UNITED STATES — Yesterday, Jan. 19, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced additional funding to reduce wildfire risk across the western U.S. through treatments such as clearing deadfall and underbrush.

“It is no longer a matter of if a wildfire will threaten many western communities in these landscapes, it is a matter of when,” Vilsack said. “The need to invest more and to move quickly is apparent.”

The Forest Service announced its original 10 landscape project areas last year but these new funds aim to mitigate risks in 11 additional areas in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Combined, the investment totals $930 million across 45 million acres.

According to the USDA, the work spans 134 of the 250 high-risk “firesheds” and will mitigate wildfire risk to around 200 communities in the western U.S. Firesheds are areas where wildfire is likely to pose the greatest risk to communities and resources.

According to reporting by the Associated Press, a piece of the strategy which includes prescribed burns has already backfired. The program was suspended three months last spring after a devastating wildfire sparked by the federal government near Las Vegas, New Mexico, burned across more than 500 square miles and several hundred homes were destroyed.

Congress later approved nearly $4 billion in assistance for the victims, according to the Associated Press.

“Doing this work in the right place, at the right time and at the right scale, combined with the use of emergency authorities, will accelerate our planning, consultation, contracting, hiring and project work to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health and resilience,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said. “Collaboration with Tribes, communities and partners will remain a priority, and we will continue to use the best available science when carrying out this important work.”

According to the USDA, the landscapes for these additional investments were selected based on the potential for wildfire to affect nearby communities and buildings, with a focus on protecting underserved communities, critical infrastructure, public water sources and Tribal lands.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.