Thursday, February 22, 2024

USDA Forest Service invests $24.9 million in Washington communities to reduce wildfire risk

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Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Dr. Homer Wilkes announced March 21 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is investing $24.9 million in wildfire protection projects across Washington as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program. The CWDG program is designed to assist communities, including Tribal communities, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies and Alaska Native corporations with planning for and mitigating wildfire risks on tribal, state, and privately managed land.

This funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is a crucial investment to help communities confront the wildfire crisis and reduce wildfire risk on non-federal land. Proposals underwent a competitive selection process that included review panels made up of tribal representatives and state forestry agencies. Guidelines within the law prioritized at-risk communities that have been impacted by a severe disaster, are at a high or very high potential for wildfire hazard and are classified as low income.

“Projects were selected using a collaborative, inclusive process that engaged tribes and state forestry agencies,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “All projects include at least two of the primary selection criteria mandated in the legislation. And in all cases, these projects are taking critical steps to protect homes, property, businesses, and people’s lives from catastrophic wildfires.”

In Wenatchee the following local project was selected for first round funding. Wenatchee: $328,036 for the Stemilt-Squilchuck Forest Resilience Project.

This initial round of investments will assist communities in developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans, key roadmaps for addressing wildfire risks locally, as well as fund immediate actions to lower the risk of wildfire on non-federal land for communities where a Community Wildfire Protection Plan is already in place.

“America’s forests, especially here in the West, are in a state of fire emergency,” said Robert Sanchez, Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service. “Wildfires do not recognize boundaries or management jurisdictions. As we continue our wildfire risk reduction work on National Forest lands, these Community Wildfire Defense Grants directly support our overall priority of helping reduce wildfire risk to communities by investing in work across tribal, state, and private lands.”

This first round of funding is a critical down payment that assists at-risk communities in creating resilient landscapes, supporting fire adapted communities and establishing safe and effective wildfire response. Additional funding will be made available by the agency to support more communities in the future and the Forest Service will announce another round of funding later in 2023. The number of selected proposals in future rounds will depend on available funding.

Along with establishing the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic $3.5 billion investment in wildfire management through a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms, and increasing pay for federal wildland firefighters. This announcement also comes on the heels of the president’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which proposes a permanent pay solution for wildland firefighters, increased capacity for mental and physical health services, and funds for housing repair, renovation, and construction.

More information about the funded proposals, as well as announcements about the grant program, is available on the Community Wildfire Defense Grants website: Community Wildfire Defense Grant - Funded Proposals - US Forest Service at usda.gov.

Grounded in world-class science and technology - and rooted in communities - the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service connects people to nature and each other. As a federal agency in service to the American people, the Forest Service cares for shared natural resources in ways that promote lasting economic, ecological, and social vitality. In doing this, the agency supports nature in sustaining life. To learn more about the Forest Service, visit Home, US Forest Service at usda.gov.

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