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:
- “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery: Rhetorical adaptation, however, is a political winner. Too bad it means preventable suffering for billions.”
- Conservatives oppose adaptation, too: Sen. John Barrasso continued his campaign to stop the Obama administration from incorporating climate change into federal plans and policies, taking aim at an interagency report released in October that proposed ways for the federal government to respond to increased frequency of severe weather events and other effects of global warming”¦.
- Triage: Record floods cause Army Corps to blow up levee, inundate 130,000 acres of farmland to save small town
- Bolivia: Where adaptation equals abandonment