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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

USFS Now Spends Over 50% Of Its Budget On Fire Supression

U.S. Forest Service.
U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service says it's now spending over half of its total budget suppressing wildfires. That's the first time that's happened in the agency's 110-year history.

USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Bonnie says Forest Service scientists predict that by 2050 we'll again double the amount of acreage burned.

"And the challenge is that firefighting costs are expected to go up dramatically as well. Our projections show - and I think somewhat conservatively - that if we don't address our fire budget challenge, that the Forest Service will be spending perhaps two-thirds or more of its budget on fire by 2025," says Bonnie.

When federal fire suppression costs currently exceed expectations, the agency  has to transfer funds from existing programs.

A Congressional bill under consideration and supported by Montana’s delegation would end this practice and treat catastrophic wildfires like any other natural disaster.

Tune in for more on this story later this week.

Find the latest Montana wildfire news and info here.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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