America’s wildfire crisis is getting worse. Here’s what Congress can do.

We have reached a new fire normal, a clear signal that a changing climate will inevitably require an adjustment to how we manage our forests if we wish to maintain the benefits they offer, such as providing half of our nation’s water supply.

In response to this unprecedented wildfire risk, for the first time in its history, the U.S. Forest Service will spend more than half of its budget fighting fires this year – three times what they were spending just 20 years ago. By 2025, if nothing changes, nearly two-thirds of the Service’s budget will be spent on putting out fires.

Ironically, this increased spending often comes at the cost of programs designed to prevent devastating megafires in the first place. Fortunately, there are two things Congress can do to improve the situation.

First, they can achieve one immediate fix by passing the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. If passed, the act would fund the response to emergency fire disasters similar to how we fund responses to other natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods.

Second, we need to step up to a new way of thinking about America’s forests by implementing the “National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy,” which was released in 2014 by the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture.

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