The federal government is spending less and less on preventing wildfires even as the nation endures increasingly destructive blazes.
The Obama administration is proposing a 31 percent cut to the main program that clears brush and overgrown trees to prevent forest fires. That program is already funded at lower levels than 11 years ago. Automatic budget cuts that kicked in in March have made the gap worse. As a result, the Forest Service treated 1 million fewer acres this year than last and expects to treat far fewer next year.
Federal fire officials say the problem is that an increasing chunk of their budget is eaten up simply trying to put out the giant blazes. Eight of the nine worst fire years in U.S. history have been recorded since 2000.