US Forest Service seeks budget boost ahead of fire season

By Emily Cureton (OPB)

The United States Forest Service is seeking a major budget increase this year. President Joe Biden’s preliminary budget blueprint includes a $1.7 billion increase for the federal agency managing public lands, around 35% above what it got last year, according to a spokesperson for Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Merkley serves as chair for the Senate subcommittee considering the budget request. The subcommittee put questions to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen at a hearing on Wednesday.

Merkley opened the proceeding by recalling scenes from Oregon’s catastrophic 2020 fire season, in which 11 people died in wildfires, and more than a million acres burned.

“Fires devastated the towns of Detroit, Gates, Phoenix, Talent,” Merkley said. “I’ll never forget visiting those towns and seeing the incinerated remains.”