Tester joins Senators to call for reforming wildfire funding

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester joined 10 fellow Senators today in calling on his colleagues to reform the way firefighting costs are paid for on public lands.

Tester is sponsoring the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to pay for catastrophic wildfires through separate emergency funding, allowing the Forest Service to devote more resources to proactive forest management.

“We have to start using common sense and budget for catastrophic wildfires like we do for hurricanes and other natural disasters,” Tester said. “Because Congress hasn’t acted, the Forest Service is on its way to being nothing but a fire fighting agency, and folks who make a living on our public lands are paying the price.”

The U.S. Forest Service reported that wildfire costs have consumed 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget for 2015, compared with just 16 percent 20 years ago. The report also projects that wildfire costs could consume two-thirds of the agency’s budget in 2025.