Report text available as:

  • TXT
  • PDF   (PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip ?

110th Congress                                            Rept. 110-704
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                      Part 1

======================================================================
 
``FEDERAL LAND ASSISTANCE, MANAGEMENT AND ENHANCEMENT ACT'' OR ``FLAME 
                                 ACT''

                                _______
                                

                 June 10, 2008.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Rahall, from the Committee on Natural Resources, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            ADDITIONAL VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 5541]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

  The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred the 
bill (H.R. 5541) to provide a supplemental funding source for 
catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities on 
Department of the Interior and National Forest System lands, to 
require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of 
Agriculture to develop a cohesive wildland fire management 
strategy, and for other purposes, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that 
the bill as amended do pass.
  The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

  (a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Federal Land 
Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act'' or ``FLAME Act''.
  (b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents for this Act is as 
follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2. Flame Fund for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression 
activities.
Sec. 3. Cohesive wildland fire management strategy.
Sec. 4. Review of certain wildfires to evaluate cost containment in 
wildland fire suppression activities.
Sec. 5. Reducing risk of wildfires in fire-ready communities.

SEC. 2. FLAME FUND FOR CATASTROPHIC EMERGENCY WILDLAND FIRE SUPPRESSION 
                    ACTIVITIES.

  (a) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) Federal land.--The term ``Federal land'' means the 
        following:
                  (A) Public lands, as defined in section 103 of the 
                Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 
                U.S.C. 1702).
                  (B) Units of the National Park System.
                  (C) Refuges of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
                  (D) Lands held in trust by the United States for the 
                benefit of Indian tribes or individual Indians.
                  (E) Lands in the National Forest System, as defined 
                in section 11(a) of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable 
                Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1609(a)).
          (2) Flame fund.--The term ``Flame Fund'' means the Federal 
        Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Fund established 
        by this section.
          (3) Secretary concerned.--The term ``Secretary concerned'' 
        means--
                  (A) the Secretary of the Interior, with respect to 
                Federal land described in subparagraphs (A), (B), (C), 
                and (D) of paragraph (1); and
                  (B) the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to 
                National Forest System land.
          (4) Secretaries.--The term ``Secretaries'' means the 
        Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture, 
        acting jointly.
  (b) Establishment and Availability of Flame Fund.--
          (1) Establishment.--There is established in the Treasury of 
        the United States a fund to be known as the Federal Land 
        Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Fund.
          (2) Contents.--The Flame Fund shall consist of the following 
        amounts:
                  (A) Amounts appropriated to the Flame Fund pursuant 
                to the authorization of appropriations in subsection 
                (c).
                  (B) Amounts transferred to the Flame Fund pursuant to 
                subsection (d).
          (3) Availability.--Subject to subsection (e), amounts in the 
        Flame Fund shall be available to the Secretaries to pay the 
        costs of catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression 
        activities that are separate from amounts annually appropriated 
        to the Secretaries for the predicted annual workload for 
        wildland fire suppression activities, based on analyses of 
        historical workloads and anticipated increased workloads due to 
        changing environmental or demographic conditions.
  (c) Authorization of Appropriations.--
          (1) Authorization of appropriations.--There is authorized to 
        be appropriated to the Flame Fund such funds as may be 
        necessary to carry out this section. It is the intent of 
        Congress that the amount appropriated to the Flame Fund for 
        fiscal year 2009 and each subsequent fiscal year equal the 
        average amount expended by the Secretaries for emergency 
