Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) joined Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) in introducing bipartisan legislation that directs the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of Interior (DOI) to determine both the direct and indirect costs wildfires have on federal, state, and local governmental entities, as well as ag producers, property owners, evacuation centers, and more. The Congressmen, all western representatives of high fire-risk districts, joined to develop a better understanding of the direct and indirect costs wildfires have on lands, local economies, families, and governments, to better prevent and counteract their deadly effects.
LaMalfa said, “We must know the full scope of the enormous resources fire mitigation and damage consume each year to effectively improve our efforts to prevent devastating wildfires, but we do not currently have a method to calculate these costs. This bill takes necessary steps to properly assess the true and immense cost of wildfires to federal, state, and private lands, including both the damage to the natural environment and the value of timber and agricultural products lost.”
“Last year, 2,620 wildfires burned over 978,000 acres in Arizona alone. These fires damaged homes, businesses, and claimed so many of our precious public lands and natural resources,” said O’Halleran. “This year, another active wildfire season has already begun. My bipartisan bill will instruct and enable federal agencies to get a holistic picture of the direct and indirect costs these fires have on our state, nation, and the families caught in the crossfire, so that we can better invest in the mitigation needed to address this problem head-on.”
“We on the Central Coast are seeing wildfire seasons turn into wildfire years, which comes with increasingly burdensome costs associated with responding to these emergencies,” said Panetta. “Our legislation will help communities like ours better prepare for these costs by funding a federal study that quantifies the direct and indirect financial impacts of wildfire response and recovery. Increasing this understanding and improving this analysis will help streamline wildfire response and preparedness, keeping our communities safe.”
Direct costs considered are to include:
- Wildfire mitigation
- Wildfire suppression
- Insured private property losses
- Uninsured private property losses
- Damage and repairs to utility infrastructure
- Damage and loss of timber and other ag resources
- Damage to archeological sites
- Evacuations and emergency shelters
- Health, including death, injury, and illness
- Damage to ecosystems services including watershed impairment, vegetation loss, and soil impacts, and
- Damage to, and restoration of wildlife habitat.
Indirect costs to consider include:
- Diminished tax revenue
- Lost business revenue, and
- Property devaluation and housing market impacts.
The bill also requires an analysis of who bears the above costs: federal, state, or local governments.
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