Idaho fire

EastIdahoNews.com file photo

Increasingly destructive Idaho wildfires that the state’s Republican governor blames in part on climate change have resulted in him proposing a budget adding more firefighters and $150 million for future firefighting costs, according to eastidahonews.com.

Gov. Brad Little included the money in his proposed budget unveiled Monday (Jan. 10) to start the 2022 legislative session.

“We talk about this a lot at the Western Governors’ (Association),” said Little, who chairs the group composed of 19 governors and leaders of three U.S. territories. “About the deterioration of the resilience of the forest because of climate change.”

His budget includes a 21% general fund increase of $1.5 million for the Idaho Department of Lands to hire eight fire engine bosses, three fire management officers and more on-the-ground firefighters. The department’s total budget, which also includes a $10 million boost in federal money, would increase by just over 21%, to $80.6 million.

The state agency is responsible for handling fire protection on 9,800 square miles (25,000 square kilometers) of state, federal and private land. It had one of its worst wildfire seasons in 2021 with some 225 square miles (580 square kilometers) burned, six times the 20-year average and costing some $75 million.

The $150 million in Little’s budget recommendation is coming from the state’s $1.9 billion budget surplus. It’s prepaying the state’s next five years of fire suppression costs, which typically average $30 million a year.

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