January 10, 2018

Wyden Calls for Investigation into Interior Department’s Misuse of Wildfire Preparedness Funds

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today called for an investigation into the Interior Department’s misuse of federal wildfire preparedness funding to pay for Secretary Ryan Zinke’s unrelated travel.

News reports from recent weeks indicated the Interior Department used funds intended to go to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, for a Zinke helicopter trip around Nevada.

The National Interagency Fire Center coordinates federal, state and private fire suppression efforts and dispatches aircraft, crews, equipment and supplies across the country when wildfires strike.

In a letter to Interior Department Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Kendall, Wyden called for an audit of any Interior Department spending from this account since Zinke took office.

Amidst the most expensive wildfire season in history, it is unequivocally intolerable that the Interior Department could be wasting scarce taxpayer resources that are meant to save lives.

Wyden noted that misuse of fire preparedness funds coupled with past news reports of potential misuse of government-funded air travel show “a troubling pattern of disregard for taxpayer dollars.”

“Therefore, as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee tasked with oversight of Interior Department activities, I ask that you audit any expenditures from the preparedness subaccount of the Department of the Interior’s Wildland Fire Management Account since Secretary Zinke was confirmed.”

Read the full letter here.