Climate change is driving the devastating intersection of extreme heat, drought, and wildland fire danger across the United States, creating wildfires that move with a speed and intensity previously unseen. This has created conditions in which wildfires overwhelm response capabilities, resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses, damage to natural resources, devastation to communities, and the tragic loss of human life.
The combined resources for wildland fire response across the Department of the Interior’s land management agencies — including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service include 15,000 firefighters, more than 500 helicopters, 91 single engine airtankers or SEATs, up to 34 airtankers, 360 pieces of heavy equipment, and more than 1,600 engines.
President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is bringing much-needed support to communities across the country to increase the resilience of lands facing the threat of wildland fires and to better support federal wildland firefighters.
The law includes $1.5 billion for the Department of the Interior to invest in preparedness, fuels management, post-fire restoration, and fire science, including:
- $878 million for hazardous fuels management to protect vulnerable communities from wildfire while preparing natural landscapes for a changing climate. These fuels management strategies include mechanical thinning, precommercial thinning in young stands, timber harvesting, prescribed fire and installation of control locations such as fuel breaks.
- $325 million for post-fire restoration and rehabilitation activities that will mitigate the damaging effects of wildfires and set landscapes on a path towards natural recovery and climate resilience.
- $245 million in investments in wildfire preparedness, including our firefighting workforce and proactive planning on wildland fire response. The law also provides for the purchasing of equipment for early wildfire detection, real-time monitoring, and radios to support interoperability with interagency partners; financial assistance to local communities and Tribes to purchase slip-on tanks; and increases in firefighter pay and other firefighter workforce reforms.
- $10 million to support science and research on wildland fire management issues that mitigate wildfire risk.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s wildland fire resources provide for a more strategic approach to wildland fire management and greater support of wildland firefighters through pay increases and strengthening health and safety resources both on the job and at home. These resources also go directly to long-term fire preparedness, reducing fire risk across states, and working with partners to increase resilience on lands and communities dealing with the threat of wildfire.
By making smart investments in critical infrastructure and wildland fire response, the Department of the Interior is helping lead the Biden-Harris administration’s response to the increasingly complex fire environment.
Paramount to this issue is promoting climate resiliency across landscapes and communities, modernizing the firefighter workforce while creating good jobs, and protecting the safety and long-term wellbeing of our wildland firefighters and incident responders.
We owe the brave women and men on the frontlines the right tools and training they need to protect our communities and our lands from the increasing threat of fire. The Interior Department will continue to leverage our valuable partnerships with state and local governments, Tribes, and the private sector to address and mitigate wildfire risk.