Rising Firefighting Costs Impacts Forest Service Budget - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Rising Firefighting Costs Impacts Forest Service Budget

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MONTANA -

A new report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals the cost, as well as the budget, for fighting wildfires has increased over the last two decades.

Within their overall budget, the U.S. Forest Service's firefighting appropriation has jumped about 25% since 1995.

As a result, the U.S. Forest Service must borrow from funding reserved for the very programs that help prevent and mitigate forest fire.

Climate change and drought have fueled the intensity of wildfires over the decades, but Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment says its not only weather that is responsible for extreme wildfire behavior.

"We're seeing longer fire seasons. Our fire seasons are 60-80 days longer than they were just three decades ago. We're also seeing growth of houses near forests and that's causing us to have to spend more money to fight fires."

Last summer the Lolo fire, responsible for thousands of acres of burned forest, costs over $2.5 million to contain and this year it was the Seepay fire, situated 20 miles west of Dixon, which has so far left a hefty price tag of around $1.6 million to control.

The growth of the budget for such large scale fires has lead the Forest Service to pull resources from forest management and restoration programs, the very programs that helps reduce wildfire threats.

The U.S. Forest service says we're still in peak wildfire season but hope to budget smarter for next year by possibly pulling funding from natural disaster funding to cover the cost of wildfire prevention efforts.

Some of the Forest Service programs that have been cut significantly to accommodate the rise in firefighting costs included research funding and wildlife & fisheries habitat management.

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