Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is investing $197 million in 100 project proposals benefiting 22 states and seven tribes, as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program. Funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program helps communities, tribes, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies and Alaska Native corporations plan for and mitigate wildfire risks as the nation faces an ongoing wildfire crisis.
USDA’s Forest Service worked with states and tribes through an interagency workgroup to develop the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, originally announced in June of 2022. Grant proposals underwent a competitive selection process that included review panels made up of state forestry agencies and tribal representatives.
The 100 grant proposals from 22 states and seven tribes that were impacted or threatened by wildfires were selected in the initial round of funding under the Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program, which makes $1 billion available over five years to assist at-risk communities. The agency used the three priorities outlined in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to narrow down the communities in greatest need. These priorities included communities impacted by severe disaster, those with high or very high wildfire hazard potential or classified as low income.
“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this initial round of investments from the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program is yet another way that the Biden-Harris Administration is taking crucial steps to make communities safer and protect critical infrastructure and natural resources from the threat of destructive wildfires,” said Secretary Vilsack. “These grants will help to ensure that local communities, especially low-income and tribal communities, have the tools they need to keep communities safe, and that we are working together in the right places and at the right scale to confront this crisis.”
“Drought, climate change, increasing development in the wildland urban interface combined with years of excluding natural fire from the ecosystem have led to year-round fire activity and increased the destruction and scale of wildfires,” said Dr. Homer Wilkes, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “These initial investments address wildfire risks on state, private and tribal land, and contribute to the ongoing work under the agency’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy.”
“Projects were selected using a collaborative, inclusive process that engaged tribes and state forestry agencies,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “All projects include at least two of the primary selection criteria mandated in the legislation. And in all cases, these projects are taking critical steps to protect homes, property, businesses, and people’s lives from catastrophic wildfires.”
This initial round of investments will assist communities in developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans, key roadmaps for addressing wildfire risks locally, as well as fund immediate actions to lower the risk of wildfire on non-federal land for communities where a Community Wildfire Protection Plan is already in place.
Plumas County Fire Safe Council, Plumas County Hazardous Fuels Assessment and Implementation
$6,835,975 to provide 2,000 acres of hazardous fuels reduction and conduct an update of the county-wide Hazardous Fuels Assessment. Subsequently initiate implementation of the Assessments recommended as priority projects to reduce wildfire risk to the most vulnerable communities and landscapes.
Feather River Resource Conservation District, Plumas Emergency Forest Restoration
$8,543,433 to provide hazardous fuels reduction and tree planting for ecological restoration over the next five years on 5,000 acres of lands impacted by large fire.
Briceland Volunteer Fire Department, Fire Hazard Reduction Project
$205,251 to create a Fire Hazard Reduction Crew, to conduct roadside clearance and improve fuel breaks along otherwise unmaintained roads. Creating safer routes for emergency response, evacuation, and reducing the chance of roadside ignitions.
Butte County Fire Department, Butte County Fire Defensible Space Inspection Project
$4,900,000 to implement a comprehensive year-round Defensible Space Inspection program that focuses on community outreach and voluntary compliance. Also providing a process to enforce local defensible space and vegetation management regulations for parcels that remain persistently non-compliant.
Butte County Fire Department, Butte County Fire Equipment Acquisition
$1,500,000 to purchase excavator equipment for an 8,000-acre Hazardous Fuel Reduction project.
Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, Chicken Ranch Fuel Mitigation
$315,599 to conduct fuels reduction within their Tribal and adjacent lands. Train Tribal personnel in Cultural and Traditional Fire Management through a partnership with Hoopa Valley Tribal Council. Completing this project allows for the Tribe to self-support regular and ongoing smaller-scale fuels reduction activities on their lands as a planned maintenance activity.
Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Coyote Valley Community Fire Defense Project
$959,648 to restore and maintain landscapes making them resilient to fire related disturbances. Create a fire adapted community to withstand a wildfire without loss of life and property. To responsibly make and implement safe, effective, efficient risk-based wildfire management decisions. A fire mitigation specialist will be hired by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians to lead and coordinate the project. Develop a tribal evacuation plan, conduct outreach, and education.
Del Norte Fire Safe Council, Del Norte Wildfire Resiliency Program
$3,089,552 to create a Hazardous Fuels Reduction crew to perform defensible space work around residences and create shaded fuel breaks. This project will provide training, education, public outreach, and implement a county-wide prescribed burn association with landowners to create Firewise communities.
Fire Safe Council of Siskiyou County, Siskiyou County Home Assessment, Defensible Space and Education Project
$9,997,998 to provide home assessment, defensible space work on approximately 500 homes, hazardous fuels reduction work on 300 acres and public education.
Humboldt County Resource Conservation District, Greater Willow Creek Wildfire Resilience Project
$5,027,427 to implement a suite of area-wide outreach, education, and implementation actions as well as the implementation of nine priority fuels reduction projects encompassing 25 Community Wildfire Protection Plan priority sites.
Kern County Fire Department, Kern County Fire Prescribed Fire Project
$2,225,207 to purchase firing equipment and two transport trailers to support the Kern County Fire Department Prescribed Fire Program. This equipment will be used to provide more efficient logistical support of setting up and performing prescribed burns.
Kern County Fire Department, Prescribed Fire Training Project
$513,533 to provide training and qualifying Kern County Fire Department prescribed fire cadre members. These personnel will be utilized to provide required planning, direction, oversight, and technical expertise when using prescribed fire around Kern County’s high-risk communities.
Kern Fire Safe Council: Be Aware, Be Prepared: Defend Your Space!
