The Departments of Agriculture, the Interior and Homeland Security through the Federal Emergency Management Agency are announcing the selection of members to the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.
Established by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and announced in December 2021, the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission will play a key role in recommending ways that federal agencies can better prevent, mitigate, suppress and manage wildland fires. It will also recommend policies and strategies on how to restore the lands affected by wildfire.
The call for nominations for the non-federal members was issued in March. More than 500 applications were received, and 36 non-federal members — 18 primary and 18 alternates — have been selected to serve on the commission. Along with 11 federal members, the commission will be co-chaired by Departments of Agriculture, the Interior and FEMA leadership. Commission members represent federal agencies, Tribes, state and local municipalities, and private entities, as directed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Details on commission members are available at the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission website.
The commission will prepare a report with policy recommendations and submit them to Congress within a year of its first in-person meeting in August. A virtual introductory call is scheduled for this month. The Departments of Agriculture, the Interior and FEMA will provide support and resources to assist the commission with coordination and facilitation of their duties.
The commission’s work will build on existing interagency federal efforts such as the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and the White House Wildfire Resilience Interagency Working Group and will continue to pursue a whole-of-government approach to wildfire risk reduction and resilience. It’s creating comes at an important time as shifting development patterns, land and fire management decisions, and climate change have turned fire “seasons” into fire “years” in which increasingly destructive fires are exceeding available federal firefighting resources.
In addition to establishing the commission, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides historic funding for a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms and building more resilient infrastructure.
This year, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior have allocated an initial $234 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments for wildfire resilience efforts and established a new joint mental wellness program to equip federal wildland firefighters with post-traumatic stress disorder care and address environmental hazards to minimize on-the-job exposure.
These investments support the USDA Forest Service’s “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis” strategy, which aims to treat 20 million acres of national forests and grasslands and 30 million acres of state, local, tribal and private lands over the next 10 years to reduce wildfire risk where it matters most. They also support efforts to implement the Department of the Interior’s “Five-Year Monitoring, Maintenance, and Treatment Plan,” which aligns with the USDA 10-year strategy and provides a roadmap for addressing wildfire risk on Department of the Interior and Tribal lands.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also supports landmark pay increases for federal wildland firefighters, announced on June 21, which aim to bring federal firefighter pay in alignment with their state and local counterparts, while aiding in recruitment and retention of a more permanent and stable wildland firefighting force across the federal government.