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US Interior Department announces $79 million toward wildfire mitigation and recovery efforts


WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — The Department of the Interior announced Monday $79 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to support wildland fire management. The funding will expand wildfire detection capabilities, reduce risk from wildfires, help rehabilitate burned areas and enhance radios and other technology used by wildfire incident management teams. 

“With wildfires increasing in frequency and intensity, the Interior Department is improving its preparedness to address wildfires when they occur and restore fire-adapted ecosystems across the nation after they are impacted,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are expanding our capacity and resources to reduce risk from wildfires, detect wildfires early, and help affected areas recover.” 

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department is investing $1.5 billion over five years to better support its wildland firefighting workforce and increase the resilience of communities and lands facing the threat of wildfires. 

The Department is dedicating $57.2 million from Monday’s announcement to help restore landscapes damaged by recent wildfires. This includes $44 million to develop locally adapted seeds and plant materials to revegetate areas that are so severely impacted by wildfires that the lands are unlikely to recover naturally.

The revegetation efforts funded Monday establish a trajectory toward healthy ecosystems. This builds on the Department’s National Native Seed Strategy Keystone Initiative, focused on securing enough native seeds and plants to restore lands and waters. 

Another $11 million will help to reduce the risk of extreme wildfires by accelerating the pace and scale of the Department’s fuels management activities, which reduce excessive vegetation that can fuel wildfires. These projects will include mechanical vegetation removal, chemical treatments of invasive species, and the use of prescribed fire.

The announcement also includes $10.5 million to improve the Interior Department’s preparedness to detect and respond to future wildfires. This includes $10 million to enhance radio communication during wildfire operations — making wildfire responses safer and more effective. This $10 million will also fund more personnel to improve the use of data from remote sensors, such as cameras, smoke monitors, and remote automated weather stations — leading to better wildfire planning and response. 

These wildland fire investments build on more than $780 million previously allocated by Interior under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law since it went into effect in fiscal year 2022.

These critical investments, along with accompanying funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are supporting the nation’s wildland fire workforce, accelerating the pace and scale of fuels management and burned area rehabilitation, and advancing wildland fire science. These investments will promote more accurate wildfire risk assessments and mitigation, faster wildfire identification and strategic responses, and responses that are both safer and more effective. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also created the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, charged with making recommendations to improve federal policies related to the mitigation, suppression and management of wildland fires in the United States. In September, the Commission released a comprehensive report outlining 148 recommendations to improve the nation’s relationship with wildfire. Today’s funding advances some of those recommendations, including expanded use of wildfire detection systems, development of seed capacity, and improved collaboration across organizations and jurisdictions. 

Visit the Department’s interactive map to track funding invested so far from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law across thousands of projects nationwide. 

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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