Federal budget cuts and above normal fire potential could mean a tough wildfire season in the West. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack got a look at the fire picture Monday at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Predictions indicate that Idaho, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico will have an above average fire season this summer.
Vilsack said federal agencies will have to fight those fires with less money. That’s in part to the federal budget cuts known as the sequester.
“Because of the tight budgets, at least for the Forest Service will have 500 fewer firefighters that we’ll be able to hire and we’ll have 50 fewer engines at our disposal but we will do the best job that we can with the recourses that we have” said Vilsack.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also toured NIFC. She’s planning her own budget cuts this fire season.
“We may be making decisions in the short run to take care of fires, but in the long run, not setting ourselves up for success” said Jewell.
Jewell says fire suppression will get top priority when it comes to funding. That means cutting back on programs to recover burned areas, replanting, and reducing hazardous fuels.
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