Daines Works to Protect Montana From Catastrophic Wildfire

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines is working to ensure Montana has the resources needed to combat wildfires and invest in much-need fire prevention efforts.

Daines joined Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to introduce the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which overhauls federal wildfire policy, increases funding for prevention and ensures large forest fires are treated and funded as true natural disasters.

“Montanans know firsthand the economic and physical damage caused by catastrophic wildfire – yet year after year, the federal government falls short in providing the funds needed to both treat and prevent these devastating fires,” Daines stated. “This bill will end the damaging practice of ‘fire borrowing’ and ensure that megafires are treated as the true natural disasters that they are. But reforming wildfire funding is only one piece of the puzzle – we also must implement meaningful, comprehensive forest management policies that create jobs, improve the health of our National Forests and address the underlying issues that lead to catastrophic fires in the first place.”

The bill works to prevent unpredictable and expensive cycle of funding fire suppression, which in recent years has forced the Forest Service to borrow funds from other accounts for fire suppression. 

Wildfire suppression budgets are currently calculated based on the average costs of the past 10 years, which nearly always has underestimated the actual cost of fighting fires.

More, catastrophic wildfires are often not treated as true natural disasters – despite Forest Service estimates that 1 percent of all fires use 30 percent of firefighting budgets. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would require that any fire suppression spending above 70 percent of the 10-year average would be eligible for funding under a separate natural disaster account.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators James Risch (R-ID), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).