(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is hoping that Congress will return from their five-week summer recess ready to address the need for forest conservation.
Officials shifted $3.2 billion from other programs within the United States Forest Service to pay for fire suppression over the last 12 years, according to Vilsack, prompting him to call for more adequate funding and resources.
The cost of wildfire suppression has grown from 13 percent of the Forest Service budget ten years ago, to more than 40 percent in 2014. By the end of August, the agriculture secretary says the agency will use all appropriated money for the year, forcing them to dip into other funds that would be otherwise used to clear out the forest and reduce hazardous fuel.
“We’ll have to take money, roughly $400 million from that, from those funds and put it into fire suppression,” Vilsack said. “…Treating them as a natural disaster, using emergency resources to pay for the costs, which is already budgeted, and that will free up the $400 million dollars in the future for what it should be used for, which is to make the forest better, healthier and more resilient.”
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Sarah Anderson, Deseret News
Eric Bradner, CNN
Eugene Scott, CNN Newswire