Vilsack disappointed Forest Service fire-fighting proposal didn’t make bill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee ranking member Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., today that he is disappointed the omnibus appropriations bill did not include President Barack Obama’s proposal for long-term funding of Forest Service firefighting.

In a letter, Vilsack said he appreciated the additional firefighting money in the bill, but that he will no longer use money from other accounts to fight fires.

“I am directing the Forest Service to aggressively use the funding provided in FY 2016 to support forest management, restoration, research, and partnership work that will help us get ahead of the catastrophic wildfire problem,” Vilsack wrote.

“The Forest Service will also aggressively focus on providing other services that the American public expects from this agency such as recreation, facilities maintenance, and invasive pest management,” Vilsack said.

“Further, I will not authorize transfers from restoration and resilience funding. The American public can no longer afford delays to forest restoration and other critical Forest Service activities caused by annual fire transfers.

“If the amount Congress appropriated in FY 2016 is not sufficient to cover fire suppression costs, Congress will need to appropriate additional funding on an emergency basis.”

–The Hagstrom Report