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Harder Leads Push for Historic Investment in Wildfire Prevention and Firefighter Workforce

WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) led his colleagues in pushing for a historic investment in wildfire fighting and protection in this year’s appropriations bills. The new letter reflects the need for drastic increases in funds to prevent and fight wildfires in California and across the West. California alone has seen more than twice as many acres burn in the first six months of this year as it saw last year, which experts largely regard as the worst wildfire year in state history. 

“We need to treat this wildfire season like the emergency it is, and that starts with getting our firefighters the resources they need to keep our families safe,” said Rep. Harder. “Funding across-the-board programs now like hazardous fuel reduction, suppression operations, and firefighter recruiting and retention is infinitely better than paying for damages when out of control fires crush our communities. It’s time our budget reflected that reality.”

Rep. Harder’s letter pushes for strong, across-the-board funding for wildfire programs and research, hazardous fuels reduction, suppression operations, and language to address firefighting workforce challenges. The letter was also led by Reps. Lofgren, Perlmutter, Bonamici, Panetta and signed by Reps. Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Correa, Costa, Crow, DeFazio, DeGette, Delbene, DeSaulnier, Eshoo, Garamendi, Huffman, Jacobs, Jayapal, Khanna, Lee, Leger Fernandez, Levin, Leiu, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Neguse, O’Halleran, Peters, Porter, Sanchez, Schiff, Schrier, Sherman, Speier, Strickland, Swalwell, Takano, Thompson, Titus, Vargas and Waters.

Read the full letter below and online here:

Dear Chairwoman DeLauro and Ranking Member Granger:

We appreciate you and the staff’s continued work on the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) appropriations bills and the strong provisions across the subcommittees on wildfire and climate change related activities.  As you enter the final stages of your work, we write in strong support of President Biden’s recent proposal to build a more responsive and resilient wildland firefighting workforce, improve wildfire response capabilities, utilize data and technology to protect communities, and reduce the risk of wildfires through hazardous fuels management and mitigation investments.

As Members representing western states that continue to contend with the reality of increasingly large wildfires and nearly year-long fire seasons, these are issues that we have been working to address for years.  The cycle of extreme heat and drought made the last fire season a historic disaster.  This year is already on track to be worse with fifty large fires already having burned more than half a million acres across 15 states.  We are grateful to finally have a partner in the White House who understands the need for robust investment in wildfire preparedness and risk mitigation efforts at the federal level.

Specifically, we support the funding levels provided for the U.S. Forest Service’s Hazardous Fuels Treatment program, the Department of Interior and Forest Service wildfire suppression activities, and the Wildfire Suppression Operations Reserve Fund account, and request dedicated funding for wildfire science across the federal science agencies, and language to provide long term fixes to federal firefighting workforce challenges.  While funding allocated in the current bill will be crucial, given the scale of the backlog, we ask that a future infrastructure package include additional resources for hazardous fuels mitigation.

As climate change all but ensures an ever-expanding fire season in the years to come, we must begin to adapt our federal resources to better align with needs on the ground.  It is time for the federal government to start treating wildfires more like other major disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods by supporting more than just traditional disaster relief efforts.  We ask that you provide strong across-the-board funding for wildfire programs and research, increase funding for hazardous fuels reduction, fully fund the President’s Budget request for suppression operations, and that you ensure the wildfire priorities outlined in the attached White House statement be reflected in the final appropriations bills.

We appreciate your attention to our request and look forward to working with you as the bills come to the floor, on making the right investments vital to the public health, public safety, and resiliency of our communities.

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