Story by Laurel Morales
Fronteras Desk

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The U.S. Forest Service has had to borrow money from its wildfire prevention programs to put out fires this year. Three Republican senators, including Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain, may want to change that funding model.

The current model for predicting what fire suppression is going to cost isn't keeping pace with the size of potentially catastrophic wildfires.

McCain and two other Western senators want to amend the 2009 FLAME Act to cover suppression costs and to aggressively thin the forests.

"It’s a critical issue because their diverting money from the Forest Service and other agency budgets to fight fires and it’s preventing us from being able to restore the forests to get ahead of this issue. We need to be proactive," said Pat Graham, spokesman for the Nature Conservancy.

He said he'd like to see some of the bill reworked but he's glad it's at the top of the agenda.

Under the proposed amendment, a number of equal to half of the suppression costs must go go to forest thinning.

The bill would also require the Forest Service to treat 7.5 million acres within 15 years under an expedited environmental review process.