Biden-Harris Administration Pledges $500 Million to Combat Wildfire Crisis, Bolsters National Climate Resilience

WildfireImage via Pixabay

SAN DIEGO, CA — Amid escalating concerns about the nation’s wildfire crisis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced a $500 million investment from the Biden-Harris Administration to expand the USDA Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy. The strategy aims to mitigate risks to communities, critical infrastructure, and natural resources. This move reflects the growing recognition of wildfires as a significant national threat, exacerbated by climate change.

This substantial funding bolsters the comprehensive wildfire strategy to a record $2.4 billion, thanks to additional support from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The announcement also propels the Administration’s National Climate Resilience Framework, which seeks to expedite and broaden resilience strategies that are nationally comprehensive, locally tailored, and community-driven.

“As climate change exacerbates the challenges our communities, forests and infrastructure face from catastrophic wildfires, our answer to those challenges have to match the scale of the threat,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We have already made progress, but there is still much to be done.”

The majority of these funds, around $400 million, will be funneled into ongoing efforts on the 21 designated priority landscapes identified in the strategy. This allocation raises the total investment in these landscapes to $1.6 billion. The remaining $100 million will be assigned under a newly established program by the Forest Service – the Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program. This program will extend work beyond these landscapes, focusing on high-risk wildfire zones outside the 21 priority areas.

Inspired by successful initiatives like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, this new program will expand work in areas known as the Wildland-Urban Interface. These are high-risk wildfire regions where national forests and grasslands meet homes and communities. The program will use hazardous fuels funds from the Inflation Reduction Act to treat these areas.

The Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program encourages national forests to work in tandem with Tribes, communities, and partners in 24 qualifying states. This collaborative approach aims to build local capacity for projects designed to reduce wildfire risk and enhance forest health. The ultimate goal is to safeguard communities, infrastructure, water quality, and adjacent landowners.

Details on qualifying states and the criteria for eligible areas and projects have been made available on the program’s webpage.

This wildfire strategy of the Biden-Harris Administration aims to address the growing threat of wildfires and the broader impacts of climate change. By investing heavily in prevention and mitigation efforts, the administration is taking significant strides to protect American communities and natural resources. This initiative not only addresses immediate concerns but also lays the groundwork for long-term resilience in the face of an increasingly volatile climate.

As the nation grapples with the escalating wildfire crisis, these measures offer hope for a more resilient future. The investment underscores the urgent need for collective action to address this existential threat, signaling a new era of proactive, comprehensive, and collaborative strategies to combat wildfires and bolster national climate resilience.

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