Conservation Groups Urge Congress to Act on Fire Borrowing and Forest Management Reforms

On October 5, twenty-four conservation organizations, including the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging Congress to take action on wildfire funding and forest management policy reforms.

As large wildfires continue to burn in Western states, the wildlife and hunting conservation community renewed calls to adopt comprehensive policy changes that address both the need to improve the health of federal forests and to stop the practice of fire-borrowing. Wildfire suppression efforts consume more than 50 percent of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) budget as the agency is forced to divert funds from wildlife, recreation, and other programs to combat wildfires. Additionally, federal forests are increasingly at risk to catastrophic wildfires as forest health has declined due to the lack of active forest management.

While some groups support efforts to find a long-term solution to fire borrowing, the conservation groups signing the letter expressed support implementing forest management reforms that limit litigation and expedite projects that improve forest health and wildlife habitat concurrent with the remedying of the destructive practice of fire-borrowing by funding wildfires as natural disasters. The letter states, “We encourage Congress to act on wildfire funding and forestry reform at the same time.”

Because the USFS exhausted its 2017 wildfire suppression budget in September, the Office of Management and Budget, in an October 4 letter to Congressional leadership, encouraged Congress to address both fire-borrowing and forest management reforms. This letter stated, “Active forest management and other reforms must be part of the solution to curb the cost and destruction of wildfires.”

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