Prayer as an adaptation strategy: Texas plans to cut budget of agency battling record wildfires

Texas lawmakers are set to slash funding for the agency responsible for fighting wildfires in the midst of a historic wildfire season in which some 2.5 million acres have burned.

First an “unprecedented drought” drove a “never-before-seen wildfire situation in Texas” by mid-April.  Then Governor Rick Perry officially proclaimed three “days of prayer for rain” “” starting on Earth day.

Soon after, NOAA reported that April 2011 saw “wildfire activity that scorched more than twice the area of any April this century,” most of it in Texas.  By mid-May, the Weather Channel was calling the southern drought, “truly exceptional.”

So what do Texas legislators do?  They propose cutting funds for firefighters, slashing the Texas Forest Service budget by “almost $34 million in budget cuts over the next two years, roughly a third of the agency’s total budget.”

The National Academy of Sciences says the median annual area burned by wildfires is projected to jump 100% to 500% over much of the West by mid-century.  But we aren’t even ready to deal with what is happening now.

Prayer beats funding adequate levels of firefighting every time, no?

Think Progress has more on this story:

For months, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has berated President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for not giving the state more federal money to combat historic wildfires that have so far burned 2.5 million acres. Despite the fact that the administration has offered 26 different kinds of federal assistance to combat the fires, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) claimed that Obama is waging “a war on Texas.” After months of blaming the President for not doing enough, Reuters reported yesterday that Perry is poised to sign a budget that slashes funding for the state agency that is battling the wildfires.

Republicans control all three branches of government in Texas and are close to an agreement on a budget that makes deep cuts to the Texas Forest Service during an unprecedented and destructive wildfire season [as noted above]:  “Assistance grants [for volunteer fire departments] are likely to take the biggest hit. Volunteers “” two of whom were killed in fighting this year’s fires “” make up nearly 80 percent of the state’s fire-fighting force and are first responders to roughly 90 percent of wildfires in Texas.”

Chris Barron, executive director of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association, says the funding on the chopping block is indispensable. Many volunteer fire departments already have worn-down equipment, and without funding for new equipment, “response times will almost certainly increase.”

Perry’s recent boast that Texas is “a model for the nation in disaster preparedness and response” is especially ironic in light of his approval of cutting Forest Service funds when the agency most needs them. Meanwhile, the governor, who one Texas political columnist notes “has made almost a religion of blasting everything Obama does and doesn’t do,” has accused the president of pursuing a political vendetta against Texas.

“Why are you taking care of Alabama, why are you taking care of other states,” Perry said at a press conference this month, adding, “The letter [requesting federal aid] didn’t get lost in the mail.” Perry carried his public blame game so far that he even refused to meet with the president when he visited Texas last week to deliver an immigration address.

One recent Fort Worth Star Telegram editorial called out Perry for his posturing:  “Their feigned outrage and indignant messages to the White House about recent Texas wildfires and the administration’s refusal to declare practically the entire state a disaster area are acts of political grandstanding rather than true concern for the safety and welfare of fellow Texans.”

Despite the fact that FEMA’s manpower and money have been stretched thin by a series of disasters, they’ve been deeply involved in the effort to fight the Texas fires and have given the state aid that “covers 75 percent of Texas’s costs for emergency response work, such as evacuations, equipment, field camps and meals for firefighters.”

Texas’s budget cuts in the midst of a record wildfire season is yet more evidence of the limitations of “adaptation” as a politically realistic  answer to climate change:

24 Responses to Prayer as an adaptation strategy: Texas plans to cut budget of agency battling record wildfires

  1. paulm says:

    France bakes – food prices to soar….

    “Since mid-January the rainfall has been below normal. April was one of the hottest and driest on record and so far in May I have registered only 3 ml of rain,” Seingier said at his farm which dates from 1860. “Usually it’s 50-60 (ml) a month.”

    The French environment minister said on Monday France was in “a situation of crisis” and on Wednesday imposed curbs on water consumption in a third of France’s administrative departments.

  2. Sou says:

    I find this hard if not impossible to comprehend.

    Do the people living in Texas know about the cuts to the budget and all the money Texas has received from the Federal Government, and if not, why not. (Is there no press, radio or television – or journalists?)

    And if Texans do know what is happening, how can the legislators get away with what they are doing?

    I really do not understand how such a circumstance can be.

    PS My heart goes out to all Texans. Our town has survived three huge major fires this past decade (more than in at least 50 years prior), and know fire victims (friends and family). Volunteers are key in this part of the world also.

  3. Dano says:

    If it weren’t so sad, I’d LOL. Maybe they just want folk to move out of state.

