Idaho Falls Citizen Journalism

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The costs of fighting U.S. wildfires topped $2 billion in 2017, breaking records and underscoring the need to address a U.S. Forest Service budget that mostly goes to fires, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday.

“Forest Service spending on fire suppression in recent years has gone from 15 percent of the budget to 55 percent – or maybe even more – which means we have to keep borrowing from funds that are intended for forest management,” Perdue said in a written statement.

The Forest Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, could be spending that money on logging, prescribed burns or insect treatments, measures designed to reduce the fuel load of forests primed to burn, he said.

 

Perdue said the funding formula used to earmark money for fire suppression is no longer adequate amid fire seasons that have grown longer and scorched larger swaths of public lands, mostly in the U.S. West....

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