Schrader Applauds OMB Request for $576.5 Million Towards Wildfires
Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5) released the following statement in response to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s announcement that $576.5 million toward wildfire funding will be included in their supplemental budget request to Congress this week. This announcement comes after Congressman Schrader led his colleagues in the Western Caucus in calling on the Administration to include “comprehensive forest management and wildland fire budgeting reforms as part of the next disaster relief request as soon as possible.”
“Fixing the way we pay for wildfire suppression and prevention has been one of my legislative priorities since coming into federal office over eight years ago,” said Congressman Schrader. “For the past three Congresses, I’ve introduced a bipartisan bill to put an end to the practice of fire-borrowing. I am very pleased that this Administration is treating this disaster with the seriousness it deserves. We have a long way to go in the work to curb wildfires and the devastation they inflict, but this announcement is an encouraging step forward.”
In June, Congressman Schrader reintroduced his bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act along with Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) to fix the current budgeting process for wildfires. In recent years, Congress has budgeted for wildfire suppression by appropriating money according to the average cost for wildfires over the past ten years, known as the “ten-year average.” When costs exceed an agency’s fire budget, that agency is forced to borrow from non-fire accounts to pay for fire suppression. This practice is known as “fire-borrowing.” Fire borrowing was intended to be an extraordinary measure to help in bad wildfire years. However, this practice has become the norm and not the exception, which has caused wildfire costs to increase. According to the Forest Service, wildfire costs were 56% of their total budget in 2016. In 1995, the Forest Service spent only 16% of their total budget fighting wildfires. By 2025, that number could increase to nearly 70% if nothing is done to fix the budgeting process. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would end fire borrowing by treating wildfires like other natural disasters when wildfire suppression costs are exhausted.