Wyden, Risch, Merkley, Heinrich Urge Congress to Pass Bipartisan Wildfire Funding Fix in Senate Bill

Washington, D.C. – As wildfire season rages across Oregon, Idaho and the West, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., today urged the Senate to pass a wildfire funding fix included in new legislation to address funding for floods and other natural disasters.

A wildfire funding fix similar to the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which Wyden and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, first introduced in 2013, was included in July in legislation under consideration by the Senate Banking Committee to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program.

Just like the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, the wildfire funding fix included in the new legislation would end the cycle of underfunding fire suppression that currently forces federal agencies to steal from fire prevention to fight fires.

“Over the years, we have worked to fix fire borrowing in any way we could find,” Wyden, Risch, Merkley and Heinrich wrote in a letter to Crapo and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on the Senate Banking Committee.“Yet year after year, fire season after fire season, the fires continue to worsen and any attempt at a fix gets snarled in Washington politics.”

“Along with the reauthorization of these flood and disaster programs, the Committee also included a provision of great interest to us – a wildfire funding fix. We write to strongly urge you to ensure this provision remains in the final bill as it is considered by the Committee and in the full Senate.”

The language included in the Senate flood mitigation bill from the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would end “fire borrowing” by funding the largest wildfires from a similar disaster account used to fund other natural disasters.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the risk of flooding after wildfires is “significantly higher” for up to five years after a wildfire. Fires increase the risk of floods and flash flooding by wiping out trees, shrubs and other plants that allow soil to absorb rainfall and snowmelt.

A copy of the letter is here.