Ag secretary announces $1 billion to help communities limit wildfire risks
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $1 billion grant program this week to help communities facing wildfire risks.
Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the competitive grants for wildfire protection planning or outreach can be up to $250,000. Associated infrastructure and resilience projects can get grants of up to $10 million.
Vilsack talked at the Western Governors Association meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho about the agency’s wildland firefighting efforts, and how important they are.
“The tragic loss of, again, two brave individuals who are fighting the Moose Fire re-emphasizes the important work that we have to do to try to reduce the risk of wildfire,” he said.
That ongoing fire is near the Idaho/Montana border. The two pilots who died were in a firefighting helicopter.
The wildfire grant program comes on the heels of another agriculture department announcement this week regarding post-fire reforestation. The agency said it would plant more than a billion trees over the next decade to help shore up a four-million-acre reforestation backlog in national forests.
“We recognize the responsibility that once fire has occurred, that it’s our responsibility again to work in partnership with states to begin the process of reforestation, replanting, improving the health of these forests,” Vilsack said at the governors association meeting.
According to the USDA, the Forest Service invested more than $100 million in reforestation this year – more than three times the investment in previous years.
Vilsack outlined several other projects his agency is undertaking, including a $1 billion challenge for agriculture and forestry organizations to propose climate-smart products.
“Over 1,050 applications were submitted, asking and requesting nearly $20 billion of resources from the United States Department of Agriculture. Tremendous interest in this effort,” he said.
“And it’s an opportunity for us to put agriculture and forestry at the front of this effort to combat climate change, to mitigate the consequences of climate [change], and to look for the opportunity side of the challenge we face with a changing climate.”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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