Interior Department releases $79 million to support wildfire recovery

April 9, 2024

In recent years, record-setting wildfires have ravaged huge swaths of land in the American West and Southwest.

As part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s efforts to manage wildfire incidents better in the coming years, the agency will invest $79 million in expanding its wildfire detection capabilities, reducing wildfire risk, helping rehabilitate burned areas and improving radios and other technology used by wildfire incident management teams.

From this allocation, Interior will use $57.2 million to help restore landscapes damaged by recent wildfires.

In March 2024, the “Smokehouse Creek” fire burned over 1 million acres in the Texas panhandle region, and a wildfire in summer 2023 on the Hawaiian island of Maui destroyed most of the historic town of Lahaina.

“With wildfires increasing in frequency and intensity, the Interior Department is improving its preparedness to address wildfires when they occur and restore fire-adapted ecosystems across the nation after they are impacted,” Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland said.

As part of this package, $44 million will be allocated to develop locally adapted seeds and plant materials to revegetate areas torched by wildfires and unlikely to recover naturally. This revegetation effort builds on the Interior’s National Native Seed Strategy Keystone Initiative, which is focused on securing enough native seeds and plants to restore lands and waters.

Interior will invest $11 million in fuel management activities to reduce excessive vegetation fueling wildfires by accelerating their pace and scale. These projects will include mechanical vegetation removal, chemical treatments of invasive species and the use of prescribed fire.

Additionally, $10.5 million will be allocated to improve the use of data from remote sensors, such as cameras, smoke monitors, and remote automated weather stations – enabling better wildfire planning and response.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law set aside $1.5 billion for Interior’s wildfire management efforts. Since BIL went into effect in fiscal year 2022, Interior has invested over $780 million for wildland fire management. 

Interior has $878 million for fuel management strategies that include mechanical thinning, precommercial thinning of young stands, timber harvesting, prescribed fire and fuel breaks.  

Post-fire restoration and rehabilitation activities that mitigate the damaging effects of wildfires and natural restoration of landscapes with an emphasis on climate resilience received $325 million.

Wildfire preparedness for the nation’s firefighting workforce, proactive planning activities on wildland fire response, equipment purchases for early wildfire detection, real-time monitoring, and radios to support interoperability with interagency partners, along with financial assistance to local communities and Tribes to purchase slip-on tanks, increased firefighter pay, and other firefighter workforce reforms received $245 million.

The agency also was awarded $10 million to fund research on wildland fire management issues that mitigate wildfire risk. 

Photo by the U.S. Forest Service

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