Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Emergency Wildfire Recovery Bill

Washington, D.C.— Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet this week joined Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Representatives John Curtis (R-Utah) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.) in introducing the Making Access to Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act. 

The Making Access to Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act is bipartisan legislation that aims to expedite wildfire and disaster cleanup as well as prevent further disasters such as post fire mudslides from wildfire burn scars. The bill will authorize the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to reimburse landowners and counties for work that has to take place quickly after a wildfire as part of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP). 

“Communities that take steps to mitigate damage in the wake of destructive fires deserve a reliable partner in the federal government. The Emergency Watershed Protection Program is a valuable tool for post-fire recovery in Colorado and throughout the West, but communities often face significant hurdles accessing funding quickly,” said Bennet. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill help relieve some of the burden on local project sponsors and improve the effectiveness of EWP for wildfire recovery.” 

“After seeing the many bureaucratic hurdles communities in Utah and Duchesne counties faced after the wildfires of 2018, Congressman Curtis and I are advocating on behalf of local leaders to streamline the mitigation process,” said Romney. “Our legislation will cut through the red tape that local communities face in the aftermath of wildfires to make it easier for them to recover.”

“After a wildfire disaster, the land is left at its most vulnerable. Rehabilitation and protection efforts must be quickly implemented to guard against further damage, and in most cases, the workload continues to increase as a project waits for the federal government’s approval,” said Curtis. “I am proud to introduce the Making Access To Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act to allow certain watershed rehabilitation work, carried out by a sponsor before the Emergency Watershed Protection project is approved, count toward the sponsor’s required financial contribution to the overall project. This change will allow communities the flexibility that they need to recover from wildfire more quickly without using any additional 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 benefitted greatly from expedited access to resources to protect their homes.” 

The Making Access to Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act will: 

• Direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a list of watershed rehabilitation activities that potential EWP sponsors could carry out prior to project approval.

• Direct the NRCS to establish a procedure for potential EWP sponsors to consult with state NRCS offices about other eligible pre-approval watershed rehabilitation work.

• Ensure that project sponsor funds spent on those activities count towards the program’s required 25% sponsor match.