U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently called on Congress to address the way the U.S. Forest Service is funded so that the agency is not routinely borrowing money from prevention programs to combat ongoing wildfires. Perdue argued that taking funds from prevention efforts only leaves behind more fuel in the forests for future fires to burn, exacerbating the situation. Perdue made his remarks during a ceremonial swearing in of new Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke at the Department of Agriculture.
Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, chewing up a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. The agency has had to borrow from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Perdue said he would prefer that Congress treat major fires the same as other disasters and be covered by emergency funds so that prevention programs are not raided.