Wildfire Management Funding: FY2021 Appropriations

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Updated February 18, 2021
Wildfire Management Funding: FY2021 Appropriations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (FS)
Figure 1. Forest Service (FS) and Department of the
and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are responsible for
Interior (DOI) Wildfire Appropriations, FY94-FY21
wildfire response and management across the federal lands
within their respective jurisdictions. Both FS and DOI
generally receive annual discretionary appropriations for
wildfire management activities through Interior,
Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations laws.
Wildfire management funding for DOI is provided to the
department-level Office of Wildland Fire.
Wildfire management appropriations fluctuate annually but
rose markedly after FY2000 (see Figure 1). A significant
portion of the annual fluctuations and overall increase in
funding is related to fire suppression costs, which vary
considerably and may be high even during years of
relatively mild wildfire activity. For more information, see

CRS Report R46583, Federal Wildfire Management: Ten-
Source: CRS.
Year Funding Trends and Issues (FY2011-FY2020).
Notes: Figures are adjusted to estimated FY2021 constant dol ars
using the GDP Chained Price Index from the White House Office of
For FY2020, Congress appropriated a total of $6.105 billion
Management and Budget.
in discretionary appropriations for wildfire purposes for FS
and DOI (see Table 1).
Wildfire Accounts and Activities
FY2021 Discretionary Appropriations
FS and DOI each have a respective WFM account. Prior to
FY2021, funding for wildfire management generally fell
Budget Request
into the following categories: preparedness, suppression,
fuel reduction, and other wildfire activities (e.g., site
The Trump Administration requested a total of $6.371
rehabilitation, assistance programs, research, facilities
billion in FY2021 discretionary appropriations for wildfire
maintenance). Starting in FY2021, however, FS funds the
purposes for FS and DOI. The request included a total of
salaries and expenses related to these activities as a separate
$3.413 billion in the agencies’ Wildland Fire Management
budget line item in its WFM account. FS also receives
(WFM) accounts, $608.1 million to other FS accounts for
appropriations for fuel reduction and other wildfire
wildfire purposes, and $2.350 billion pursuant to the
purposes through other agency appropriations accounts.
wildfire adjustment.
FY2021 Enacted Appropriations
Starting in FY2020, FS and DOI receive additional funding
for suppression through the wildfire adjustment (2 U.S.C.
Congress appropriated $5.543 billion in total combined
§901(b)(2)(F), also known as the wildfire funding fix), a
appropriations for FS and DOI wildfire purposes for
budgetary mechanism that allows for an upward adjustment
FY2021 (P.L. 116-260). This included an increase in DOI
of the discretionary spending limits to accommodate a
wildfire funding as compared with FY2020 but a decrease
specific amount of additional funding for suppression.
in FS wildfire funding. Much of the decrease in FS wildfire
These additional funds essentially are exempt from the
funding can be attributed to a budget restructuring that
spending limits. A precondition for using the adjustment is
established a salaries and expenses budget line item in
that Congress must appropriate a baseline amount of
WFM and most other FS accounts. In some cases, this
funding within the limits. The baseline is equal to the 10-
contributed to relatively large decreases to WFM programs
year suppression obligation average as reported in FY2015
(and other FS wildfire-related programs) as compared with
($1.011 billion for FS and $383.7 million for DOI). In
FY2020. The FY2021 appropriations law also shifted some
FY2021, Congress appropriated the baseline suppression
funding from WFM and several other FS accounts into a
funds to the respective WFM accounts and appropriated the
new account.
funds provided through the wildfire adjustment to a
separate account. The wildfire adjustment is available
In earlier action, the House passed H.R. 7608, which would
annually through FY2027, and the maximum amount
have provided a combined total of $6.339 billion for FS and
available under the adjustment increases annually.
DOI wildfire purposes in Division C. Several continuing
However, the statutory limit on total discretionary spending
resolutions provided funding at FY2020 levels before
is in effect only through FY2021.
enactment of P.L. 116-260 on December 27, 2020.

Wildfire Management Funding: FY2021 Appropriations
Table 1. FS and DOI Discretionary Wildfire Appropriations ($ in millions)

H-Passed H.R. 7608
FS, Total
Wildland Fire Management (WFM), Total
WFM Salaries and Expenses

WFM Preparedness
WFM Suppression
WFM Supplemental

Wildfire Adjustment
NFS Hazardous Fuels
SPF Cooperative Fire Assistance
DOI, Total
WFM, Total
WFM Preparedness
WFM Suppression
WFM Fuels Management
WFM Other
Wildfire Adjustment
Total, FS and DOI
Sources: P.L. 116-94; P.L. 116-136; FY2021 budget justifications for FS and DOI; H.R. 7608 (116th Congress); and P.L. 116-260.
Notes: NFS = National Forest System; SPF = State and Private Forestry. The FS WFM Salaries and Expenses budget line item was established in
P.L. 116-260. Column totals may not add due to rounding.
Federal fuel reduction funding may be used for projects (or
Preparedness includes the range of tasks necessary to
treatments) on federal lands, to provide financial or
ensure readiness for wildfire response. Prior to FY2021, FS
technical assistance for projects on nonfederal lands, or to
and DOI both used preparedness funds to maintain baseline
develop innovative uses of wood products in an effort to
personnel and provide training and education; manage
accelerate and incentivize fuel removal from federal lands.
infrastructure, equipment, and resources (e.g., aviation
Fuel reduction activities are funded within DOI’s Fuels
assets, engines, communication equipment); develop,
Management activity (WFM account) and within FS’s
maintain, and advance technological tools to enhance
Hazardous Fuels activity (National Forest System [NFS]
decisionmaking capacity; and prepare and execute fire
account). The decrease in FS FY2021 funding is largely
management plans, cooperative agreements, and
because the salaries and expenses related to these activities
interagency coordination. Starting in FY2021, however,
were funded separately in the NFS account. In addition, FS
many of these activities for FS are covered in the new
and DOI receive funding through other accounts and
salaries and expenses WFM budget line item.
programs that may be used for activities that also have a
fuel reduction component; thus, funding provided to each
Suppression is the work associated with extinguishing or
agency’s respective Fuels program is not a comprehensive
confining a fire, and suppression appropriations are used
reflection of the funding available for these activities.
primarily for wildfire response. This includes funding
Other Wildfire Activities
firefighter salaries, aviation asset operations, other support
FS and DOI both receive appropriations for several other
functions in direct support of wildfire incidents, and
wildfire-related activities. For DOI, funding is provided
funding for postfire emergency stabilization activities.
within the WFM account for postfire rehabilitation, wildfire
Suppression activities are funded through two sources.
science and research, and facilities maintenance. For FS,
Baseline suppression funding is provided to FS’s and DOI’s
appropriations are provided for wildfire assistance
respective WFM accounts, and funds provided pursuant to
programs through its State and Private Forestry account.
the wildfire adjustment are appropriated to separate
Wildfire assistance programs support state wildfire
accounts for FS and DOI (and then transferred to the WFM
management programs and volunteer fire departments in
account as needed). In addition, at times Congress has
rural communities. FS funding for wildfire science and
provided supplemental appropriations specifically for
funding for long-term postfire rehabilitation activities may
suppression purposes.
be derived from several FS accounts and programs .
Fuel Reduction
Katie Hoover, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Fuel reduction is the manipulation or removal of wildland
fuels (e.g., vegetation) to reduce potential wildfire risk.

Wildfire Management Funding: FY2021 Appropriations

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