$540,210 to fund a project focused on bringing wildfire hazard reduction to the community and the homeowner. Funding will provide a project manager, outreach coordinator, HIZ assessors with training. Also, digital tools to implement and monitor the project along with data collection, fuels reduction, event expenses, supplies and mileage.
Nevada County, Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update
$250,000 to update the Nevada County Community Wildfire Protection Plan thereby providing a scientifically defensible and locally endorsed road map articulating the severity of the hazards that exist. The priority actions must be taken to mitigate the risk for all communities in Nevada County.
Nevada County Resource Conservation District, Prescribed Fire Training for Private Residential Landowners, Nevada County Wildland Urban Interface
$392,542 to provide prescribed fire tools and training to private residents of Nevada County to increase the capacity to carry out prescribed fire treatments.
Mattole Restoration Council, Prosper Ridge Community Wildfire Resilience Project
$2,175,132 to hazardous fuels treatment on 450 acres of land bordering the King Range National Conservation Area. Various treatment methods will be used from prescribed treatment, mechanical and hand thinning.
Resort Improvement District No.1, Shelter Cove Wildfire Resiliency & Community Defense Project
$6,222,500 to provide outreach, coordination, and inspection services and to conduct 1,211 acres of hazardous fuels reduction work over a 5-year period.
Resource Conservation District of Tehama County, Tehama East/Tehama West Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update
$102,040 to update the Community Wildfire Protection Plan for the county over a two-year period, incorporating input from over 60 collaborators and the public. The Tehama East/Tehama West CWPP Update will support local entities efforts to reduce wildfire risk to communities and local resources.
Sierra County Firesafe & Watershed Council, Sierraville Fuels Reduction
$2,114,437 to conduct mechanical treatments on a minimum of 500 acres to connect two landscape-scale fuels reduction and community protection projects adjacent to public lands.
Sierra County, Sierra County Community Wildfire Mitigation Leadership
$203,550 to provide planning and project coordination for all of Sierra County.
Sierra County, Sierra County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update
$51,000 to update the Sierra County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, Community Wildfire Protection Plan
$250,000 to develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for all Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation Tribal properties. This plan will empower the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation to execute several goals including: Restoring and maintaining landscapes, creating a conscious-minded and a fire adapted community. Also planning mitigation measures or actions to reduce wildfire risk, increase efficiency, and effectiveness for wildfire response.
Tuolumne County, Tuolumne County Community Wildfire Defense Project
$10,000,000 to provide defensible space work on approximately 1,290 homes, roadside vegetation management on approximately 23-miles of road, and outreach to create additional Firewise Communities. Including other fire adaptive cohorts within at-risk and low-income communities.
Tuolumne Utilities District, Wildfire Defense Plan
$249,927 to create Community Wildfire Protection Plan that will prioritize management actions for the Tuolumne Utilities District Raw Water Ditch. Including potable water systems for achieving maximum benefits of community wildfire protection and resilience.
City of Ukiah, Ukiah Valley and Mendocino Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project
$7,214,766 this Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project of 200 acres, will conduct 200 defensible space inspections, maintain seven current fuel breaks in shaded and non-shaded areas, perform 125 defensible space projects, and conduct prescribed burns in appropriate areas to restore fire adapted ecosystems. Also, conduct five project assessments to engage the relevant impacted communities to maximize project effectiveness. To increase community fire resiliency in the Ukiah Valley area and throughout Mendocino County over the next five years.
The Watershed Research and Training Center, Hyampom Community Protection Project
$1,322,666 to implement 450 acres of hazardous fuel reduction treatments in strategic and critical private land locations including manual thinning and chipping, hand piling, pile burning, prescribed fire.
The Watershed Research and Training Center, Middle-Trinity Community Protection Project
$3,224,452 to implement 1,144 acres of hazardous fuels reduction treatments to reduce the risk of wildfire in and around Weaverville, Junction City, and Douglas City.
Yuba County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update
$210,646 to update the Yuba Foothills Community Wildfire Protection Plan through community engagement, stakeholder collaboration, and integration of new technologies. This area encompasses local, state, and federal lands near the Tahoe National Forest and Plumas National Forest. The plan is a long-term, large-scale strategic plan for the Yuba County Foothills. It leverages local collaboration to develop and prioritize wildfire prevention, preparedness, and resilience opportunities. While also supporting to protect local communities and watersheds.
Yurok Tribe, Yurok Fire Department, Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update
$250,000 to create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan that identifies critical at-risk communities on the Yurok Indian Reservation. Prioritizing places that are low income, have been impacted by a severe disaster, or have high or very high wildfire hazard potential. Also, protecting sensitive and sacred sites, assist in producing basketry materials, traditional foods, ceremonial regalia, and traditional medicines for the Yurok People. Finally, we recognize our river’s health correlates to our human health, to all flora and fauna species health, and our main food source of salmon and sturgeon. Also, secondarily benefited by increasing water yields and improving our fish health, habitats, and their lifespans.
Federal agencies, states, tribes and local communities are all working together to address the wildfire crisis. The Community Wildfire Defense Grant program will help communities in the wildland urban interface maintain resilient landscapes, create fire-adapted communities and ensure safe, effective wildfire response — all core goals of the unifying National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
The Forest Service will announce another round of funding later in 2023. The number of selected proposals in future rounds will depend on available funding.
Along with establishing the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides an historic $3.5 billion investment in wildfire management through a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms and increasing pay for federal wildland firefighters. This announcement also comes on the heels of the president’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which proposes a permanent pay solution for wildland firefighters, increased capacity, vital health and well-being services, as well as funds for housing improvements.