        wildland fire suppression activities over the five fiscal years 
        preceding that fiscal year.
          (2) Emergency designation.--Amounts appropriated to the Flame 
        Fund for fiscal year 2009 are designated as an emergency 
        requirement pursuant to section 501 of H. Con. Res. 376 (109th 
        Congress), as made applicable to the House of Representatives 
        by section 511(a)(4) of H. Res. 6 (110th Congress), and for 
        subsequent fiscal years pursuant to corresponding congressional 
        resolutions authorizing the designation of emergency spending.
          (3) Notice of insufficient funds.--The Secretaries shall 
        notify the congressional committees specified in subsection 
        (h)(2) whenever only an estimated two months worth of funding 
        remains in the Flame Fund.
  (d) Transfer of Excess Wildland Fire Suppression Amounts Into Flame 
Fund.--At the end of each fiscal year, the Secretary concerned shall 
transfer to the Flame Fund amounts appropriated to the Secretary 
concerned for wildland fire suppression activities for the fiscal year, 
but not obligated for wildland fire suppression activities before the 
end of the fiscal year.
  (e) Use of Flame Fund.--
          (1) Declaration required.--Amounts in the Flame Fund shall be 
        made available to the Secretary concerned only after the 
        Secretaries issue a declaration that a wildland fire 
        suppression activity is eligible for funding through the Flame 
        Fund.
          (2) Declaration criteria.--A declaration by the Secretaries 
        under paragraph (1) shall be based on the following criteria:
                  (A) In the case of an individual wildland fire 
                incident--
                          (i) the fire covers 300 or more acres;
                          (ii) the severity of the fire, which may be 
                        based on incident complexity or the potential 
                        for increased complexity; and
                          (iii) the threat posed by the fire, including 
                        the potential for loss of lives, property, or 
                        critical resources.
                  (B) Consistent with subsection (f), in the case of a 
                firefighting season, cumulative wildland fire 
                suppression activities, when the costs of those 
                activities for the Secretary concerned are projected to 
                exceed amounts annually appropriated.
          (3) Transfer of amounts to secretary concerned.--After 
        issuance of a declaration under paragraph (1) and upon the 
        request of the Secretary concerned, the Secretary of the 
        Treasury shall transfer from the Flame Fund to the Secretary 
        concerned such amounts as the Secretaries determine are 
        necessary for wildland fire suppression activities associated 
        with the declared suppression emergency.
          (4) State, private, and tribal land.--Use of the Flame Fund 
        for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities 
        on State and private land and, where applicable, tribal land 
        shall be consistent with existing agreements where the 
        Secretaries have agreed to assume responsibility for wildland 
        fire suppression activities on the land.
  (f) Treatment of Anticipated and Predicted Activities.--The Secretary 
concerned shall continue to fund anticipated and predicted wildland 
fire suppression activities within the appropriate agency budget for 
each fiscal year. Use of the additional funding made available through 
the Flame Fund is intended to supplement the budgeted and appropriated 
agency funding and is to be used only for purposes and in instances 
consistent with this section.
  (g) Prohibition on Other Transfers.--All amounts in the Flame Fund, 
as well as all funds appropriated for the purpose of wildland fire 
suppression on Federal land, must be obligated before the Secretary 
concerned may transfer funds from non-fire accounts for wildland fire 
suppression.
  (h) Accounting and Reports.--
          (1) Accounting and reporting system.--The Secretaries shall 
        establish an accounting and reporting system for the Flame Fund 
        compatible with existing National Fire Plan reporting 
        procedures.
          (2) Annual report.--The Secretaries shall submit to the 
        Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Agriculture, 
        and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of 
        Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural 
        Resources, the Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Committee 
        on Appropriations of the Senate an annual report on the use of 
        the funds from the Flame Fund, together with any 
        recommendations that the Secretaries may have to improve the 
        administrative control and oversight of the Flame Fund.
          (3) Public availability.--The annual report required by 
        paragraph (2) shall be made available to the public.

SEC. 3. COHESIVE WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY.

