DOI announces $138 million to combat wildfires, support habitat restoration

January 17, 2024

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will invest $138 million to support wildfire prevention efforts by modernizing wildland firefighter training and restoring habitats. The funds are part of a five-year, $1.5 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) initiative to combat increased wildland fire hazards caused by extreme heat and drought.

Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior Laura Daniel-Davis announced the financial boost during a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The funding will help reduce the risk of extreme wildfires, rehabilitate burned areas and advance fire science.

Between 1999 and 2020, the western United States saw a 246% increase in structures lost to wildfires, according to a 2023 report by the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. The BIL created the commission in 2021 to make recommendations to Congress for combating the wildfire crisis. 

The funding will provide $12.4 million to modernize fire training and position qualifications. The project will be a part of the Incident Performance and Training Modernization (IPTM) initiative, which is led by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). The NWCG is an organization that enables interagency communication for wildland fire operations. The organization will review and analyze more than 100 wildland fire positions to better support trainees and evaluators.

The DOI will also invest $7.5 million to help restore landscapes that have been damaged beyond the point of natural recovery. For example, a series of Southern Idaho wildfires in 2022 reduced the area’s population of bitterbrush and sagebrush, which decimated elk and deer habitats. BIL funding will help re-seed and plant native vegetation, along with removing invasive species.

The federal investments fall into three main categories. The largest category includes $878 million for hazardous fuels management to protect vulnerable communities from wildfire. The funding will also prepare natural landscapes for a changing climate. Strategies include reducing forest density, harvesting timber, applying controlled burns and creating control locations to reduce fire spreading. 

The DOI will direct $325 million toward restoration and rehabilitation activities in the wake of wildfires. The funding will help mitigate damage, promote natural recovery and increase climate resilience.

Plans call for investing $245 million on wildfire preparedness, including support for the DOI’s firefighting workforce and proactive planning on wildland fire response. The BIL funding will also help buy early wildfire detection equipment, real-time monitoring tools and radios.

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Photo by the U.S. Forest Service- Pacific Northwest Region

Paul Stinson

Paul Stinson has more than 15 years of journalism experience, including a decade covering the legislative and regulatory affairs of Texas, South Africa, and Germany for an affiliate of Bloomberg, L.P. His experience includes covering voting rights and the sectors of environment, energy, labor, healthcare, and taxes. Stinson joined the team in October as a reporter for SPI’s news publications, which include Government Contracting Pipeline, Texas Government Insider, and the newly-launched Government Market News. He is also a Fulbright Scholar to Germany, and an Arthur F. Burns Fellow. He holds a master’s in journalism from Indiana University.   

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