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Arkansas Forestry Prepared For Low Wildfire Fighting Funds

Money to fight wildfires is running low across the nation.
LITTLE ROCK, AR- Funding is running low to fight wildfires across the nation, but Arkansas Forestry officials say they've prepared. As a result, the U.S. Forest Service will have to face major cuts to other areas to fill the gap.

This is the sixth time in the last 10 years the federal government has run out of its firefighting budget. Since it's become a regular occurrence, the Arkansas Forestry Commission prepared for this.

"It's really because they didn't budget enough," said Joe Fox, Arkansas Forestry Commission.

Joe Fox with the Arkansas Forestry Commission is referring to the federal government which spent just under a billion dollars on wildfires so far this year. That leaves only 50 million dollars in the budget for the rest of 2013, which is only enough to pay for a few days of fighting fires.

"This has become a more regular occurrence and that may or may not have something to do with the warming climate," said Fox.

Knowing this could happen again, Arkansas lawmakers gave the commission about a 10 percent increase in their operations budget, and approved a 5 cent increase in the Forest Land Fire Protection Tax, which will be collected next year. Fox says it totals out to $700,000 dollars.

"We've budgeted into our income budget from the federal government a 5 percent decline over the next 2 years," explained Fox.

Also on the decline, the number of acres looking to be thinned in our federal forests, all in an effort to reduce fire danger.

"We're borrowing from funds and not doing prevention projects because we're having to fight so much fire in the west," said Fox.

Friday is the deadline to make cuts in other areas. The U.S. Forest Service is expected to divert 600 million dollars from timber, recreation and other areas to fill the void.


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