  (a) Strategy Required.--Not later than one year after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary 
of Agriculture shall submit to Congress a report that contains a 
cohesive wildland fire management strategy, consistent with the 
recommendations contained in recent Comptroller General reports 
regarding this issue.
  (b) Elements of Strategy.--The strategy required by subsection (a) 
shall address the findings of the Comptroller General in the reports 
referred to in such subsection and include the following elements:
          (1) A system to identify the most cost effective means for 
        allocating fire management budget resources.
          (2) An illustration of plans by the Secretary of the Interior 
        and the Secretary of Agriculture to reinvest in non-fire 
        programs.
          (3) A description of how the Secretaries will employ 
        appropriate management response.
          (4) A system for assessing the level of risk to communities.
          (5) A system to ensure that the highest priority fuels 
        reduction projects are being funded first.
  (c) Notice of Prescribed Fires.--As part of the strategy required by 
subsection (a) for the Forest Service, the Secretary of Agriculture 
shall ensure that, before any prescribed fire is used on National 
Forest System land, owners of adjacent private land are notified in 
writing of the date and scope of the proposed prescribed fire.

SEC. 4. REVIEW OF CERTAIN WILDFIRES TO EVALUATE COST CONTAINMENT IN 
                    WILDLAND FIRE SUPPRESSION ACTIVITIES.

  (a) Review Required.--The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary 
of Agriculture shall conduct a review, using independent panels, of 
each wildfire incident for which the Secretary concerned incurs 
expenses in excess of $10,000,000.
  (b) Report.--The Secretary concerned shall submit to the Committee on 
Natural Resources, the Committee on Agriculture, and the Committee on 
Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on 
Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Indian Affairs, and the 
Committee on Appropriations of the Senate a report containing the 
results of each review conducted under subsection (a).

SEC. 5. REDUCING RISK OF WILDFIRES IN FIRE-READY COMMUNITIES.

