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USDA Forest Service Invests in Reducing Wildfire Risk to Communities

Missoula, MT- On march 21, 2023 Department of Agriculture Secretary Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is investing nearly 9.5 million dollars in wildfire protection projects across the Region as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program. The CWDG program is designed to assist communities, including Tribal communities, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies and Alaska Native corporations with planning for and mitigating wildfire risks on tribal, state, and privately managed land.

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This funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is a crucial investment to help communities confront the wildfire crisis and reduce wildfire risk on non-federal land. Proposals underwent a competitive selection process that included review panels made up of tribal representatives and state forestry agencies. Guidelines within the law prioritized at-risk communities that have been impacted by a severe disaster, are at a high or very high potential for wildfire hazard and are classified as low income.

“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.”

The following projects were selected for the first round of funding:

MONTANA – Department of Natural Resources and Conservation

Blackfoot Watershed Fire Refugia – $1,683,300 to increase the pace and scale of broadcast burning and fuels reduction thinning on approximately 1,500 acres of non-federal forested land to create communities of fire refugia. This is where fire can pass without destroying homes or infrastructure.
Lincoln County Wildland Urban Interface Communities Wildfire Risk Mitigation Campaign – $5,893,905 for fuels mitigation on approximately 500 acres of private land in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and other high-risk private lands. Education and outreach to residents about addressing wildfire risks.
North Gallatin Front Wildland Urban Interface Mitigation Project – $1,589,160 to mitigate the risk of wildland fire on approximately 1,000 acres in southwestern Montana. Addressing 1,077 households within the 28,944 acres of private land in the WUI.
Treasure County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update and Modernization -$117,648 to update and modernize Treasure County’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

IDAHO – Idaho Firewise Inc.

Idaho County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Education Program Support – $193,844 to provide outreach and education to proposed communities in Idaho. Promote Firewise Communities specifically in communities receiving fuels reduction projects to increase accountability and maintenance.

NORTH DAKOTA – Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Turtle Mountain Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update – $248,924 for planning resulting in the adoption of a plan addressing issues of wildfire response, hazard mitigation, and community preparedness. It will also address issues of smoke readiness and structure protection.
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.

“We are looking forward to working with our partners to implement this important work and reduce the risk of wildfire to our communities” said Leanne Marten, Regional Forester.

The Forest Service will announce another round of funding later in 2023, and additional communities will be able to apply. 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 for mental and physical health services, and funds for housing repair, renovation, and construction.

More information about the funded proposals, as well as announcements about the grant program, is available on the Community Wildfire Defense Grants website.

Grounded in world-class science and technology – and rooted in communities – the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service connects people to nature and each other. As a federal agency in service to the American people, the Forest Service cares for shared natural resources in ways that promote lasting economic, ecological, and social vitality. In doing this, the agency supports nature in sustaining life.

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