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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Forest Service donates $43.2 million

The Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, will receive an additional $43.2 million dollars from the Texas A&M Forest Service.
The Texas A&M Forest Service is a state-run agency created in 1915 with the mission of protecting the state’s forests. After Texas experienced an above-average drought and wildfire season in 2011, Jessica Jackson, communications specialist for the forest service, said the amount of wildfires prompted federal assistance from the Federal Assurance and Mitigation Administration. Jackson said this in turn prompted a surplus of funds, which will now be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund.
“The 2011 fire season was an exceptional year for drought and wildfire so we requested a large amount of money to help cover those costs,” Jackson said. “Once everything was calculated and all of our costs were settled and we used those federal dollars to pay for them, we had that extra $43.2 million left over to give back to the state.”
Jackson said the forest service qualified for federal money because the wildfires were declared natural disasters.
“We get money every year from the state that is appropriated to us to help us pay for costs, and just that year in particular because of all the wildfire activity we asked for more, with some of those fires qualifying for FEMA dollars, which they were declared natural disaster areas,” Jackson said.
Chris Brians, legislative communications for the forest service, said money was allocated by the Texas Legislature from the Rainy Day Fund to the Forest Service and anything not spent would be returned.
“How it works is they had budget authority to spend money out of the Rainy Day Fund, and what happens now is they undertake a process called lapsing and they allow that authority to lapse,” Brians said.
Robby Dewitt, associate agency director of the Texas A&M Forest Service, said legislators have taken measures toward preventing and dealing with the increased wildfires.
“With all the wildfires in recent years, during the last session the legislature did decide to increase funding and positions for our agency,” Dewitt said. “So we are in the process of adding those employees and getting them trained and increasing our capabilities to respond to wildfires.”
Jackson said the additional funding will benefit the agency and the community as a whole.
“With the extra money, we will hire more people, get more equipment and pass more money along to the volunteer fire departments,” Jackson said.

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