Bennet, Romney, Curtis, Garamendi Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Emergency Wildfire Cleanup Bill

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and U.S. Representatives John Curtis (R-Utah) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Making Access to Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act. This legislation, S.110, which was first introduced last Congress, will expedite wildfire recovery, save taxpayers money, and prevent further disasters. The MATCH Act will be referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry where Bennet chairs the Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources. 

“Last year, Colorado faced the three largest wildfires in our history. When communities in Colorado and across the West are knocked off their feet by devastating wildfires, they need a steadfast partner in Washington,” said Bennet. “The Emergency Watershed Protection Program is an essential resource for post-fire recovery, but often Coloradans face challenges with local match requirements and delays in project approval. The bipartisan MATCH Act would remove hurdles to securing funding and help communities act quickly to mitigate damage and protect their watersheds and infrastructure."

“After seeing the many bureaucratic hurdles communities in Utah and Duchesne counties faced after the wildfires of 2018, Congressman Curtis and I saw a need to streamline the mitigation process,” said Romney. “With more than 126 wildfires burning more than 6,200 acres of land, Utah’s 2021 fire season has already surpassed the five-year average for this time of year. We are proud to continue advocating for leaders in our state by reintroducing this legislation, which would cut through the red tape that local communities face in the aftermath of wildfires to make it easier for them to recover.”       

“As Utahns know, the impacts of a wildfire do not end when the fire is put out. Without quick action to rehabilitate and restore the land, it is left open to additional damage,” said Curtis. “While federal cleanup programs have been a significant recovery tool, administrative delays and backlogs too often lead to extra work and unnecessary cost overruns. Communities need the flexibility to begin cleanup activities as soon as possible. To that end, I am proud to introduce the MATCH Act which will allow communities to begin certain rehabilitation activities immediately following a disaster while saving local funds and taxpayer dollars.” 

“California is experiencing historically devastating wildfires with regularity and a year-long wildfire season. We must take forward-thinking steps to recover from wildfires as quickly as possible to support our communities. The MATCH Act takes critical steps to prioritize wildfire prevention and recovery, and I am proud to support this legislation,” said Garamendi.

“The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners appreciates this effort to correct a flaw in the Emergency Watershed Protection program that delays the critical work needed to protect life and property in the wake of flooding and debris flow,” said La Plata County Manager Chuck Stevens. “The property owners who were affected by the post-416 Fire flooding events in 2018 would have benefited greatly from expedited access to resources to protect their homes.” 

“The City of Greeley enthusiastically and comprehensively supports the legislation known as Making Access to Cleanup Happen Act (MATCH),” said Greeley Mayor John Gates. "The MATCH Act provides fire recovery sponsors, like Greeley and Coalition for Poudre River Watershed, with critical authorization to take timely recovery actions and meet urgent needs before formal Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) project approvals are in place. For our local communities and environmental stakeholders, the ability to act quickly and effectively mitigate further damages is imperative, and the MATCH Act will allow communities to move quickly, and more easily meet the local match requirements following a wildfire.”

The MATCH Act will:

  • Direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a list of watershed rehabilitation activities for potential Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program sponsors to carry out prior to project approval. 
  • Direct the NRCS to establish a procedure for potential EWP sponsors to consult with state NRCS offices about additional pre-approval watershed rehabilitation work. 
  • Ensure that those activities count towards the program’s required 25% sponsor match.

Bennet and Romney have a history of working together in a bipartisan manner to improve wildfire recovery. In November 2019, the senators asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the EWP program. In December 2019, the GAO accepted their request and is currently reviewing the program. 

Bennet has continued to push for increased EWP funding to help Colorado communities recover from wildfires, most recently in a March letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack urging the Department to support wildfire recovery efforts in Colorado.