Energy & Environment

Biden administration announces nearly $200 million for wildfire resilience

FILE – Residents fight the Marshall Fire in Louisville, Colo., Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. A wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,100 homes and businesses in suburban Denver last winter caused more than $2 billion in total financial losses — by far the costliest in Colorado history, the state insurance commissioner says. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP, File)

The Biden administration on Monday announced a new award of $197 million toward wildfire resilience through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funds.

On a call with reporters Monday, Vice President Harris, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said the funding would aid in 100 specific resilience efforts for communities in 22 states. Resilience activities covered by the funding include strengthening community wildfire plans or existing resilience activities like brush removal.

“We used to talk about wildfire season — now wildfire season is all year round,” Harris said on the call. “Over the past 30 years, in fact, the number of acres burned per year by wildfire has more than doubled. And this is in large part the result of the climate crisis.”

The vice president specifically cited the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newly-release climate report, which indicated the window to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius “has nearly closed.” Last year saw nearly 70,000 fires across about 7.5 million acres nationwide.

The Interior Department issued about $50 million Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds last week for wildfire management, in addition to $228 million in allocated funding for fiscal 2023.

The BIL established the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, a $1 billion initiative aimed at building wildfire resilience. Another funding award is set to be announced later this year, with the specific number of grants to be determined based on how much funding is available, according to the Agriculture Department.

“The Community Wildfire Defense Grant program assists local communities who are at the highest risk and who have limited resources in planning for and mitigating wildfire risk,” Vilsack said.

“These investments will assist local communities, especially low income and tribal communities, to develop a community wildfire protection plan, and this will be a roadmap to lowering wildfire risk.”

Tags Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Climate change Joe Biden Kamala Harris Mitch Landrieu Tom Vilsack Tom Vilsack

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