    Nonetheless, the Wrecking Crew is practicing Disaster Capitalism. Nothing new.



  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Recent events in Texas are proof that God exists, since He started more fires after listening to prayers led by such a loathsome and phony politician.

    Here’s a good review of a book about Paddy Chayevsky who, along with McLuhan, predicted leaders who don’t care about truth of any kind:

    The photo shows conifers burning. Out here on the West Coast, fires are part of a natural cycle, and are needed for healthy forests. Is this also the case in Texas?

  5. Peter M says:

    Texas, will face a hellish future. It seems incredible at a time when many regions of the USA face a precarious future due to climate change, they are reducing programs that would help those affected.

    Seems like a confluence of immense change meeting with those still living in the past. It equals disaster.

  6. Gary says:

    Easy to comprehend… market capitalism!….privatize fire
    fighting..hand it over to “blackwater” or whatever it is called now..bust
    public unions…that is the purpose!

  7. Adam R. says:

    Do the people living in Texas know about the cuts to the budget and all the money Texas has received from the Federal Government, and if not, why not.

    The majority don’t because they choose not to. The isolated outposts of the reality-based community in Texas have a clue, but they’re sadly outnumbered by vast, benighted legions of talk radio zombies.

    (Is there no press, radio or television – or journalists?)

  8. Neal J. King says:

    It seems like the entire state of Texas is trying to earn the Darwin award, which “commemorates those who assist natural selection by removing themselves from the gene pool… Darwin Awards are given to honor those who do their best to ensure that the next generation is smarter–by one. These heroes sacrifice their very lives to give our children a better future… ”

  9. ToddInNorway says:

    Texas is an extreme case of a deep social trend across the USA, and that is the “haves” turning their backs completely on the “have nots”. Rich people will simply send their kids to private schools, get all their medical care at private hospitals and organize their local communities as walled-in protectorates with private security and yes fire brigades. The rich will continue to buy political influence to keep their taxes low. Too bad most of them still have to drive into “the real world” and see homeless, the working poor and the vast majority of Americans living from one marginal paycheck to the next. My only hope is that when the reality hits the 70% of Americans on the short end of this stick, is that they will elect representatives who make peaceful and meaningful change. The alternative is mayhem, marching in the streets, violent protests and out-and-out uprisings. It can´t happen the USA? Are we so sure?

  10. Peter M says:


    So true. What can I say more? Gated communities and Private schools will not survive the coming climate catastrophe- except till their food and water runs out.

  11. Ed Hummel says:

    ToddinNorway, The US has a long history of the masses getting fed up with the establishment and resorting to violent actions (Boston Massacre, Shay’s Rebellion, Civil War draft riots, Pullman strike, Watts, Detroit, Newark, etc.). If the rich elites think they’re safe in their enclaves, they don’t know US history or what desperate people are eventually capable of, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  12. Fighting wildfires in the backcountry has done more harm than good, mostly “protecting” timber so that it can be logged for future corporate profits.

  13. George Ennis says:

    So it seems Texas wants to cut its state funding for fire fighting while at the same time trying to block any federal regulations which might deal with the underlying causes while at the same time demanding a cut in federal programs but an increase in those that favor Texas.

    Wow. What is even more impressive is that the Governor can hide his policy of inaction on climate change adaptation behind the fig leaf of a 3 day call for prayer.

  14. Zetetic says:

    @ Sou #2:
    I know that it’s hard to comprehend but many Republicans live in a “reality bubble” that is completely divorced from reality. As far as they are concerned, unless it comes form Republican sources (such as Fox News or World Net Daily) it either doesn’t exist or isn’t true.

    Perhaps this might help you understand their insanity….
    Rachel Maddow Explores Right Wing Lying Echo Chamber
    Yes, it’s gotten that bad.

    This is why Perry can plan on spending $25 million on Formula 1 racing, cut the fire dept by $34 million, deny climate change, and deny federal assistance for fire aid yet still blame it on Obama having a “vendetta” against Texas. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot by being careless and stupid, and then blaming the doctor for the pain and injury rather than admit your error.

    @ ToddInNorway #9:
    Well said.

  15. Jeffrey Davis says:

    What do you need a Forest Service for after your forests have burned down?

  16. Tim says:

    Perry the seccessionist has a plan for dealing with wildfires: ask for Federal assistance.

  17. Enflamed says:

    If Perry really believes in prayer, he’s preparing his path to his afterlife.

