RGS/AWS Applaud Wildfire Funding Fix Adopted by Congress


03/23/18

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March 23, 2018
For Immediate Release

 

Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society Applaud Wildfire Funding Fix Adopted by Congress

Coraopolis, PA – Late this week, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill that now awaits President Trump’s signature later today. The bill is required to make funds available to individual agencies and programs for the remainder of the current fiscal year, based on the overall federal budget established on Feb. 9. The bill also provides a comprehensive fix to the “fire borrowing” problem that the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS/AWS) has been working with Congress to address as a top priority.

Wildfires are often perceived as a “western” issue, but have had national impacts. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been forced by increasing wildfire frequency and severity to “borrow” funding for fire suppression from accounts for management staff positions and programs. Active management of forests and wildlife habitat has therefore fallen short of USFS goals all over the country.

“This action by Congress is finally addressing a known problem affecting the health of our national forests, grouse and woodcock habitat, and opportunities to enjoy our sporting traditions,” remarked John Eichinger, RGS/AWS President and CEO. “We thank our conservation and forest industry partners, Congressional members, and staffers that worked together under trying conditions to reach this bipartisan solution.”

The wildfire funding fix in the omnibus bill freezes the level of funds USFS will be required to annually budget for suppression, minimizing the budgetary impact of projected costs that are expected to escalate. When annual costs exceed the fixed budget level, natural disaster funding will make up the difference. Additional tools are also provided to facilitate forest management for wildfire prevention and control.

“Last year, we asked our supporters to ask Congress for this budgetary fix under the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, and we’re extremely happy their voices were finally heard,” noted Brent Rudolph, RGS/AWS Director of Conservation Policy.

The full fix established in the bill will become effective in fiscal year 2020. In the meantime, the bill appropriates $1.946 billion for wildfire suppression, $500 million above the ten-year average and the President’s Budget. The bill also boosts overall funding to wildlife agencies and programs, including increases for the Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

The bill also permanently reauthorizes another program RGS/AWS and other partners have asked Congress to address as a critical conservation tool for Western lands – the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). FLTFA requires revenues from the sale of small or low-value federal parcels to fund acquisition of new USFS or DOI lands that provide hunting and fishing access or high-value habitat. Currently, proceeds from such sales simply go to the general treasury, placing public lands at risk of being sold simply to bolster the federal budget.

Overall, hunters stand to benefit considerably from the omnibus bill. The President’s signature is still required to enact these provisions and avert a third government shutdown in the last several months.

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Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society is North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS/AWS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

As a financially healthy, accountable, and transparent organization, RGS/AWS holds designation as a Charity Navigator Four-Star charity and Better Business Bureau accreditation. Information on RGS/AWS, its mission, management projects and membership are on the web at: www.RuffedGrouseSociety.org.

Media Contact:
Brent Rudolph, RGS/AWS Director of Conservation Policy
(517) 980-4570
BrentR@RuffedGrouseSociety.org

Mission Statement

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America's foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

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