$50 Billion 'Wildfire Risk Strategy' Targets the Wildland-Urban Interface

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January announced an ambitious, and only partially funded, new plan to reduce wildfire risks for communities around the United States.

2 minute read

January 31, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Wildfire

Max Dunlap / Shutterstock

The Biden administration recently announced a new federal program, with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), to thin forests and reduce wildfire risk on 50 million acres in the United States.

A "Wildfire Risk Strategy" [pdf] announced in January by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would spend an estimated $20 billion over 10 years for work in national forests, in addition to $30 billion for work on other federal, state, tribal, and private lands.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak announced the plan, with the longer title "Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests," with a press release on January 18.

"The strategy outlines the need to significantly increase fuels and forest health treatments to address the escalating crisis of wildfire danger that threatens millions of acres and numerous communities across the United States," according to the press release.

In addition to the new levels of funding, the plan also proposes a change to wildfire prevention strategy by focusing risk mitigation at the wildland-urban interface—specifically what Forest Service scientists have identified as high risk "firesheds, described by the press release as "large, forested landscapes with a high likelihood that an ignition could expose homes, communities, infrastructure and natural resources to wildfire."

As noted in an article by Alyssa Lupkat for the New York Times, the Agriculture Department is proposing to spend $655 million annually on forests for the first five years of the new Wildfire Risk Strategy. "That money would be added to $262 million that the U.S. Forest Service had already allocated to the task for this year," according to Lupkat. With an initial $3 billion from the IIJA, the full $50 billion of spending proposed by the ten-year plan has not yet been allocated.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 in U.S. Department of Agriculture

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