Last week, Congress passed and the President signed the Omnibus Spending Package, which included an increase in forest fire fighting funding for the USDA and the Department of the Interior. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue thanked Congress for the improvement in funding the U.S. Forest Service in their increasingly expensive yearly battles with wildfires. Last year, for instance, the suppression costs were over $2.5 billion, the most expensive year ever.

The funding, starting in fiscal year 2020, will begin at $2.5 billion and will increase by $100 million each year after that until at least 2027.The bill also includes a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions of dollars to rural counties that have a large amount of federal land. That affects many counties in Montana, including Ravalli County.

Secretary Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were at the Lolo Peak Fire last August and talked to personnel on the front firelines. In a news release, Perdue said the approved funding will prevent the Forest Service from having to take funds from prevention programs and recreation programs to to supplement the fire costs.