The draft Wildfire Budgeting, Response, and Forest Management Act unveiled today would:
- End the unsustainable practice of fire borrowing by enabling a transfer of limited funds to the Forest Service (USFS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) through a budget cap adjustment when all appropriated suppression funding (100% of the 10-year average) has been exhausted.
- Allow the agencies to invest any excess appropriated suppression funding in low-fire years in fuel reduction work to reduce the threat of wildfires in and around at-risk communities, protect high-value watersheds, and reduce wildfire suppression costs over time.
- Build on existing Healthy Forests Restoration Act authorities to focus and expedite environmental reviews by limiting the number of alternatives that need to be analyzed in certain environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for a subset of critical management actions to include: reducing hazardous fuels, installing fuel and fire breaks to keep fires small and increase firefighter effectiveness and safety, restoring forest health and resilience, and protecting key municipal water supplies and wildlife habitat.
- Incentivize collaboration by streamlining process requirements to accelerate implementation of collaboratively developed projects.
- Accelerate needed hazardous fuel reduction work in forest types most susceptible to megafires by providing alternative arrangements for project approvals.
- Require the Forest Service to carry out a comprehensive inventory of young growth in the Tongass National Forest before it finalizes any forest plan amendment to change forest management.
- Require agencies to work with states to certify firefighting aircraft, personnel, and support equipment in advance of the fire season so that needed resources are available when and where they are most needed.
- Deploy available and emerging technologies, including drones and GPS, on wildfires to increase firefighting safety and operations effectiveness while reducing costs.
- Authorize $500 million over seven years to provide assistance to at-risk communities to invest in proven programs that reduce wildfire risk, property loss, and suppression costs.