November 17, 2017

Wyden: Congress Needs to Step Up if the White House Won’t Work to Protect Communities from Wildfires

White House’s Latest Disaster Aid Request Leaves Western Communities on Their Own to Battle Wildfires

Washington, D.C. – On the heels of the most expensive wildfire season on record, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today slammed the Trump administration for failing to provide aid for communities in the West and across the country ravaged by wildfires this year.

The administration had committed to releasing a package in the coming weeks to help recovery efforts from 2017’s natural disasters, including major hurricanes and record-breaking wildfires. Yet the disaster aid request from the White House to Congress, released today, did not contain a widely supported, permanent wildfire funding fix, nor any additional aid for communities hit hard by the record-breaking fire year.

“It is unacceptable the White House fails to recognize the danger wildfires pose to western communities, essentially leaving us to continue fighting the West’s natural disasters on our own,” Wyden said. “Our communities are battling growing infernos and a broken wildfire budgeting system that shortchanges prevention funding in a destructive cycle that literally adds fuel to fires. If the White House refuses to offer aid to wildfire-stricken communities, it’s up to Congress to get off the backbench and put an end to fire borrowing, and this senseless cycle, for good.”

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney earlier this month, Wyden and Senate Democratic senators called on the administration to put forward a comprehensive disaster package to fix the government’s backwards system of wildfire funding and provide relief from the onslaught of natural disasters in recent months.

Wyden has repeatedly urged Congress and the Trump administration to pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which he introduced with a bipartisan coalition of western senators to end fire borrowing and protect funding the Forest Service needs to do wildfire prevention and other forest management work. Their bill would allow the Forest Service to use funds from disaster funding to pay to fight remaining wildfires once the agency exceeds its appropriated fire suppression budget for the year. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would also raise the budget cap for the disaster funding so wildfires wouldn’t siphon money away from recovery efforts or require other natural disasters to “compete” with wildfires for funding.