  (a) Fire-Ready Community Defined.--In this section, the term ``fire-
ready community'' means a community that--
          (1) is located within a priority area identified pursuant to 
        subsection (b);
          (2) has a cooperative fire agreement that articulates the 
        roles and responsibilities for Federal, State and local 
        government entities in local wildfire suppression and 
        protection;
          (3) has local codes that require fire-resistant home design 
        and building materials;
          (4) has a community wildfire protection plan (as defined in 
        section 101 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 
        U.S.C. 6502)); and
          (5) is engaged in a successful collaborative process that 
        includes multiple interested persons representing diverse 
        interests and is transparent and nonexclusive, such as a 
        resource advisory committee established under section 205 of 
        the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act 
        of 2000 (Public Law 106-393; 16 U.S.C. 500 note).
  (b) Fire Risk Mapping.--As soon as is practicable after the date of 
the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture and the 
Secretary of the Interior (in this section referred to as the 
``Secretaries'') shall develop regional maps of communities most at 
risk of wildfire and in need of hazardous fuel treatment and 
maintenance. The maps shall identify priority areas for hazardous fuels 
reduction projects, including--
          (1) at-risk communities in fire-prone areas of the wildland-
        urban interface (as defined in section 101 of the Healthy 
        Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6502));
          (2) watersheds and municipal drinking water sources;
          (3) emergency evacuation corridors;
          (4) electricity transmission corridors; and
          (5) low-capacity or low-income communities.
  (c) Local Wildland Firefighting Capability Grants.--
          (1) Grants available.--The Secretaries may provide cost-share 
        grants to fire-ready communities to assist such communities in 
        carrying activities authorized by paragraph (2).
          (2) Eligible activities.--Grant funds may be used for the 
        following:
                  (A) Education programs to raise awareness of 
                homeowners and citizens about wildland fire protection 
                practices, including FireWise or similar programs.
                  (B) Training programs for local firefighters on 
                wildland firefighting techniques and approaches.
                  (C) Equipment acquisition to facilitate wildland fire 
                preparedness.
                  (D) Implementation of a community wildfire protection 
                plan.
  (d) Wildland Fire Cost-Share Agreements.--In developing any wildland 
fire cost-share agreement with a State Forester or equivalent official, 
the Secretaries shall, to the greatest extent possible, encourage the 
State and local communities involved to become fire-ready communities.
  (e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be 
appropriated to the Secretaries to carry out this section such sums as 
may be necessary.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 5541 is to provide a supplemental 
funding source for catastrophic emergency wildland fire 
suppression activities on Department of the Interior and 
National Forest System lands, to require the Secretary of the 
Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a cohesive 
wildland fire management strategy, and for other purposes.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Federal land management agencies are facing escalating 
costs of fighting wildland fire, and these costs are eroding 
other programs and impacting the core mission of these 
agencies. Over the past 18 years, the Wildland Fire Management 
portion of the Forest Service Budget has increased from 13 
percent to 48 percent. The largest component of Wildland Fire 
Management spending is fire suppression.
    Current wildland fire suppression budgeting practice for 
both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service is 
regulated by the 10-year fire suppression average. The 10-year 
average originated from an agreement between CBO, OMB, and the 
Committee on Budget a decade ago or more. Both the current and 
previous Administrations have used the 10-year average because 
it provides a method of budgeting for an activity that is 
largely unpredictable. According to the Forest Service, their 
annual fire suppression costs have exceeded $1 billion in five 
of the past eight years, meaning that the 10-year average 
suppression cost figure continues to increase while the overall 
budget for the Forest Service has been shrinking.
    The skyrocketing cost of fighting fires has forced drastic 
reductions in other Forest Service accounts, a trend that 
continues in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget request. The most 
significant cut this year was to State and Private Forestry, 
which this year's budget request cuts by 58%. The FY09 budget 
request proposes a 13% decrease in fire preparedness and a 4% 
decrease in funding for hazardous fuels treatments ($297 
million, down from $310 million in the FY 2008 enacted level). 
The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 authorized $760 
million annually for hazardous fuels treatments on Forest 
Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Combined 
with the BLM FY 2009 budget request for hazardous fuels 
reduction of $202.8 million, the total Administration request 
for hazardous fuels reduction on federal lands is $499.8 
million, only 65% of the level authorized by Congress.
    Both the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior 
have had to ``rob Peter to pay Paul'' by borrowing funds from 
other agency accounts to cover these escalating costs. 