  18. sydb says:

    I think the poor of the world should pay Texas’ fire fighting bills. It’s simply outrageous to expect Texans to pay for the consequences of their own greed! The world’s poor are the one’s who’ll bear the brunt of the climate disaster, so why not have them pay the lot?

    If I were an observer from Mars, new to this world, I would think this was a satire site. Unfortunately, I know better…

  19. Mimikatz says:

    Hasn’t Rick Perry heard that heaven helps those who help themselves?

    Oh–he did but he thought it meant “help themselves to whatever there is regardless of anyone else.”

    Today’s GOP in a nutshell.

  20. Snapple says:

    Texas could learn from the Russian fires. They should also consider the old adage that “God helps those who help themselves.”

    Russian environmentalists claim that miserly government policies contributed to the destructiveness of the summer wildfires. Russian Greenpeace published an article titled “A Miser Pays Twice” (8-10-10) after the Russian proverb скупой платит дважды, the Russian equivalent of penny-wise pound-foolish.

    It was interesting to read Russia’s official press agency RIA Novosti quote NASA about the location of fires in Russia. NASA has an office in Russia, and maybe NASA satellites and scientists helped the Russians locate some of those more than 500 wildfires in their huge country. RIA Novosti reported that the smoke was so thick that saltellites could not always see the fires.

    The government turned over fire-fighting to business like logging companies, and it was a disaster. Communism may be finished in Russia, but that does not mean that there is no federal role for fighting wildfires. According to the British newspaper The Financial Times (8-7-10):

    Criticism is mounting of the [Russian] authorities handling of the wildfires. At least 52 people have perished, while the death rate in Moscow and other regions was reportedly surging due to the effects of smog.

    A new Forest Code rubber-stamped by parliament under Vladimir Putin, then Russian president, in 2006 has come under intense criticism for dismantling a federal safety system, transferring responsibility for safety to regional authorities and tenants such as logging companies, which have performed badly.

    Vladimir Chuprov of Moscow’s Greenpeace office said Mr Putin’s reform had left 70,000 forest guards without work, dismantling a monitoring system that would have been of great help in the current situation. “Now no one even knows exactly where the fires are,” he said. “The 120,000 men from the emergency ministry sent to fight the fires don’t even know how to fight forest fires because they are trained only in fighting fires in cities and industrial objects.”

  21. Andy says:

    ToddInNorway states “Texas is an extreme case of a deep social trend across the USA, and that is the “haves” turning their backs completely on the “have nots”. Rich people will simply send their kids to private schools, get all their medical care at private hospitals and organize their local communities as walled-in protectorates with private security and yes fire brigades. The rich will continue to buy political influence to keep their taxes low.”

    Wow, you pegged it perfectly. I see this everyday here in Texas. I do think there will be a revolution of young and latino voters, if they aren’t outlawed from voting. One of the emergency measures that Rick Perry saw passed prevents students from using their photo IDs to vote. The county judge west of here prevented students at a “historically” black (it’s still all black) university (yes, they still have segragated universities here in Texas) from voting for years by saying they weren’t residents.

    That sort of thing can only go on for so long. I can see the day federal troops have to move into Texas again to keep the peace.

    At any rate, Texas is sitting on a 6 billion dollar rainy day fund. I guess things aren’t that bad. Perry (governor good hair) wants to save this money to provide his business friends with cash when they can’t get private financing.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Snapple, I read a story, by Boris Kagarlitsky I think, where he said that on satellite imagery the Russian fires of 2010 were halted abruptly, at the Belarus border, because Belarus had kept intact the Soviet era fire-fighting system, and had not privatised its forests, as Russia had. In a typical example of capitalist neglect, greed and inefficiency, the new private owners in Russia had abolished fire-fighting practises, not maintained forest trails, save where useful for brutally extractive logging, and had shut local communities out of their traditional roles. Yet another avoidable disaster, courtesy of ‘the magic of the Market’.

  23. MItch says:

    Our esteemed governor, Perry, is the type example of the ‘welfare queen’ that Ronald Reagan made famous. He is living on the dole, whining about how little aid he is getting from the feds, and then taking the state money to hand out in tax breaks (buying beer rather than food).

    You should also realize that Texas is a large state, so don’t blame all Texans for Rick Perry. Not enough of us voted against this disaster of a governor. He is the poster child for term limits.

  24. a face in the clouds says:

    In answer to questions about the presence of a press in Texas, we have a journalism protection racket instead. It began to consolidate power prior to Dubya’s rise to governor two decades ago. The results are apparent.

    The current session of the state legislature has been surreal and lurid. The stock photos of Governor Perry you see in the press bear little resemblance to what has become an odd-looking character.