COOS BAY — Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is calling for an investigation into the Interior Departments suspected misuse of federal wildfire preparedness funding.
Wyden’s suspicion in this matter stems from a Newsweek article published on Dec. 29, 2017. The article reported on files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that suggest the Department of the Interior misused funds appropriated to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, to pay Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s unrelated travel in late July 2017.
“Amidst the most expensive wildfire season in history, it is unequivocally intolerable that the Interior Department could be wasting scarce taxpayer resources that are meant to save lives,” Wyden said.
The trip in question is a helicopter flight Zinke took on July 30, 2017. According to the Newsweek article they obtained internal emails that suggested the cost of the Zinke's helicopter trip was split between the Bureau of Land Management and the National Interagency Fire Center, even though Zinke did not visit any fire zones that day.
“As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee tasked with oversight of Interior Department activities, I ask that you audit any expenditures from the preparedness subaccount of the Department of the Interior’s Wildland Fire Management Account since Secretary Zinke was confirmed,” Wyden said.
The Department of the Interior could not be reached for comment on this allegation.