On March 11, President Donald Trump released the outlines of his proposed fiscal year 2019-20 budget. Total federal expenditures are estimated to be $4.7 trillion; this will create a $1.1 trillion deficit of the fiscal year.
Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released its budget justifications for FY 2019-20. The Forest Service’s total budget authority request is $5.1 billion, which is technically about $814 million less than FY 2018-19.
However, new wildfire funding legislation was enacted in 2018, which will authorize new sources of money for wildfire emergencies. In this budget request, the president has made an initial adjustment of nearly $2 billion for the Forest Service.
The new wildfire funding is referred to as the “fire fix.” If the Forest Service or U.S. Department of Interior agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, need more money to combat emergency conflagrations, they will have another source rather than borrowing and using money from their other programs, which was the principal option previously.
With this funding and another $190 million for proposed legislation, the total Forest Service budget request is $7.6 billion compared to $6.3 billion a year ago.
Direct funding for wildfire management is $2.3 billion, $1 billion for preparedness, $1 billion for suppression and $334 million for other work. The Forest Service reported, “In 2018, Forest Service wildfire suppression spending was $2.6 billion, a record level for the second consecutive year.”
Funding for the National Forest System has been reduced $12 million. The $40 million for landscape restoration was eliminated. Hazardous fuels projects were increased $20 million to $450 million, and forest products programs received another $9 million.
Funding for capital improvements and construction work was reduced $15 million, all from trails activity. Facilities and road maintenance remain at the same levels.
The budget recommends $177.5 million for forest and rangeland research funding, which is $42.5 million less than the previous two fiscal years.
The major program reductions occurred in the state and private forestry programs. Recommended funding for these activities is $182.3 million, about $152 million less than the two previous years.
Several programs — landscape scale restoration, forest legacy, community forest, urban forestry and international program — were provided no funding. In the budget justification, the Forest Service stated, “Elimination of the programs is proposed in FY 2020, because the Forest Service will focus on reducing wildland fire risk, contributing to the improvement of forest and grassland conditions across shared landscapes, and contributing to rural economic prosperity.”
Several others were reduced. National Fire Capacity (previously called State and Volunteer Fire Assistance) funding request is $66 million, about $14 million less than last year.
Recommended staffing for all Forest Service programs is 30,076, or about 460 staff years fewer than FY 2018-19 and nearly 2,400 less staff than FY 2017-18.