Obama seeks change in how U.S. pays to fight wildfires

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 24, 2014 7:27pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will ask Congress in his budget proposal next week to change the way it pays for the soaring costs of fighting wildfires, the White House said on Monday, noting the new approach will ensure more money goes to preventing fires.

Obama met on Monday with governors from western states that have had massive fires in recent years, including Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, to discuss the approach.

"Population growth near forest and range lands, past management practices and a changing climate have dramatically increased wildfire risk and the resulting cost," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

The Agriculture and Interior department currently base their fire-fighting budgets on a 10-year average of costs, which left them underfunded for 8 of the past 10 years, and forced to draw from fire prevention programs to make up the costs.

"Unfortunately, the current way that the government pays for fire suppression and preparedness costs is ill-suited to the increasing severity and cost of fires," Carney said.

Obama supports legislation sponsored by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo that would treat the largest fires as natural disasters, meaning funds would come from disaster accounts.

The senators estimate removing the largest 1 percent of fires from regular budgets would free up to $412 million for fire prevention projects.

"The largest wildfires are natural disasters, no different from tornadoes or earthquakes," Wyden said in a statement.

Obama has pledged to do more to address climate change and help communities prepare for the impact of severe weather. Earlier this month, he toured parts of California's drought zone, and stressed that governments need to do more to curb carbon emissions blamed for climate change.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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Comments (1)
dd606 wrote:
So lets see… The hot dry west that has had fires and been hot and dry for as long as anybody can remember… That’s apparently now considered something completely abnormal, and due to the evil C02? And let me guess… The almost record snowfalls and cold weather in the east, is also due to the evil C02, right? Is there anything C02 is NOT responsible for? My cable went out the other day… Can I blame that on the C02? How about when the USPS loses a package? Can I blame C02?

Back last August, the Farmers Almanac people predicted an unusually cold winter in the east, with a considerable amount of snowfall. Nailed it. They use a formula based on the activity levels of the sun. You know, that giant star up in the sky? They do NOT calculate weather, based on a tiny little fraction of a gas that has been in existence for millions of years. Did Obama and his hysterical lap dog scientists predict the weather that well this year? I don’t think so. Maybe he should call the Farmer’s Almanac people. Oh wait… They might actually know what they’re doing. Never mind.

Feb 24, 2014 9:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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