Climate change is making wildfires worse, both in terms of when they happen and how bad they are when they get started. Shifting rain patterns, drought, dry air, and dry lightning all make for nasty conditions.
The Biden administration is committed to mitigating the effects of climate change and helping communities defend themselves against increasingly intense wildfires. So, in a recent press release they announced $1 billion in Community Wildfire Defense Grants from the bipartisan American Jobs Plan infrastructure law. The new, 5-year, competitive program announced by President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is meant to assist at-risk communities, particularly Tribal communities, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies, and Alaska Native corporations in preparing for and reducing wildfire risks.
“These investments are crucial to tackling the wildfire crisis, climate change and public safety,” said Secretary Vilsack. “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is giving us new resources and tools to invest in communities in the areas where they live and the forests they value.”
Grants of up to $250,000 will be available to develop and update community wildfire protection plans, as well as conduct outreach and education. Local and tribal governments are invited to conduct planning exercises to assist their communities prepare for, respond to, and adapt to wildfires. Projects must be completed within five years of the start date. The amount of projects selected will be determined by current funding, which is $200 million per year.
The Community Wildfire Defense Grant program is based on a bill introduced by Vice President Harris in the Senate. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included language to ensure that the program prioritizes areas with a high or very high wildfire danger potential, are low-income communities, or have been impacted by a significant calamity.
The news comes at a critical moment, as development trends, land and fire management choices, and climate change have turned “fire seasons” into “fire years” with increasingly devastating fires. Applications will be accessible in the coming days. During his keynote speech at the Western Governors’ Association’s 2022 annual meeting, Secretary Vilsack announced the program’s launch.
“This is about resilience,” said Secretary Vilsack. “It’s about giving communities the resources they need to prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. It’s about saving lives, property, and livelihoods. And it’s about jobs — good-paying, middle-class jobs in communities across the country.”
The White House Wildfire Interagency Working Group is a whole-of-government approach to dealing with wildfires, and agencies are coming together to align and promote funding possibilities and resources. The agencies will also collaborate on a new framework for managed wildfire risks, which is expected to be released in 2020. In addition, earlier this month, USDA, the Department of the Interior, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced appointments for a new Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act provides $8.25 billion in wildfire management funding, through a range of programs aimed at lowering fire risks, detecting fires, and implementing firefighter workforce changes.
It’s great to see these sorts of efforts, especially when it comes to mitigation. The better we can not just prepare for fires, but keep them from harming people and property, the better.
Featured image provided by US Forest Service.
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