Fire Budget Shrinks As Threats To Forest Health Increase
VICTORIA – With climate change and the ravages of the mountain pine beetle dramatically increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires in B.C.’s forests, it’s inconceivable that the B.C. Liberals have budgeted less to fight forest fires, the New Democrats say.
Projections for the 2010-2011 budget year indicate the Campbell government expects to spend $10 million less on direct fire suppression than they budgeted for this year.
“There’s every reason to believe that we are going to be seeing increased risk of wildfires, not less,” said New Democrat forests critic Norm Macdonald . “It makes no sense that the Campbell government expects to save money on forest fires in the years to come.”
With weeks still remaining in this year’s fire season, the government has spent more than $400 million on direct forest fire suppression. The February budget set out an estimated cost of just under $62 million; the projection for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 budget years drops to just under $52 million.
“This is an extreme fire season to be sure, but planning must take into account the changes happening on the forest floor,” said Macdonald, the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke. “With the state of the forests today, it’s prudent to assume that the new normal for fire seasons will be more intense, and to budget accordingly.”
Making matters worse, the government has put no new money into dealing with the serious forest health problems facing the land base, said Macdonald.
“As we have been saying for years, the pine beetle epidemic is a symbol of the weak state of overall forest health,” said Macdonald, the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke. “The problem is actually much worse than one pest.
“Unless the government commits to looking after the overall health of the forest, we are facing an even greater risk of extreme wildfire seasons. By not putting more money into forest health now, the Campbell Liberals are risking greater costs down the road.”
Tuesday’s budget capped the B.C. Liberals’ summer of deceit. It breaks key commitments to average British Columbians while adding a new tax and hiking their MSP premiums.