Gardner Takes Lead on Wildfire Disaster Funding

Washington, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced today that he is joining fellow Senators in co-sponsoring the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015, continuing a legacy of leadership on this issue going back to his days in the House of Representatives. This bill would change U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior budgeting to allow agencies additional flexibility to respond to catastrophic wildfires without having to pull money from other budget priorities.

“Major wildfires are natural disasters in every place but the federal budget,” Gardner said. “But because the law doesn’t allow funding for these events to be properly budgeted, the Forest Service routinely has to pull money from other important priorities, including fire prevention and forest management, in order to fight these major wildfires. It’s time for that counterproductive cycle to end, and this bill does it.”

The legislation would allow the U.S. Forest Service access to the pre-existing disaster fund used by FEMA to respond to natural disasters, allowing that money to be properly and adequately directed towards the fighting of major fires.  It is estimated that proper accounting would free up as much as $412 million in discretionary funds for fire prevention programs. Because this legislation would only make commonsense changes to accounting processes, it does not increase federal spending. The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Crapo (R-ID).