The US Department of Agriculture has launched a new $1 billion Community Wildfire Defense Grant program. This new, five-year, competitive program, funded by the recently-passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is designed to assist at-risk communities, including Tribal communities, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies and Alaska Native corporations with planning for and mitigating wildfire risks.
The program launch comes at an important time as shifting development patterns, land and fire management decisions, and climate change have turned fire “seasons” into fire “years” with increasingly destructive fires. Applications will be available in the coming days.
Individual grants will fund up to $250,000 to create and update community wildfire protection plans or conduct outreach and education, and up to $10 million for associated infrastructure and resilience projects. Local and Tribal governments are encouraged to conduct planning exercises to assist their communities with wildfire preparedness, response and adaptation efforts. Projects must be completed within five years of the award obligation. The number of projects selected will be determined by available funding, which is $200 million annually.
The new program will also help communities in the wildland urban interface meet the three goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy to maintain resilient landscapes, create fire-adapted communities and improve wildfire response.
“Insight and guidance from the communities most at risk for catastrophic wildfires helps us mitigate those risks more effectively,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “We need a collaborative effort at all levels to ensure the success of this critical national effort.”
In addition, earlier this month, USDA, the Department of the Interior, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, announced appointments for a new Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will assemble policy recommendations on how the agencies can better mitigate, prevent, and respond to wildfire risk. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides an historic $8.25 billion investment for wildfire management, through a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms and landmark pay increases for federal wildland firefighters.
More information and applications are available at the Community Wildfire Defense Grants webpage.