Senator Murkowski Ensures Fully-Funded Wildfire Budget

Reiterates Commitment to Long-Term Legislative Solution for Fire-Borrowing, Suppression Efforts, Forest Management

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today highlighted her efforts to ensure that the omnibus appropriations bill included language to fully fund wildfire suppression efforts for the rest of Fiscal Year 2016. As part of her remarks, delivered this afternoon on the Senate floor, Murkowski reiterated that a long-term wildfire and forestry management bill is one of her top priorities as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“It should go without saying that our nation’s wildfire epidemic is a serious challenge that demands attention from every one of us. Each year the wildfire season seems to include new ‘worsts’ and shattered records, and 2015 has been particularly devastating,” Murkowski said.

As chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski developed legislation earlier this year to fully fund our nation’s wildland firefighting efforts while ending the pattern of “fire borrowing” and increasing the budget for preventative measures. The omnibus takes a shorter-term approach, but as a result of Murkowski’s leadership contains an unprecedented $1.6 billion for fire suppression ($600 million more than the average federal cost of fighting wildfires over the past ten years), $545 million for hazardous fuels reduction, and $360 million for the Forest Service’s timber program.

“The omnibus is our path forward on wildfire funding for this year. It devotes greater resources to fire prevention and hazardous fuels reduction. It contains real money, not an empty account, those funds will be available immediately, and we can use the window it provides to develop long-term solutions,” said Murkowski.

Murkowski also explained why Congress chose not to include a flawed administration proposal in the omnibus, and further cited concerns raised by a number of stakeholders.

“I believe the administration’s proposal could set a bad precedent, prove unworkable, and fall short of its own goals,” Murkowski said. “It was supposed to be coupled with a set of productive forest management reforms, but does not do enough to help our firefighters or our vulnerable communities. It has not been fully vetted, and it has already drawn opposition from outside groups whose members are on the ground, actually fighting fires.”

At the conclusion of her remarks, Murkowski reiterated her commitment to working with her colleagues to develop legislation that permanently resolves the fire-borrowing problem and addresses forest management needs. She noted that the omnibus provides a multi-month window for that work, and reaffirmed that it will be a focus for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2016.

Murkowski, while strongly supportive of the wildfire management provisions included in the omnibus, has not yet decided whether to support the bill’s final passage.