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Increasing wildland fire threats to communities and ecosystems, combined with rising costs of addressing those threats--trends that GAO and others have reported on for many years--have not abated. On average, the acreage burned annually by wildland fires from 2000 to 2005 was 70 percent greater than the acreage burned annually during the 1990s. Annual appropriations to prepare for and respond to wildland fires have also increased substantially over the past decade, totaling about $3 billion in recent years. The Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and four agencies within the Department of the Interior (Interior) are responsible for responding to wildland fires on federal lands. This testimony summarizes several key actions that federal agencies need to complete or take to strengthen their management of the wildland fire program, including the need to (1) develop a long-term, cohesive strategy to reduce fuels and address wildland fire problems and (2) improve the management of their efforts to contain the costs of preparing for and responding to wildland fires. The testimony is based on several previous GAO reports and testimonies addressing wildland fire issues.

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