U.S. House approves more firefighting funds

Walden in support; Senate vote due next wek

The House on Thursday passed a plan with bipartisan support to provide an additional $800 million for wildfire fighting to the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for 2012 and 2013.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said, "I've worked with my colleagues at the leadership table and on the Appropriations Committee to provide the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior with the resources they need to fight wildfires without diverting funds from other important priorities on the ground."

"Today the House has acted — welcome news as Eastern Oregon continues to feel the impact of devastating wildfires,"  Walden said.

"Half of this funding will replenish Forest Service accounts from which the agency has borrowed money to fight fires already this year. This will help prevent important forestry jobs from going unfunded," he added.

The plan passed by the House Thursday keeps the government open through March 2013, while reducing total government spending by $27 billion below last year's levels.

However, it includes an increase of more than $800 million for wildfire efforts this year and next.

During the historic 2012 wildfire season, the Forest Service and Department of the Interior were forced to divert millions from other projects and activities on federal lands to pay for emergency wildfire fighting.

This additional money will reimburse these agencies for these unexpected costs, while ensuring that they have adequate funds to fight fires over the next year.

Walden spokesman Andrew Malcolm said the funding is part of a bipartisan agreement with the Senate, which is expected to pass the legislation next week. Tom Towslee with Sen. Ron Wyden's Portland office said they support the funding and that while "nothing is a lock ... we remain optimistic."

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