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 »
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Obama Administration Cabinet members Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, and other state and local officials to tour areas in Alabama and Mississippi affected by last week’s tornadoes.
After visiting devastated sites in Birmingham and nearby areas, the group crossed over to Mississippi, where they surveyed the damage done to Smithville, a town of approximately 1000 that was almost literally wiped off the map. Read more »
Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) constructs playground equipment at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Northeast D.C. In the foreground is Housing Secretary, Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (left) and National Service Director Patrick Corvington looks on.
Saturday, October 23, 2010 — This morning dawned a beautiful, crisp, autumn day here in the District of Columbia. As the sun climbed above the horizon, over 500 volunteers gathered to build a playground at the Hyde Leadership Charter School in northeast DC. Among the volunteers were Secretary and Mrs. Vilsack along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his wife, Karen. Mrs. Duncan works with a non-profit group called KaBoom which advocates development of play areas for children and openspace for communities. Both Mrs. Vilsack and Mrs. Duncan are teachers and have gained an excellent rapport over the past year advocating healthy, nutritious meals in the National School Lunch Program and also promoting the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Read more »