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Fireiightir: obligations incurred from July 1, 1972 to November 30, 1972, were $21,137,955. The anticipated spring fire season costs are estimated at $2,600,000. Diisetting this is an appropriation of $4,800,000. Anticipated spring iire season costs are based on an average for the last five years for the same period.
Durizs the 1972 calendar year fire season, 2,936 fires burned approximately 1,355,000 acz
The iactors which affect fire, such as weather conditions, are largely unpredictable; accordingly, a regular appropriation of $4,800,000 is availabie and a supplemental request based on better data is subsequently submitted. An analysis of the amount needed for fiscal year 1973 follows:
Fire cbligations incurred July 1, 1972 to November 30, 1972.... $21,187,955 Estimated spring season fire obligations...
2,600,000 Less amount appropriated.....
-4,800,000 Total Estimated supplemental request.
18,987,000 Rounded to.
The Bureau continues to cooperate with all firefighting agencies to reduce ildfires. In this effort it utilizes the fire danger rating system, smokejpers, Chemical retardants and a complex radio communication network. Contract protection (other than actual fire suppression) is included in the resource management conservation and protection activity and is not part of this estimate.
Rezular salaries of permanent employees used on an emergency basis during duty hours for fire suppression are not included in this estimate.
1973, and for
The requested funds are needed for obligation by March 1, expenditure by March 15, 1973.
INTRODUCTION OF WITNESSES
Senator BIBLE. Mr. Silcock, please introduce those with you who will be available to testify on the fiscal year 1973 supplemental request.
Mr. Silcock. Mr. Chairman, I have with me George L. Turcott, Associate Director; Nolan Keil, Assistant Director of Resources; Edward L. Hastey, Assistant Director of Administration; Frank Edwards, Deputy Assistant Director for Resources; Paul M. Vetterick, Chief of the Division of Budget and Program Development; and Francis M. Wiles, director of budget of the Office of the Secretary.
Senator BIBLE. Very well. Do you wish to make a statement on the supplemental request?
Mr. SILCOCK. Yes, sir, a brief one.
STATEMENT OF BURTON W. SILCOCK
The request we are presenting today is for $19 million in supplemental funds for the fire suppression activity in the Management of Lands and Resources appropriation. Firefighting obligations incurred during the past fire season from July 1 through November 30, 1972, totaled $21.2 million. Anticipated fire obligations to be incurred this spring are $2.6 million. These amounts total $23.8 million, from which the regular appropriations of $4.8 million have been deducted to arrive at our $19 million request.
During the 1973 calendar year fire season, 2,936 fires burned approximately 1,355,000 acres. Although the number of fires increased over 1971 by 714, or a 32-percent increase, the actual acreage burned in 1972 was 136,000_less than the previous year, a decrease of 10 percent.
We believe this decrease in acres burned is largely attributable to improvement in our initial attack capability made possible by budget increases for fire presuppression approved by the committee in recent years. The increase in the total number of fires continues to reflect a higher incidence of man-caused fires related to increasing public use of Bureau-administered lands. The largest number of fires, 648; and the greatest acreage burned, 1.1 million, was in Alaska. We also experienced significant increases in the number of fires on public lands in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah compared to the average of recent years.
I appreciate the opportunity to again appear before the committee and will be pleased to answer your questions.
REGULAR FIREFIGHTING AND REHABILITATION APPROPRIATIONS
Senator Bible. How much did you have in your regular fiscal year 1973 appropriation for firefighting?
Mr. Silcock. That was $4.8 million.
Mr. HASTEY. The activity is $5.4 million. Of that, $4.8 million is for fire suppression and $600,000 for fire rehabilitation.
Senator BIBLE. What is the fire rehabilitation covered by that figure?
Mr. SILCOCK. This is rehabilitation work done after the fire occurred. The seeding or other vegetative work to restore areas burned by fire is done with rehabilitation funds.
Senator BIBLE. Is that what BLM uses to accomplish its crested wheat seeding programs?
Mr. SILCOCK. Yes; it is one program where we do use crested wheat among other practices.
Senator BIBLE. It does not appear to be that large an amount to cover the cost of reseeding over 1 million acres. How much of it do you reseed! You don't reseed it all ?
Mr. SILCOCK. No; a lot of the acreage burned occurs in Alaska, and it is not subject to reseeding:
Senator BIBLE. A reseeding program will not work in Alaska? Mr. Sulcock. We rehabilitate the fire trails to the extent possible.
