President Barack Obama set some big goals for wildfire management during his campaign, and the Interior Department funding bill he recently signed delivers on his main goals.
As part of his budget, Obama asked Congress to create a $75 million reserve fund to fight wildfires in addition to fully funding existing wildfire programs.
Overall, the Interior Department funding bill, which Obama signed into law on Oct. 30, 2009, includes $1.85 billion for wildfire suppression, which is $526 million above the previous year. Additionally, the bill includes $556.5 for projects to trim trees, shrubs and other fire fuel in vulnerable areas -- about $25 million more than last year -- and $110 million for State Fire Assistance grants, $20 million more than a year earlier.
Lastly, the bill includes $474 million for the reserve fund Obama talked about on the campaign trail. That's more than six times the amount of money Obama had originally asked for.
The "FLAME Fund" is meant to help the Department of Interior cover the costs of large or complex fires, as well as serve as a reserve when other wildfire fighting funds have run dry.
Land conservationists and groups representing outdoor enthusiasts hailed the effort.
The American Hiking Society called the FLAME Fund "the most promising mechanism for addressing the escalating costs of emergency fire suppression. It will allow agencies to fight major fires without taking the drastic step of transferring funds from other essential programs such as trails, maintenance, safety, and interpretation," according to a Oct. 6 press release.
Steven Koehn, president of the National Association of State Foresters, said, "President Obama and Congress have demonstrated that the status quo was no longer working and a new budget scenario was needed. This legislation says loud and clear that funding for emergency fire events should not come at the expense of all other Forest Service and Interior activities."
The groups also praised Obama's overall funding increases for wildfire fighting.
So, when it comes to wildfires, Obama met and exceeded his original promise. We rate this one a Promise Kept.