Make the McKenzie Connection!

$490 million added to wildfire fight

134 high-risk "firesheds" targeted to benefit

WASHINGTON, D.C:"It is no longer a matter of if a wildfire will threaten many western communities in these landscapes, it is a matter of when," according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The need to invest more and to move quickly is apparent," he added in announcing the addition of more than $490 million to 11 key landscapes across the western United States last week. The money has been earmarked for national forest lands, including the restoration "of resilient old-growth forest conditions," Vilsack said.

The Forest Service announced their original 10 landscape project areas last year as part of the agency's broader strategy to protect communities, critical infra-

structure and forest resources from catastrophic wildfires. Combined with those initial landscape allocations, the additional dollars announced in January represent a total USDA investment of $930 million across 45 million acres.

The work will span 134 of the 250 high-risk "firesheds" identified in the agency's Wildfire Crisis Strategy and is targeted at mitigating wildfire risk to around 200 communities in Oregon, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Washington.

"We are building on the investments announced last year and by expanding the Forest Service effort to cover 21 landscapes where communities, critical infrastructure, and our natural resources are most in need of protection from the growing threat of wildfires," said USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE), Dr. Homer Wilkes. "This is part of our agency-wide focus to reduce wildfire risk across the country. We will use every tool we have to address this crisis and make your communities safer."

Vilsack is also directing the Forest Service to use provisions authorized in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to more quickly apply targeted treatments to the high-risk firesheds identified in the Wildfire Crisis Strategy. That directive should open up additional opportunities to pursue science-based reforestation, restoration of old-growth forests, and recovery of other areas impacted by wildfire, he said.

"Doing this work in the right place, at the right time, and at the right scale, combined with the use of emergency authorities, will accelerate our planning, consultation, contracting, hiring, and project work to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health and resilience," said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. "Collaboration with Tribes, communities, and partners will remain a priority, and we will continue to use the best available science when carrying out this important work."

This announcement comes on the anniversary of the launch of the Forest Service's Wildfire Crisis Strategy, which debuted Jan. 18, 2022. A few months later, the agency introduced the initial 10 fire-prone landscapes that are now funded for the next five years through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds. In addition, President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act will commit $1.8 billion to hazardous fuels reduction projects on national forests and grasslands.

Since releasing its Wildfire Crisis Strategy one year ago, the Forest Service and its partners have used the best available science and data to identify the highest-risk landscapes for treatment projects. The Forest Service found that around 80% of the wildfire risk to communities is concentrated in less than 10% of firesheds. These targeted investments focus on firesheds of the highest risk, where projects are ready to begin or to expand.

The 10-year strategy calls for treating up to 20 million acres on national forests and grasslands and up to 30 million acres on other federal, state, Tribal, private, and family lands to assure our forests are more resilient to wildfire and other effects of climate change, safer for communities, and remain key refuges for plants, fish and wildlife.

Over the past 20 years, many states have had record catastrophic wildfires, devastating communities, lives, and livelihoods, and causing billions of dollars in damage. More than 10 million acres – more than twice the size of New Jersey – burned each year across the U.S. in 2020, 2017, and 2015.


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