The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will jointly establish a new Wildlife Fire Mitigation and Management Commission to tackle the growing issue of wildfires in the US.
The commission, announced on 17 December, will be tasked with ‘recommending federal policies and strategies to more effectively prevent, mitigate, suppress and manage wildland fires, including the rehabilitation of land affected’ by wildfires. This will include delivering a report due to the US Congress on practical policy recommendations one year after its first meeting, as well as outlining a cost strategy for aerial firefighting equipment needs until 2030.
The commission is intended to build on existing anti-wildfire collaborations between the federal agencies such as the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and the White House Wildfire Resilience Interagency Fire Leadership Council. In addition to contributions from federal agencies, the commission will also include representation from state, tribal, county and municipal governments, as well as private industry stakeholders.
Improving national resilience to climate change
The commission fulfils a key provision of the provides Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by US president Joe Biden on 15 November, which includes support for measures to support and improve the resilience of infrastructure.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law calls for a dramatic increase in the scale and pace of wildfire mitigation, restoration, and post-fire recovery work,” said Mike Zupko, Executive Director of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council. “Success can only be accomplished through dedicated partnerships and collaboration. The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission will advance our collective ability to combat the nation’s wildfire crisis and accelerate implementation of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.”
US Fire Administrator Dr Lori Moore Merrell added: “Climate change and increasing development in the wildland urban interface are rapidly changing the complexity and response challenges for the fire service. It is time for us all to recognize that wildland fire is not just a forest or rural problem any longer. Urban and suburban fire departments that had no part in wildland firefighting 30 years ago are now heavily engaged in wildland fire prevention, mitigation, and response.”