Heavy Wildfire Season May Drain Federal Budget; Reforms Sought

June 9, 2015
Photo: Wildfire, High Park 2012, Poudre Canyon
Posted 3:20 p.m. | Updated 6:15 a.m.

It's been a wet spring, but by July the Obama administration warns that wildfires - especially in the Southwest — could be a problem.

That's raised worries within the U.S. Forest Service over whether there's enough money to fight the fires, a situation that could force the government to transfer money from programs meant to improve long-term forest health.
“We’re encouraging Congress to give us the capacity to treat these catastrophic fires as natural disasters, fund them accordingly which will free up resources and provide greater stability,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service.
He and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were in Denver Tuesday to talk about the wildfire outlook this season, and proposed legislation. A group of Western senators has proposed a bill that would make this change. 
The government says federal firefighting costs are expected to range from $810 million to $1.62 billion this year. The high end would exceed the firefighting budget of about $1.4 billion.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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