Wildfire suppression consumed 60 percent of the Forest Service budget in the federal fiscal year 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Washington has its own homegrown funding issues for state lands. But as state and federal forest lands are checkerboarded across the state, the failure of federal forest-health practices ignites disaster.
Inslee and Goldmark support a more direct way to deal with wildfires: Treat them in federal accounting the way hurricanes and floods are handled across the country.
They are all disasters that claim lives, destroy private property and put communities in jeopardy. Create the budget structures and cost thresholds used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others.
This approach has bipartisan support among Washingtons congressional delegation.
Failure to maintain forest health with thinning, and disease and pest control creates fire hazards that can cost vastly more to extinguish. Raiding the forest-health funds to pay for putting out fires only compounds the budgetary madness.
Lawmakers in Olympia engage in the same shortsighted budgeting. They had to come up with $160 million to pay for 2015 firefighting costs. They only produced $6.7 million of the $24 million Goldmark asked for to prepare for another fire season.
Wildfires in 2015 consumed 1 million acres of forest land, along with 499 structures, 307 primary residences, 21 commercial structures and 171 outbuildings.
The disasters are as real as the destruction and loss of life generated by hurricanes and storms. Federal budgeting needs to catch up with regional realities.
As the weather gets hotter and forests get drier, the future is a vast expanse of tinder in front of us. This natural hazard and financial dilemma are not a one-off experience.