According to both agencies, in Fiscal Year 2008, the Forest 
Service spent $741 million more than was budgeted for wildland 
fire suppression, and the Department of the Interior spent $249 
million more than was budgeted for wildland fire suppression.
    In the case of the Forest Service, very large fires 
threatening people and property account for the vast majority 
of wildland fire suppression costs, as 2% of fires account for 
80% of total expenditures.
    Current and forecasted climatic conditions and demographic 
trends indicate that wildfire challenges will continue to 
increase in the coming years. While wildland fire is an 
important and necessary ecological process that renews the 
productivity of fire-adapted ecosystems, researchers are 
concerned that the frequency and intensity of wildfires is 
increasing. Also increasing are the impacts of wildland fire on 
people and infrastructure due to changes in the rate and 
location of growth across the West. A May 11, 2007 article in 
USA Today stated that since 2000, roughly 450,000 people--
enough to populate a city the size of Atlanta--moved to rural 
western areas at most risk from wildfire. The article further 
stated that about 3.5 million people now inhabit these areas, 
and the population risk in high-fire areas grew 15% faster than 
the West as a whole. This results in significantly higher costs 
for wildland fire suppression activities than are currently 
reflected in the agency budget requests fixed by the 10-year 
average.
    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that 
federal land management agencies lack a cohesive wildland fire 
management strategy identifying the long-term options and 
funding needs for reducing excess vegetation, responding to 
wildland fire, and containing costs. The GAO has requested that 
the agencies complete a cohesive wildland fire management 
strategy for nearly a decade. In May 2006, GAO released a 
follow-up report (GAO-06-671R) finding that ``the agencies 
still have not prepared a tactical plan outlining the critical 
steps and associated time frames for completing a cohesive 
wildland fire management strategy, as we recommended.''
    While the Forest Service and the BLM released a document in 
February 2006 entitled ``Protecting People and Natural 
Resources,'' the GAO stated that the interagency document 
``does not identify long-term options and related funding for 
reducing fuels and responding to wildland fire as we called 
for.'' The GAO then stated in testimony before the Subcommittee 
on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands on June 19, 2007, 
that ``perhaps most important[ly], without a clear vision of 
what they are trying to achieve and a systematic approach for 
achieving it, the agencies--and Congress and the American 
people--have little assurance that their cost-containment 
efforts will lead to substantial improvement''.
    In a report entitled Implementation of the Healthy Forests 
Initiative (report no. 08601-6-AT), the USDA Inspector General 
also found that the Forest Service lacks a system to ensure 
that the highest priority fuels reduction projects are being 
funded first. The IG found that the Forest Service lacked a 
consistent analytical process for assessing the level of risk 
that communities faced from wildland fire and determining if a 
hazardous fuels project would be cost-beneficial.
    H.R. 5541 has received the support of the five former 
Chiefs of the Forest Service, the Western Governors' 
Association, the National Association of State Foresters, the 
National Association of Counties, members of the Rural Voices 
for Conservation Coalition, the National Federation of Federal 
Employees, the Wilderness Society, the National Parks 
Conservation Association, and nearly 40 other organizations.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 5541 was introduced on March 6, 2008 by Committee on 
Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) and is 
cosponsored on a bipartisan basis by more than 40 members. The 
bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, and 
within the Committee to the Subcommittee on National Parks, 
Forests, and Public Lands. The bill was also referred to the 
Committee on the Budget and the Committee on Agriculture. On 
April 10, 2008, the Committee on Natural Resources held a 
hearing on the bill.
    On April 17, 2008, the Full Natural Resources Committee met 
to consider the bill. The Subcommittee was discharged from 
further consideration of the legislation. Chairman Nick Rahall 
(D-WV) offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute to 
require that annual reports on the FLAME Fund are made 
available to the public; to require the Secretaries of the 
Interior and Agriculture to conduct a review of wildland fire 
incidents that result in expenses greater than $10,000,000; to 
require the Secretaries to notify Congress whenever funding in 
the FLAME Fund drops to a level estimated to cover only two 
months' worth of expenditures; and to reduce the risk of 
catastrophic wildland fires to communities.
    Representative Bill Sali (R-ID) offered an amendment to the 
amendment in the nature of a substitute that would amend the 
Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 to legislate 
categorical exclusions from the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969. The Sali amendment was ruled non-germane.
    Representative Henry Brown (R-SC) offered an amendment to 
the amendment in the nature of a substitute that would require 
the Secretary of Agriculture to notify private property owners 
in writing of prescribed fire activities. The Brown amendment 
was adopted by voice vote.
    The amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by 
Chairman Rahall was then adopted by voice vote. The bill, as 
amended, was ordered favorably reported to the House of 
Representatives by voice vote.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Section 1. Short title; table of contents

