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Jul 31, 2019   |  

MISSOULA CURRENT: Tester watching Forest Service firefighting effort under new "fire funding fix"

By: Martin Kidston, Missoula Current

As the fire season heats up across the West, Sen. Jon Tester and other members of Congress will be watching the Forest Service to see how it allocates funding and resources under a new spending package passed last year.

That includes funds designated for fire suppression and ensuring the agency properly leases the assets it needs to complete the job.

“We’ve allocated some dollars set aside specifically for firefighting that doesn’t rob the Forest Service budget. That’s the biggest things we’ve done,” Tester said.

“We’re going to make sure the Forest Service has done the proper leasing to make sure we’ve got air assets and ground assets available throughout the country when fire springs up. We’re going to be monitoring that as we move forward, and we’ll be holding people accountable along the way.”

Last year, Congress gave the Forest Service and Interior Department badly needed stability by allocating funds specifically for the task of fighting wildfires.

In the past, if the cost of fighting fires exceeded the agency’s budget, other Forest Service projects, including maintenance, were abandoned as money was siphoned off to make up the difference.

But under the so-called fire funding fix, starting in 2020, Congress can allocate up to $2.25 billion for fire suppression, increasing to almost $3 billion over eight years.

How the agency leases assets needed for fire suppression is also on Tester’s radar.

“There was that fire south of Missoula a few years ago, and they had tankers sitting right there, but the Forest Service had no contracts with the tankers sitting at the Missoula airport,” Tester said. “That could have been a catastrophic and the assets were right there.”

Tester added, “We’re going to be working here to make sure our firefighters have the tools and resources they need to effectively do their job.”

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.


Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768


Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647


Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586


Capital One Center
208 N Montana Avenue, Suite 202
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462


8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974


130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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