Next Year’s Federal Budget Could Slash Funding For Fire Science And Research

As record wildfires rage across the West, funding for fire prevention science is in jeopardy. Under President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal, cuts to various programs will be significant.

The proposal would dramatically cut the budgets for the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Interior Department.  It would also entirely cut the budget for the Joint Fire Science Program, an interagency collaboration that funds hundreds of research projects focused on fire prevention and mitigation.

“We’ve also been informing not just what happens before a fire or during a fire, but how do we actually respond to the consequences of fire,” said Director John Hall. He said that means, “better understanding how to do erosion control or do things that better maintain the watershed health, post-fire.”

Hall couldn’t comment on what would happen if his program lost funding, but he said science helps us make better decisions about fire management overall.

Chris Dicus, president of the Association for Fire Ecology, agreed. He said fire science has made progress over the last couple of decades and “by taking away these funds we’re reducing our ability to effectively manage our forests and shrublands in a way that would be safe for our firefighters and be safe for our society at large.”

Congress is currently hammering out the details for the 2019 budget. The deadline for approval is September 30th.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.