communities can be best prepared for wildfire season, while still funding fire suppression appropriately. I hope this commonsense bipartisan bill can be brought to the House floor for a vote immediately.”
Capps, along with 173 other members, have made this request by signing a discharge petition. A discharge petition can force a vote on the House floor even when it is opposed by the House Majority Leadership if it gets 218 member signatures.
The bill is supported by a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including the Nature Conservancy, the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, American Bird Conservancy; American Hiking Society; Defenders of Wildlife; Endangered Species Coalition; National Parks Conservation Association; Trout Unlimited; the Trust for Public Land; the Forest Guild; Safari Club International and the Outdoor Industry Association, among others. Over 200 supporting organizations representing sportsmen, timber, recreation, tribal, environmental groups, signed this letter in support of the proposal.
— Chris Meagher is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.