    Section 1 cites the short title of the bill as the 
``Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act'', 
and lists a table of contents.

Section 2. FLAME Fund for catastrophic emergency wildland fire 
        suppression activities

    Section 2 of the FLAME Act as amended establishes a federal 
FLAME Fund for catastrophic, emergency wildland fire 
suppression activities. This would include federal lands 
managed by the Bureau of Land Management, units of the National 
Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, land held in 
trust by the United States for the benefit of Indian tribes or 
individual Indians, and National Forest System land.
    The FLAME Fund would be separate from the regularly 
budgeted and appropriated wildland fire suppression funding and 
is to be used only for suppression of catastrophic, emergency 
wildland fires. The federal land management agencies will 
continue to fund anticipated and predicted wildland fire 
suppression activities within their annual budgets.
    Section 2(c)(2) of H.R. 5541, as amended, specifically 
provides that amounts appropriated to the FLAME Fund annually 
be designated as emergency spending pursuant to congressional 
resolutions authorizing the designation of emergency spending. 
Under the bill as amended, monies for the FLAME fund will be 
appropriated annually by such sums as may be necessary, but it 
is the intent that the appropriations will be based on the 
average costs incurred by the federal land management agencies 
for emergency wildland suppression activities over the 
preceding five fiscal years. Section 2(c)(3) of H.R. 5541, as 
amended, requires the Secretaries to notify Congress any time 
an estimated two months of funding remains in the FLAME Fund.
    Section 2(e) of H.R. 5541 as amended, provides that the 
Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior may 
declare catastrophic, emergency wildland fire suppression 
activities eligible for the FLAME fund only by issuing a 
Suppression Emergency Declaration. The declaration shall 
evaluate the size, severity, and threat of the individual 
wildland fire incident. The FLAME Fund would be available for 
catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities on 
state and private land where consistent with existing 
agreements by which the agencies have agreed to assume 
responsibility for wildland fire suppression activities on 
those lands.

Section 3. Cohesive wildland fire management strategy

    Section 3 requires the Secretary of the Interior and the 
Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report to Congress one 
year after enactment containing a cohesive wildland fire 
management strategy. Section 3 requires the report to address 
the GAO and USDA IG recommendations by including a system 
identifying the most cost-effective means for allocating fire 
management resources, a system for assessing the level of risk 
to communities, an illustration of plans to re-invest in non-
fire programs, a description of use of appropriate management 
response, and a system ensuring that the highest priority fuels 
reduction projects are being funded first.

Section 4. Review of certain wildfires to evaluate cost containment in 
        wildland fire suppression activities

    Section 4 requires the Secretary of the Interior and the 
Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a review, using independent 
panels, of each wildfire incident for which the Secretary 
concerned incurs expenses in excess of $10,000,000 and submit 
the results of each review to Congress.

Section 5. Reducing risk of wildlfires in fire-ready communities

    Section 5(a) defines fire-ready communities as communities 
that are located within a priority area identified in 
subsection (b); have cooperative agreements that articulate 
roles in local wildlfire suppression and protection; have local 
codes that require fire-resistant home design and building 
materials; have a community wildfire protection plan; and are 
engaged in a successful collaborative process.
    Section 5(b) requires the Secretary of Agriculture and the 
Secretary of the Interior to develop regional maps of 
communities most at risk of wildfire and in need of hazardous 
fuel treatment and maintenance.
    Section 5(c) authorizes the Secretaries to provide cost-
share grants to fire-ready communities for education programs 
to raise awareness of homeowners and citizens about wildland 
fire protection practices; training programs for local 
firefighters on wildland firefighting techniques; equipment 
acquisition to facilitate wildland fire preparedness; and 
implementation of a community wildfire protection plan.
    Section 5(d) states that in developing any wildland fire 
cost-share agreement with a State Forester or equivalent 
official, the Secretaries shall, to the greatest extent 
possible, encourage the State and local communities involved to 
become fire-ready communities.

            COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) 
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
    2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2) 
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this 
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending 
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in 
revenues or tax expenditures.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or 
objective of this bill is to provide a supplemental funding 
source for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression 
activities on Department of the Interior and National Forest 
System lands, to require the Secretary of the Interior and the 
Secretary of Agriculture to develop a cohesive wildland fire 
management strategy, and for other purposes.
    4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause 
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate 
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office:

H.R. 5541--Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act 
        (FLAME Act)

