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Secretary’s Column: Skyrocketing Fire Costs

Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.

Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.

Over the past twenty years, a changing climate, population growth near forests and rangelands, and the buildup of brush and other fuels have dramatically increased the severity of wildfires and the damage that they cause to our natural lands and communities. Year after year, fire seasons grow longer and longer, destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure and the watersheds that provide clean drinking water to millions of people. Between 1980 and 2011, the average annual number of fires on Federal land more than doubled, and the total area burned annually tripled. Even as fire seasons have grown, the way we pay to fight these fires remains unchanged – and fundamentally broken.

The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly increased as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today. As the costs of wildfires have spiraled out of control, it has shrunk the budget of other Forest Service programs, taking millions of dollars from other critical forest health and land management priorities in order to pay for them. What’s more, often the programs we are forced to divert funds from are the very programs which help to mitigate the impact of wildfires. Read more »

Forest Service to Live-Stream Cradle of Wilderness Commemoration Event

The Overlook features prime views of Trappers Lake and the rock formation known as the Amphitheatre because it forms a stage-like backdrop to the wilderness scenery of Trappers Lake on the White River National Forest. The idea of keeping natural areas of beauty free from development started with a Forest Service employee who inspired the agency to be the first natural resource agency to push for designated wilderness areas.  (U.S. Forest Service/Lynn Lockwood)

The Overlook features prime views of Trappers Lake and the rock formation known as the Amphitheatre because it forms a stage-like backdrop to the wilderness scenery of Trappers Lake on the White River National Forest. The idea of keeping natural areas of beauty free from development started with a Forest Service employee who inspired the agency to be the first natural resource agency to push for designated wilderness areas. (U.S. Forest Service/Lynn Lockwood)

In the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado, there is a grand rock formation named the Amphitheatre that serves as the backdrop for the overlook to Trappers Lake known as the Cradle of Wilderness.

The area forms a sort of natural amphitheater of majestic volcanic cliffs, 320 surface acres of pristine lake and majestic volcanic rock cliffs and an expansive sky. The area holds a sacred place in history for those who cherish the values and spirit of wilderness.

It will also be the site of a panel discussion on the “Wilderness Idea” on Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon MST as the White River National Forest commemorates the Cradle of Wilderness area as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964.  The public is invited to tune in to this live stream event. Read more »