National Effort Will Be Supported by $3 Billion from Bennet-Backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Randy Moore’s announcement of their new long-term strategy to address the wildfires affecting the West and make a proactive investment in the health of America’s forests and watersheds.
“I’m glad to see USDA and the Forest Service taking a major step toward addressing the devastating wildfires sweeping the West with this new long-term strategy,” said Bennet. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided a significant down payment to begin this desperately needed effort to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Looking ahead, we need to support USDA’s work by making a sustained, long-term investment in our forests and watersheds, in line with my Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act. I’ll continue to look for any and every opportunity to make that a reality.”
The USDA strategy, titled “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” provides a framework to improve forest and watershed health at the landscape-level – across public and private land – to address the wildfires across the West and protect high-risk communities. The new funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will support this effort and begin to invest in the workforce needed to implement the strategy. Work to implement the strategy will begin in areas identified as highest-risk, including Colorado’s Front Range.
A leader on forestry and conservation issues for over a decade in the U.S. Senate, Bennet has worked to end fire borrowing and provide USFS with the necessary tools and resources to improve forest and watershed health.
In April 2021, Bennet introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act (ORPA) to invest in our forests and watersheds while creating millions of jobs. President Joe Biden endorsed the bill in his American Jobs Plan, and the historic forestry investment in the House-passed Build Back Better Act is modeled after ORPA.
Bennet also led the charge to authorize a number of the key tools USDA will use to implement its strategy including the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Program, the Water Source Protection Program, and the Good Neighbor Authority. Bennet introduced a bipartisan bill and later secured the provision to formally authorize the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership Initiative in the IIJA. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Bennet secured a new authority, the Water Source Protection Program, to support forest health partnerships between the Forest Service and downstream water users. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Bennet led the push to expand Good Neighbor Authority nationwide following a successful pilot program in Colorado.
In September 2017, Bennet introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), which provided the framework for the fire funding fix that Bennet secured in the 2018 Omnibus. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Bennet led the effort to place a greater emphasis on climate and drought and secure new resources for collaborative forest restoration.
Bennet’s work on forestry and conservation is informed and inspired by Coloradans’ experiences and ideas. After Colorado suffered the three worst wildfires in state history in 2020, Bennet convened the Western Climate Resilience Roundtable to develop a collaborative, consensus-driven set of priorities for western climate resilience. In August 2021, he hosted an “Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act” Tour with stops in Denver, Clear Creek, Grand, and Routt counties to highlight the importance of forest and watershed health to economies throughout Colorado.
More details on USDA’s wildfire crisis strategy are available HERE.