USDA Forest Service Invests to Reduce Wildfire Risk to Communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota
Release Date: Mar 21, 2023
Contact(s): Franklin Pemberton
Milwaukee, WI (March 21, 2023) — Department of Agriculture Secretary Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is investing $197 million in wildfire protection projects across 22 states and seven Tribes, as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program. The CWDG program is designed to assist communities, including Tribal communities, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies and Alaska Native corporations with planning for and mitigating wildfire risks on Tribal, state, and privately managed land.
This funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is a crucial investment to help communities confront the wildfire crisis and reduce wildfire risk on non-federal land. Proposals underwent a competitive selection process that included review panels made up of tribal representatives and state forestry agencies. Guidelines within the law prioritized at-risk communities that have been impacted by a severe disaster, are at a high or very high potential for wildfire hazard and are classified as low income.
“Projects were selected using a collaborative, inclusive process that engaged tribes and state forestry agencies,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “All projects include at least two of the primary selection criteria mandated in the legislation. And in all cases, these projects are taking critical steps to protect homes, property, businesses, and people’s lives from catastrophic wildfires.”
In the Eastern Region, the following project(s) were selected for first round funding:
- Minnesota - $ 890,925 - St. Louis City Fire Adapted Communities to increase wildfire awareness, reduce fuels and provide opportunities to help their communities be more wildfire resilient.
- Wisconsin - $470,000 - Town of Conover, to create fuel breaks between forested areas and residential areas, to help reduce the risk of wildfire in their community.
- Wisconsin - $246,939 - Town of Washington, to expand their community wildfire protection plan and reduce fuels and support annual chipping at the town’s brush disposal site.
This initial round of investments will assist communities in developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans, key roadmaps for addressing wildfire risks locally, as well as fund immediate actions to lower the risk of wildfire on non-federal land for communities where a Community Wildfire Protection Plan is already in place.
“The Community Wildfire Defense Grants come at a critical time in land and fire management,” said Gina Owens, Regional Forester for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “As a result of our changing climate, communities in the East that once rarely saw wildfire are now at increased risk. These grants help our most vulnerable communities prepare for the future.”
The Forest Service will announce another round of funding later in 2023, and additional communities will be able to apply. The number of selected proposals in future rounds will depend on available funding.
Along with establishing the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides an historic $3.5 billion investment in wildfire management through a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms and increasing pay for federal wildland firefighters. This announcement also comes on the heels of the president’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which proposes a permanent pay solution for wildland firefighters, increased capacity for mental and physical health services, and funds for housing repair, renovation, and construction.
More information about the funded proposals, as well as announcements about the grant program, is available on the Community Wildfire Defense Grants website.
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