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Policy Analysis Group Looks at How States Fund Wildfire Suppression

August 25, 2017

A new study completed by the Policy Analysis Group (PAG) in the College of Natural Resources examines wildfire suppression costs incurred by 10 Western states from 2005 to 2015 and compares the states’ various approaches for paying the costs.


The number of large wildfires and acres burned have increased over the past 30 years and are expected to continue rising. Western states could see escalating costs for suppressing wildfire. State obligations for wildfire suppression averaged $1.25 billion annually over the study period, trending upward at 5.2 percent, but were highly variable. States’ obligations averaged less than one-half of a percent of total General Fund revenues, but in extreme fire years exceeded 2 percent in some states.


“Each Western state has a unique funding system for paying its wildfire suppression costs, but they have common elements. This study is an initial step in understanding how different states fund wildfire management and knowing the mechanisms they may use to respond to increased wildfire and cost obligations in the future,” said PAG Director Dennis Becker. The funding mechanisms examined included state general fund appropriations, landowner assessments, assessments on timber harvests, private insurance programs, revenues from unrelated activities, disaster response accounts, and legal action.


Wildland fire suppression responsibilities are shared between state government and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Generally, state government agencies suppress wildfire on mostly privately owned and state-owned lands, and federal agencies suppress wildfire on mostly federally owned lands in the West.

The states examined in the study were Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

The study is titled “State Funding for Wildfire Suppression in the Western U.S.,” and is available for download at

About the Policy Analysis Group

The Idaho Legislature created the Policy Analysis Group (PAG) in 1989 as a way for the University of Idaho to respond quickly to requests for information and analysis about current natural resource issues. The PAG is administered through the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources. As defined in its enabling legislation, the PAG’s formal mission is to provide timely, scientific and objective data and analysis, and analytical and information services on resource and land use questions of general interest to the people of Idaho. Learn more:

Media Contact:
Kim Jackson
Marketing and Communications Manager, College of Natural Resources

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, a research and Extension center in Twin Falls, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to more than 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference and Sun Belt Conference. Learn more: