NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fighting Forest Fires Costly

August 17, 2001

The Forest Service is spending a record amount per acre fighting blazes in western forests, charges Taxpayers for Common Sense, an organization that previously produced a report called "Green Scissors" in cooperation with Friends of the Earth and Ralph Nader's U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

According to the Taxpayers group:

  • As of August 9, 2001, the Forest Service had already spent $261 million for fire suppression efforts this year, even though only 117,757 acres had burned.
  • That works out to over $2,216 spent per acre burned -- more than double the previous record of $976 per acre set in 1999.

Firefighting costs have risen dramatically over the last several decades, according to the group.

  • During the 1980s, the average cost of fire suppression was $492 per acre.
  • In the 1990s, the average cost per acre rose to more than $743 -- an increase of over 50 percent.

The 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Policy required the Forest Service to develop Fire Management Plans, but six years later, only 43 percent of the necessary plans have been completed, according to a recent General Accounting Office report.

Source: Press Release, "Fire Costs Explode: Blank-Check Congressional Funding Cited As Key Problem, Says Taxpayer Group," August 15, 2001, Taxpayers for Common Sense; see also Barry T. Hill, "The National Fire Plan," Testimony, GAO-01-1022T, July 31, 2001.

For GAO report


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