    Summary: H.R. 5541 would establish the Federal Land 
Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Fund (Flame Fund) to 
finance some fire suppression activities managed by the Forest 
Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The bill also 
would authorize those agencies to provide grants to certain 
communities to improve local fire fighting capabilities. 
Lastly, the bill would require the agencies to submit several 
new reports to the Congress regarding the incidence and 
management of wildland fires.
    CBO expects that creating the Flame Fund and authorizing 
appropriations to that fund for fire suppression would have no 
effect on the federal budget because agencies already receive 
appropriations under existing authorities and have permanent 
authority to transfer funds from other accounts to cover fire 
suppression costs. Implementing this legislation might change 
the timing of appropriations for fire suppression but not the 
total cost of that activity.
    CBO estimates that carrying out other provisions of the 
bill, including new reporting requirements and grant programs, 
would cost $100 million over the 2009-2013 period, assuming 
appropriation of the necessary amounts. Enacting the 
legislation would not affect revenues or direct spending.
    H.R. 5541 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of H.R. 5541 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300 
(natural resources and environment).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                          ------------------------------------------------------
                                                              2009       2010       2011       2012       2013
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Spending for Grants and Reports:
    Estimated Authorization Level........................         20         20         20         20         20
    Estimated Outlays....................................         12         18         20         25         25
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that the 
legislation will be enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 
2009 and that necessary amounts will be appropriated near the 
start of each fiscal year. Estimated outlays are based on 
historical spending patterns for similar activities.

Flame Fund

    H.R. 5541 would establish the Flame Fund and authorize 
appropriations to the fund equaling the average amount 
obligated for fire suppression over the five preceding years. 
Those amounts would be in addition to annual appropriations 
made under existing authorities to cover the ``predicted annual 
workload for wildland fire suppression activities.'' Agencies 
could continue to transfer funds from other accounts to cover 
those costs, if necessary, after all funds specifically 
appropriated for suppression have been obligated.
    Under current law, annual appropriations for fire 
suppression are typically equal to the rolling average of 
annual obligations for those activities over the previous 10 
years. When the 10-year average is not sufficient to cover 
those costs, the agencies are authorized to transfer funds from 
any other accounts to pay suppression costs. In many years, the 
10-year average has not been sufficient to cover actual costs, 
requiring agencies to use transfer authority. When agencies 
transfer funds form other accounts, they are required to 
reimburse those accounts when additional appropriations become 
available. Supplemental appropriations also may be provided.
    CBO expects that the appropriation of additional funds 
authorized by the legislation, could result in fewer transfers 
from other program accounts to pay for suppression, but 
establishing the Flame Fund would not change the total amount 
spent on suppression. Although the timing of appropriations for 
suppression could change (if fewer supplemental appropriations 
would be required), this bill would not modify the total cost 
of suppression activities.

Grants and reporting requirements

    H.R. 5541 would authorize the Secretaries to provide grants 
to communities in fire-prone areas near wildlands to help them 
enhance their fire fighting capability. The grants could be 
used to develop education programs and to purchase equipment. 
The bill also would require the Secretaries to submit reports 
to the Congress detailing how they use amounts available in the 
Flame Fund and the strategies they use for managing and paying 
for wildland fire activities.
    Based on information from the Forest Service and BLM and 
assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates 
that implementing those provisions would cost about $100 
million over the 2009-2013 period.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 5541 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or 
tribal governments. Assuming appropriation of estimated 
amounts, local communities would receive $100 million over the 
2009-2013 period for training and activities related to 
firefighting.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs: Tyler Kruzich and 
Deborah Reis; Impact on state local, and tribal governments: 
Melissa Merrell; Impact on the private-sector: Amy Petz.
    Estimate approved by: Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                           EARMARK STATEMENT

    H.R. 5541 does not contain any congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9(d), 9(e) or 9(f) of rule XXI.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 
law.
                            ADDITIONAL VIEWS

