Firefighters watch a retardant drop on the Peavine Fire in Nevada at sunrise. Photo by Sarah McNeil, BLM.
BY ERIN MCDUFF
By now, you’ve likely seen mention of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law plastered across your favorite news outlets and social media platforms, but did you know that it includes a historic investment in wildland fire management?
Nicknamed BIL, its full name is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. BIL was passed by Congress, and then signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.
The law includes $1.2 trillion to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and railways; expand access to clean drinking water; ensure every American has access to high-speed internet; tackle the climate crisis; advance environmental justice; and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.
The law is a once-in-a-generation investment, but you might be wondering what it has to do with wildfires. As part of the nation’s efforts to address climate change and support resilient, climate-adapted communities, BIL provides a historic $5 billion* for federal wildland fire management efforts over the next five years.
Within the federal government, the Interior and Agriculture departments both administer wildland fire programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service will receive an additional $3.5 billion* through BIL while the Interior Department will receive approximately $1.5 billion for wildland fire management over the next five years. Both departments will coordinate closely to maximize the benefits of these additional investments.
The Interior Department will dramatically expand its efforts to reduce wildfire risk, prepare for and respond to harmful wildfires, and support post-fire recovery, including in communities that have traditionally been overlooked. In 2022 alone, the Interior Department will invest an additional $407 million in wildland fire management.
Over the next five years, the primary investments will include:
The Interior Department will improve ecosystem health and remove fuel for wildfires on additional acreage using an additional $878 million.
With an additional $325 million, the Interior Department will expand burned area restoration activities.
An additional $164 million will enable the Interior Department to improve firefighter classification, compensation, benefits, mental health resources, and training.
Technology and Equipment
With an additional $72 million, the Interior Department will improve the use of technology and equipment to detect and respond to wildfires.
The Interior Department will invest an additional $10 million in the Joint Fire Science Program to identify and fund high-priority fire science research.
The Interior Department, in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, is currently developing plans for the strategic implementation of this historic investment.
We are focused on implementing these significant investments in forest and rangeland restoration, hazardous fuel management, wildfire preparation, and post-wildfire recovery as quickly and efficiently as possible. BIL includes aggressive timelines, which we are prepared to meet, and we will share updates throughout the year as our work progresses.
*Corrected 4/4/2022 to reflect an updated total for the USDA's portion of BIL wildland fire management funding from $3 billion to $3.5 billion.
Erin McDuff is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Wildland Fire.