On Tuesday (January 18th), the Biden Administration announced a 10-year strategy that is aiming to reduce the harm caused by wildfires. The administration wants to use some of the funds from the bipartisan infrastructure for the strategy.
According to the Associated Press, the Biden Administration states that the strategy will use intentional “prescribed “ fires to help main forest health. It will also invest in helping communities adapt to fires. This includes investments in addressing post-fire risks, recovery, and reforestation.
Administration officials further state that the strategy will cost $50 billion. The projects are to begin in 2022 and will focus on regions where out-of-control fires have wiped out neighborhoods and even entire communities. This includes California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains; the east side of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado; and portions of Arizona, Oregon, and Washington state.
Biden administration’s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, also shared with the media outlet, “You’re going to have forest fires. The question is how catastrophic do those fires have to be. The time to act is now if we want to ultimately over time change the trajectory of these fires.”
Vilsack then explained that the infrastructure bill put a down payment on the initiative. This will be around $3 billion over five years. He notably joined Forest Service Chief Randy Moore to announce the plan. “We know from a scientific standpoint precisely where this action has to take place in many of these forests in order to protect communities, in order to protect people.”
Wildlife Experts Weigh In On the Biden’s Administrations Plans Against Wildfires
Wildfire expert John Abatzoglou shared with the Associated Press that lessening fire dangers on the amount of land envisioned under the administration’s plan is a “lofty goal.” It also represents even more acreage than cured over the past decade across the west.
However, Abatzoglou stated that the Biden administration’s focus on wildfire hazards near communities actually makes sense. “Our scorecard for fire should be about lives saved rather than acres that didn’t burn,” he said.
Meanwhile, some environmentalists declare that the government’s plan to use logging to reduce fire damages may actually hurt both the forests; wildlife; and water supplies that depend on them. Adam Rissien of the environmental group, WildEarth Guardians, said, “The U.S. Forest Service simply cannot log its way out of the climate crisis.”
Vilsack did confirm that a combination of tree thinning and intentionally set fires to clear undergrowth, known as prescribed burns, will make the forest healthier in the long run. It will also reduce the threat to public safety. “We know this works. It’s removing some of the timber, in a very scientific and thoughtful way. So that at the end of the day fires don’t continue to hop from treetop to treetop. But eventually, come to the ground where we can put them out.”