The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDFFP), under the policy direction of the Board of Forestry, provides fire protection services directly or through contracts for timberlands, rangelands, and brushlands owned privately or by state or local agencies. In addition, CDFFP (1) regulates timber harvesting on forestland owned privately or by the state, and (2) provides a variety of resource management services for owners of forestlands, rangelands, and brushlands.
The budget requests $533.8 million for total departmental expenditures in 2000-01, a decrease of about $90 million (or 15 percent) below estimated current-year expenditures. Most of this decrease reflects higher expenditures for fire suppression activities during the current year than estimated for the budget year.
The General Fund would provide the bulk of CDFFP's funding$379.5 million. The remaining funding would come from federal funds and reimbursements ($128 million), the Forest Resources Improvement Fund ($19.3 million), and various other state funds.
Major budget proposals include: (1) $35 million to augment the fire emergency fund, (2) $1.7 million for three information
technology projects, (3) $2.4 million for projects to improve the state forest system, and
(4) $1.3 million to conduct assessments of North Coast watersheds.
The budget requests $55 million specifically for emergency fire suppression. This amount represents a more realistic projection of the likely costs of emergency firefighting in 2000-01 than that provided in previous years, and reduces the likelihood that the department will require a large deficiency appropriation for emergency fire suppression.
The budget requests $55 million for the department to suppress emergency wildfires in 2000-01. This is an increase of $35 million above current-year funding. However, unlike prior practice, the budget does not propose authority for the Department of Finance to allocate money to the department from the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties for emergency fire suppression should additional funds be needed during the budget year.
Department Incurs High Annual Costs for Emergency Fire Suppression. The CDFFP incurs emergency fire suppression costs when it responds to large wildland fires or keeps field staff and equipment at full strength during times of high fire activity. Although annual costs to suppress wildland fires fluctuate, they represent a significant demand on General Fund resources. From 1991-92 through 1999-2000, for example, the average annual cost of emergency fire suppression was about $55 million. The state has experienced an exceptionally large number of fires and acreage destroyed in the current year. Estimated expenditures on emergency fire suppression in this year are estimated to total $92 million, or about $37 million more than the ten-year average.
Past Budgets Consistently Underbudgeted for Emergency Fire Costs. Funding provided in the budget act has often been inadequate in the past to meet the high costs of emergency fire suppression. In recent years, the budget act has allocated $20 million to the department for these costs. In addition, the budget act has authorized the Department of Finance to allocate up to $10 million from the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties for emergency fire suppression. If $30 million is inadequate, the department must then seek additional funding through a deficiency appropriation. Such deficiencies often cause the department to experience cash flow difficulties.
Budget Proposal More in Line With Recent Costs. The $55 million requested for 2000-01 represents a more realistic projection of the costs of emergency fire suppression than in previous years. This level of funding reduces the likelihood that the department will require a large deficiency appropriation to fund emergency fire suppression, as in past years.