Crapo: wildfire relief in federal budget is "Band-Aid"

Posted at 5:09 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 19:09:42-04

Congressional leaders reached an agreement late Sunday on a budget package that funds the government through September. Part of the budget agreement includes additional millions for wildfire relief. 

The $407 million in wildfire relief for western states is considered among the bipartisan victories. 

"Because of the serious budget battles we're having here, I was pleasantly surprised with what we got," Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said. 

Crapo said though the money is helpful, it's not a lasting solution. 

"Congress has just limped along for years by trying to appropriate money for fighting fires," he said. "It's just a Band-Aid; we need to deal with that in a more sensible way." 

Crapo has been working with Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, to pass legislation to treat wildfires like other natural disasters when it comes to budgeting. Severe wildfires in recent years have caused fire fighting agencies to dip into other parts of the budgets to cover the cost of fighting wildfires."

"The fires are getting worse each year and more expensive each year, and that means we have to damage the BLM and Forest Service's budgets more each year," Crapo said. "Then they can't do the management on the land that helps to prevent fires."

Parts of previous iterations of the legislation have passed the House, but failed to go much further in Congress.

"Basically, we're starting anew in a new Congress, but we still have all of the background from previous efforts so I feel we're much closer than we've ever been," Crapo said.

The House could vote on the budget as early as Wednesday.