Tipton and Westerman: The truth about forest health
As you read this, tens of thousands of acres are going up in flames across the West. Decades of misguided forest management strategies and decisions are coming home to roost.
The U.S. Forest Service’s enacted FY 2016 budget of $7 billion included $3.2 billion for wildfire suppression, 44.3 percent of the agency’s entire budget. An additional $700 million was transferred from other budgeted line items to cover last year’s firefighting efforts, a process better known as fire-borrowing. This brings firefighting efforts to just under $4 billion, 55 percent of the agency’s budget.
Logic would tell you that firefighting should not be an agency’s largest expenditure if it is tasked with maintaining healthy forests. Already in 2017, more than 7 million acres have burned across the United States, with cities like Los Angeles experiencing their worst wildfires on record. The reality is that wildfires will only grow worse over time if we continue down the current path.