Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) today introduced the Community Wildfire Protection Act, a bill that would allow more communities to access federal grants to reduce their wildfire risk.
Current law limits eligibility for federal grants to communities adjacent to federal lands or those listed in an outdated notice in the Federal Register from 2001. This bill would amend the Healthy Forests Restoration Act’s definition of an “at-risk community” to include any community at high risk for wildfire that would significantly threaten human life and property.
“Climate change is putting more and more communities in the path of deadly wildfires,” said Senator Feinstein. “Unfortunately, a more than two-decade-old list – which was flawed when it was created – determines which California communities may receive federal funds to reduce the threat of deadly wildfires. Our bill fixes that by ensuring that any community threatened by dangerous wildfires would be eligible for federal grants to improve their wildfire resiliency and by expediting the implementation of those projects.”
This legislation would expand access to federal wildfire mitigation grants, including to develop and implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans that allow state, local and tribal governments to work with the federal government to reduce hazardous fuels in surrounding forests. It would also make more communities eligible for the $1.8 billion in wildfire funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act. The list also determines where wildfire resiliency projects qualify for expedited approval processes.
The threat of wildfire has changed significantly since the 2001 list, which is now woefully inadequate: 19 states and territories have no communities listed and many more communities at significant risk of wildfire were left out. As a result, many vulnerable communities are ineligible for federal fire hazard mitigation funding that could save lives, homes and businesses.
The bill is supported by the National Association of Counties, Rural County Representatives of California, National Association of State Foresters, Pacific Forest Trust and California Fire Safe Council.