Feds Pledge Nearly One Billion Dollars to Curb Western Wildfires

January 19, 2023

The Biden Administration on Thursday was set to announce a pledge of $930 million to aid reducing the threat of wildfires in 10 western states by clearing trees and underbrush from national forests.

It’s part of a 10-year plan by the U.S. Forest Service now entering its second year. The Wildfire Crisis Strategy aims to help protect those communities most vulnerable to devastating wildfires, not only on national forest lands but also other federal, state, Tribal and private lands.

Funding for 2023 is to be provided via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, along with other sources. The $930 million will target an estimated 45 million acres.

In December, an assessment by California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) found that more than 85% of the state’s rural and unincorporated land is now in “high” or “very high” severity zones for wildfire danger, noting the climate crisis as a key cause.

That assessment followed the 117th Congress approving a bill updating an emergency response system that would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop more sophisticated ways of tackling wildfires, made worse by climate change bringing warmer, drier weather out west.

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday that the Biden Administration’s goal is to lower wildfire risks across nearly 80,000 square miles of public and private lands over the next decade. 

That, he noted, could cost up to $50 billion. Given that last year’s climate and infrastructure bills combined only directed about $5 billion toward the wildfire fighting effort, Vilsack conceded, “We need to have a good partner in Congress.”

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