    We welcome efforts to address the growing problem of 
finding funds to pay for the suppression of wildfires on public 
lands. H.R. 5541 establishes a fund (Federal Land Assistance, 
Management, and Enhancement Fund or FLAME) for use when certain 
criteria are met and the cumulative suppression costs for the 
season exceed the annual appropriations. However, the enormous 
cost of suppressing wildfires is a symptom, not the cause of 
the problem and we strongly urge the expansion of H.R. 5541 to 
apply the lessons of history and the insights provided by 
science to improve the management of our forest and rangelands 
to ensure that they are healthy, biologically diverse, 
productive and present a reduced threat to the safety of forest 
communities. By limiting this debate to changes in accounts and 
funding mechanisms for wildfire suppression we are missing a 
crucial opportunity. We should couple this with meaningful 
reform in our forest management practices. The one thing 
repeated by every witness on the panels at the hearing on this 
bill, from both Republicans and Democrats, was the critical 
need to reduce hazardous fuels on our public lands. That is 
ultimately the only way we can truly ease the budgetary burdens 
of wildfires. Anything short of that just shifts the wildfire 
funding problem to future Congresses.
    In addressing the magnitude of the fires we are facing and 
the ongoing increase in fire suppression costs, more must be 
done than just adjusting funding sources. History has shown, as 
the witnesses testified last week that we will continue to have 
larger and larger fires, until we reduce fuel-loading. This 
means communities in the western United States will see homes 
burned, watersheds damaged and even lives lost unless we do 
what we can to protect them and pre-empt devastating fires--the 
kind of pre-emption pointed to by Governor Napolitano that 
protected so many people and homes in the 2006 Woody Fire near 
Flagstaff.
    During the hearing on H.R. 5541, Governor Napolitano 
highlighted the close relationship between pre-fire management 
and the costs of fire-fighting itself. As the Governor 
testified, the 2006 Woody Fire near Flagstaff, Arizona, was 
halted before it reached 100 acres because of the hazardous 
fuels treatments that had been done in that area. According to 
Governor Napolitano, those treatments dramatically minimized 
the fire's devastation.
    Similarly, our colleague Norm Dicks testified last week 
about the large fuel loads that continue to accumulate. He 
pointed out that today we are seeing much longer fire seasons 
because of climate change. Congressman Dicks further commented 
that larger fires have resulted from the increasing tree 
density and fuel loads. These large fires then release enormous 
amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, further compounding the 
influence of climate change to the overall problem.
    We must provide a broad range of tools, including those 
that allow hazardous fuels to be reduced thereby protecting 
communities, homes, and potentially the lives of homeowners 
near and in federally-managed lands.
    Across the west, many communities have put the time and 
energy into developing Community Wildlife Protection Plans, but 
implementation of many of these plans has been significantly 
delayed, in large part, because of the NEPA process. These 
CWPPs, as my colleagues know, are cooperative plans, requiring 
community collaboration and input in the formation of the plan. 
By delaying treatment for the safety of communities, we permit 
those communities to be threatened by large fires. With this 
bill we should be not only providing an additional funding 
mechanism for wildfire suppression, but we should also be 
providing the tools necessary for timely treatments to protect 
these communities from the large and devastating fires and 
preserve our pristine national forests.
    During the Poe Cabin fire in Idaho, in one area the fire 
moved some three miles in a mere 20 minutes, burning as hot as 
1500 degrees Fahrenheit. In that area, several homes that had 
defensible space around them due to fuel reductions on private 
land survived the fire. One homeowner was able to get his wife 
out while he himself stayed just a bit longer to finish loading 
his truck. However, because of the fast moving and intense 
fire, combined with the heavy fuel-loading on federal ground, 
he became trapped by the fire and was unable to leave. While 
this could have quickly become a tragic story, this man lived 
and his house survived, thanks to fuel-reduction that had been 
done on private land around his home.
    In today's climate, we cannot address funding for 
suppressing these large wildfires without addressing a primary 
cause as well--the increasing and unchecked fuel loads in our 
national forests that surround or are adjacent to homes and 
communities. H.R. 5541 only addresses one aspect of the 
problem--the suppression funding side--without providing real 
relief and dealing with the underlying problem to help prevent 
wildfires, or at least prevent the spread of the large and 
devastating fires.

                                   Don Young.
                                   Rob Bishop.
                                   Robert J. Wittman.
                                   Stevan Pearce.
                                   Bill Sali.
                                   Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
                                   Adrian Smith.