Senator Kelly hosts USDA as they announce a new 10-year strategy to confront the wildfire crisis in Arizona

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Senator Mark Kelly announced a new national strategy to address the wildfire crisis on Tuesday. This file photo is from a previous visit Kelly made to Graham County.

Work made possible by nearly $3 billion from Kelly-shaped Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

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WASHINGTON D.C. – On Tuesday, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore to announce the launch of a new national strategy to address the nation’s growing wildfire crisis – a plan made possible, in part, thanks to Kelly’s efforts to include $3 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for forest restoration, post-fire recovery, and community wildfire defense. The strategy outlines the need to significantly increase fuels reduction and forest health treatments to reduce the severity of wildfires that threatens millions of acres and numerous communities across the United States.   

“There’s no question that focusing on the science, data, and facts is the best approach to improving how we manage our forests, especially in Arizona,” said Senator Kelly. “I’m glad that the USDA and Forest Service have made this renewed commitment to work with states, tribes, and localities to prioritize projects that reduce extreme wildfire behavior and protect our water resources. With our recently signed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, communities at high risk can soon expect to see critical forest restoration and flood mitigation projects put into motion.”

“The negative impacts of today’s largest wildfires far outpace the scale of efforts to protect homes, communities, and natural resources,” said USDA Secretary Vilsack. “Our experts expect the trend will only worsen with the effects of a changing climate, so working together toward common goals across boundaries and jurisdictions is essential to the future of these landscapes and the people who live there.” 

“We already have the tools, the knowledge, and the partnerships in place to begin this work in many of our national forests and grasslands, and now we have funding that will allow us to build on the research and the lessons learned to address this wildfire crisis facing many of our communities,” said USFS Chief Moore. “We want to thank Congress, the President, and the American people for entrusting us to do this important work.”

The strategy highlights new research on what Forest Service scientists identified as high-risk “firesheds” – large, forested landscapes with a high likelihood that ignition could expose homes, communities, infrastructure, and natural resources to wildfire. Firesheds, typically about 250,000 acres in size, are mapped to match the scale of community exposure to wildfire. The strategy also calls for the Forest Service to treat up to an additional 20 million acres on national forests and grasslands and support treatment of up to an additional 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, private, and family lands. Fuels and forest health treatments, including the use of prescribed fire and thinning to reduce hazardous fuels, will be complemented by investments in fire-adapted communities and work to address post-fire risks, recovery, and reforestation. 

Kelly was part of the core group of Senators that crafted the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will invest in Arizona’s roads, bridges, airports, ports of entry, high-speed internet, forestry initiatives, and water infrastructure, all while creating high-paying jobs for Arizonans. The law provides nearly $3 billion to reduce hazardous fuels and restore America’s forests and grasslands, along with investments in fire-adapted communities and post-fire reforestation. These funds will be used to begin implementing the USDA’s 10-year strategy. 

For more information on the 10-year strategy, click HERE.