Newly appointed U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was flanked by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as she was briefed by fire managers at the Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center Monday.
And the message was bleak.
Due to federal cuts recently approved by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Forest Service has nearly 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer engines, just as a long, hot summer is about to visit Western U.S. States.
"As regions across the country face serious risks of wildfires this season, the work ongoing at [NIFC] is important to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to protect lives, communities and our natural resources," said Jewell. "One of our greatest strengths in wildfire management is that Federal, Tribal, State, and local government agencies recognize that the challenge is too great for any one organization to tackle on its own."
Idaho U.S. Senator Jim Risch joined the two cabinet secretaries on their tour of NIFC Monday, but it was no secret that Risch had voted for across-the-board federal cuts.
"We've got to accept the fact there is not going to be the federal funding like there was before," said Risch, who promised to be a part of a coalition just in case wildfires demanded emergency funding.