National Wildland Fire Council meets in Boise

Posted at 9:24 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-08 23:55:32-04

With wildfires like the Pioneer Fire still raging in Idaho, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council is in the Gem State. The group of policy makers is made up of different firefighting agencies and leaders from the Department of the Interior and Agriculture. The committee picked Boise because it is home to the National Interagency Fire Center, a central command for fighting wildfires throughout the west.

"What's great about Boise is there is a real acknowledgment one person one group cannot do it alone. It’s a broad array of stakeholders working in collaboration," said Kris Sarri, the head of the Department of the Interior's office of policy management and budget.

The group of D.C. decision-makers toured recent wildfire scars near Mountain Home and discussed how they affect sage grouse habitat. Officials with N.I.F.C. say Idaho faces complex issues when dealing with wildfires -- such as protecting communities from the flames and making sure critical endangered species' habitat does not go up in smoke, all while keeping firefighters safe. The decisions the council makes will directly impact Idaho.

"Having this group of policymakers here is very important, not only to wildland fire policy, but to fire suppression tactics and anything else that has to do with wildland fire,” said Jessica Gardetto of National Interagency Fire Center. 

But long after the fires have been put out, there is still work to be done. The Department of Agriculture says the United States Forest Service spends more than half of its roughly $5.6 billion budget every year fighting fires. That leaves them strapped for cash when it comes to trying to get ahead of the problem.

"One of the important issues we are working on is getting Congress to treat wildfires more like natural disasters and to allow us to invest in restoration," explained Robert Bonnie, the undersecretary for natural resources and environment with the Department of Agriculture.