USDA, Dept. of Interior have a wildfire plan to help protect agriculture

The western wildfire season is already underway and the extreme drought could make it worse than last year’s record season. USDA and the Department of Interior outlined their plan to protect agriculture.

Last year saw over 10.3 million acres burned, 50 percent above the ten year average. This year, USDA and the Department of the Interior are already preparing resources ahead of wildfire season.

According to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, “Over 15,000 firefighters will eventually be engaged in this effort. We’ve already begun prepositioning tankers, helicopters, heavy equipment, and engines so we are in the best position based on our best estimate of where the risk is highest, to be able to respond to these fires as quickly as possible.”

Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland says that long-term mitigation needs to focus on climate resiliency.

“We must confront the reality that a changing climate is fueling these fire disasters,” Sec. Haaland states. “Wildlife fire mitigation must be viewed through the lens of climate change resilience which President Biden has prioritized through a series of executive actions, policies, and legislation.”

Sec. Vilsack also pointed to President Biden’s vision on conservation, which would allocate more funding to forest management.

“In his budget and American Jobs plan with additional resources that will allow us to do more treatment, allow us to create more wood products, allow more reforestation, as well as an approach and an effort to significantly increase the level of commitment to treatment,” he explains.

At the end of each year, both agencies complete evaluations on what works and what does not. Vilsack says that they plan to continue building on that progress.

“It’s not surprising that any lessons we learned from COVID would be carried over into future years, simply because we are always constantly looking for ways for which we can improve on what we have done,” he adds.

In addition to proposed funding in the 2022 budget and American Jobs plan, the Biden-Harris administration has also created an inter-agency working group to address drought conditions in the west that can contribute to wildfires.


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