Senator BIBLE. In my State, right up where George comes from, reseeding has worked out extremely well. That has been a very worthwhile program. They tell me they reseed almost before the fire has died out, and that is the correct time to do it. I don't know whether that is still the policy. They claim they get fine results.
Mr. Silcock. That is our policy, and we try to reseed in the fall so we take advantage of the fall rains. This gives the seed an opportunity to germinate prior to next spring.
REHABILITATION IN ALASKA
Senator STEVENS. You are not reseeding the 1.1 million acres burned in Alaska!
Mr. TURCOTT. There is very little reseeding done in Alaska, mostly because of the species, native mosses, and the like, which are not adaptable to artificial methods. I think what the chairman is getting at are areas in the great basin, southern Idaho, parts of Utah and Wyoming. There, areas are most adaptable to the reseeding of crested wheat grass. There are other times we use other techniques. We go into intensive management practices. In any particular burn there may be enough native residual species that will survive so that we don't need to reseed. Sometimes we seed for the benefit of wildlife species, crops that are particularly adaptable to wildlife.
Senator STEVENS. Did you rehabilitate the burn in the Moose Range in the Kenai peninsula ?
Mr. Silcock. No, that was another agency. On the Moose Range they primarily knock down the old
snags. Senator STEVENS. That's right, they made moats out of burned trees.
Mr. SILCOCK. It has been our experience, at least from 1966, that many fires burn across fast enough that it doesn't kill the grass. Grass and willows reproduce the next year naturally.
Senator BIBLE. You cite $21.2 million in actual obligations for firefighting in fiscal 1973 through last November 30. With only $5.4 mil
lion available, what is the authority you used for obligating the additional amount?
I have always been a little curious on that. Has anybody ever challenged your right to use it? What do you use in the meantime?
Mr. HASTEY. Under the general provisions of the Interior budget we are allowed to deficit spend. When we run out of total cash in our Bureau, we go to other funds within the department and borrow the amounts needed.
Senator BIBLE. You can do that through the statute under which you operate?
Mr. HastEy. It is included in the general provisions of the Appropriation Act.
Senator BIBLE. There is a section in the Appropriations Act which permits you to do this?
Mr. HASTEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. Hastay. This year we will have to go to the Department and obtain funds from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation on a loan basis to get us through the rest of the year.
Senator BIBLE. You do have the legal authority to do that?
YEARLY SPRING TOTAL ESTIMATE FOR FIREFIGHTING
Senator BIBLE. Your spring firefighting estimate is based on the average for the past 5 years. Please submit the yearly spring totals for the record.
[The information follows:)
SPRING FIREFIGHTING Cost ESTIMATE The projected 1973 spring firefighting estimate is based on an adjusted 5 year average from 1968–1972. Spring costs during this period were as follows:
Actual Fiscal Year:
$1, 178 1969
3, 759 1970
6, 890 1971
2, 213 1972
2, 082 Total
16, 122 The highest and lowest years were deleated and the remaining three years were averaged as shown below:
Senator BIBLE. No further questions on the supplemental features of this bill.
Senator STEVENS. How much of the $21 million is attributable to Alaskan operations?
Mr. TURCOTT. The preliminary estimate for the 1972 Alaskan fire season includes 648 fires, the acreage burned 1.1 million acres, the total number of fires was 136 above a 5 year average. However, the total acreage burned during the 1972 season was 400,000 acres less than the 5-year average. Senator STEVENS. What did you spend up there? Mr. TURCOTT. I will supply that for the record. [The information follows:]
FIRE Cost DISTRIBUTION Of the total $21.2 million in firefighting obligations from July 1, through November 30, 1972:
$14,560,000 was incurred in Alaska. The balance of $6,640,000 was incurred in the conterminous western states.
UNRESTRICTED FIREFIGHTING FUNDS
Senator HATFIELD. As I recall, last year when you were here before this committee, you indicated at that time that you could not predict forest fires or problems relating to fires. Therefore, you would depend upon a supplemental appropriation to cover what needs existed. The implication at that time was that you were not going to be restricted in any way from meeting the problem as it occurred, and that we would then be called upon to finance it after the fact.
Now, I just want to make sure that that is the situation as I understood it last year, and that is why you are here now with this supplemental request?
Mr. SILCOCK. That is true.
Senator HATFIELD. There was no inhibition or restriction at all in meeting those problems as they occurred. You went after them and did the job?
Mr. SILCOCK. Yes, that's correct.
Senator BIBLE. Very well; I have no further questions, and this will complete our hearing on the 1973 supplemental request.
[Whereupon at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 13, the subcommittee was recessed to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]