Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sequester Cuts Weaken Readiness For Wildfire Season

Administration officials warned Monday that sequester cuts would weaken wildfire management as agencies prepare for a season with “above normal significant fire potential.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has noted that authorities were “dealing with significantly challenged budgets.”

Reduced budgets at the Interior Department will also hinder fire response.  The department had to scale back summer employment, losing park rangers and seasonal staff who have a “red card” to fight fires.

Federal officials said they are “confident” the West will experience a higher-than-average amount of wildfires this year, though fewer and on a smaller scale than those that ravaged the region in 2012.
Last year, wildfires burned 9.3 million acres of land — the third-most since 1960 — and more than 4,400 structures.

Many Democratic lawmakers and President Obama have linked those wildfires to climate change, arguing that drought conditions affecting the West and Midwest along with higher temperatures sparked the uptick. (The Hill, 5/13/2013)

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