The Alabama Forestry Commission will soon have more funding to fight wildfires thanks to legislation approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives.
SB 231 by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, passed 96-2 and now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey, who is expected to sign it into law. The measure increases the annual appropriation for the Emergency Forest Fire, Insect and Disease Fund (EFF) from $180,000 to $250,000 and increases the cap for the fund from $1 million to $2 million. Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, sponsored the companion bill in the House.
State Forester Rick Oates said the additional funding will help protect Alabama’s 23 million acres of forestland.
“SB 231 will allow us to be better prepared in the event of a bad fire season like we had in 2016,” Oates said. “Knowing we will have additional money set aside in the EFF helps us rest a little easier. We are glad the Legislature understands the importance of being ready to fight wild fires. I appreciate the Farmers Federation’s support to help get this bill passed.”
The Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) estimates wildfires in fall 2016 cost the state an additional $1.5 million in man-hours and equipment costs. Last year, AFC reported more than 2,000 locations around the state with pine beetle damage, up from 700 the previous year.