With wildfires ignited throughout the Southwest, the Biden administration’s Earth Day proclamation on this year focused heavily on the health of forests.
In the fact sheet released for the Presidential Executive Order, the president pledged billions of dollars in Bipartisan Infrastructure Funds to be used to fund forest and land management activities, and the FY 2022 Omnibus provides $5.7 billion for wildland fire management and related risk mitigation and research. Amongst the funding:
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Interior will use $5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for hazardous fuels reduction and other mitigation programs, such as a $1 billion Community Wildfire Defense Grant program and $600 million for firefighter pay—providing about 1,500 additional firefighters.
- USDA has announced $131 million this year for wildfire risk reduction treatments in high-risk landscapes in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
In addition to reducing wildfire risk, the Executive Order envisions the following policies:
- Safeguard mature and old-growth forests on federal lands, as part of a science-based approach to reduce wildfire risk.
- Strengthen reforestation partnerships across the country to support local economies and ensure we retain forest ecosystems and sustainable supplies of forest products for years to come.
- Combat global deforestation to deliver on key COP26 commitments.
- Enlist nature to address the climate crisis with comprehensive efforts to deploy nature-based solutions that reduce emissions and build resilience.
Wildfires Off to An Early Start in the Southwest.
Spurred by intense winds and dry conditions, New Mexico’s governor declared a state of emergency as nearly two dozen wildfires ignited, with two merging in the northern part of the state. The Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff, Arizona, burned over 21,000 acres.