Ag Today March 22, 2018

Spending bill includes major wildfire overhaul

The spending bill Congress is considering includes a major, bipartisan effort to overhaul how the U.S. government spends money to fight wildfires on federal land.

The provision in the omnibus appropriations bill, released publicly late Wednesday, is meant to cut down on a practice known as “fire borrowing” in which agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management move money meant to reduce fire risks and use it to fight fires.

It also would allow federal agencies to access disaster funds for particularly expensive fires.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has for years been pushing the policies to give firefighting agencies more predictability in budgeting and cut down on taking funds from other areas.

The problem has been exacerbated in recent years as wildfires have grown more costly and deadlier, due to factors like climate change, drought and increasing development, according to federal researchers and land managers.

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