This Week in Outdoor Policy – July 25th


What good is new gear if you don’t have anywhere outdoors to go and use it? Tom Flynn tracks policy related to recreation and conservation for the Outdoor Alliance. On Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] org.

Fire Funding Fix Proposed

Wildfires follow the basic principles of addition. A spark plus fuel and air equals fire. But there is more to the equation than just, say, lightning, trees and a bit of wind. Add in decades of overzealous firefighting on public lands; hotter, drier, longer seasons thanks to climate change; and more and more houses built on the edges of forests, and the sum total is the situation we see today: increased fires with increased risks to lives and property and increased costs to fight them.

For many years in a row, the Forest Service and the BLM have run out of money to pay for tankers and firefighters midway through the summer. This leaves them with no choice but to dig a hole in other programs to fill the hole in the fire budget. Worst hit are the budgets to do controlled burns and thinning to reduce the risk of fires – the only subtraction in that insidious addition – creating a cycle of ever increasing fires and costs. As with money for prevention, money for trails and seasonal staff is similarly diverted, so outdoor recreation and the communities that rely on it also suffer.

There has to be a better way. As it stands, firefighting accounts for almost half of agency budgets, and the worst 1% of fires burn up 30% of the costs. Thankfully, there is a solution before the House and Senate. Called the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, this bill would call the worst fires by their rightful name – natural disasters – and allow them to be fought with federal disaster funding. With this fix, the agencies wouldn’t have to shortchange prevention, trails or other programs. Though the bipartisan bill enjoys 124 cosponsors in the House and 16 in the Senate, its progress is not guaranteed. Let’s see if this Congress can pass something nearly everyone agrees with.

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Tom Flynn

Tom lives in Boise, Idaho and works for Outdoor Alliance. He is passionate about both protecting and enjoying the outdoors - doing anything human powered, but most often on a skin track or racing on a singlespeed.

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