Last week, Washington Representative Kim Schrier, voted for the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act.  The central Washington rep said the package would fund comprehensive mitigation and resiliency efforts to prevent wildfires and reduce the effects of drought across the West.  The bill she added also includes provisions from Schrier’s previously introduced legislation to increase prescribed burns, fund the clean-up of damaged forest lands, and close gaps in wildfire detection.

“Wildfires are becoming more extreme and catastrophic every year in Western states. Wildfires are even beginning to affect areas of our state that for a long-time have been thought to be too green and too wet for wildfires to happen. Sadly, as our climate changes, this threat will only grow,” Schrier noted. “I’m thrilled to have an amendment included with this legislation to allow for more science and evidence-based decision making to detect and mitigate wildfire. We need every tool available for this effort.”

The package incorporates provisions from three bills authored by Schrier.

Based on Schrier’s National Prescribed Fire Act, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act would direct federal agencies to establish a prescribed fire training center in a Western state, providing training and enhancing inter-disciplinary science related to wildfire resilience and prescribed fire. “During the off-season, it is crucial that we work to mitigate the potential for future catastrophic wildfires and improve forest health in order to protect our communities,” Schrier continued.

The legislation also includes the text of the bipartisan National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act, led by Rep. Schrier that passed the House earlier this year. These measures would allow the U.S. Forest Service to collect interest earned on settlements, similar to what other Federal agencies can do, to supplement the restoration of damaged public lands. “As we confront another potentially devastating wildfire season, it's important that we provide the Forest Service with sufficient resources to restore and remediate public lands,” said Schrier.

Lastly, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act includes an amendment submitted by Schrier to authorize and require a post-fire season survey and assessment each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and examining current wildfire data collection to improve wildfire detection.  This amendment is based on Schrier’s bill that she introduced last week, the Fire Ready Nation Act.  “The earlier the detection of wildfire, the more quickly our firefighters can respond. That’s why it’s crucial for weather and science agencies to be involved in wildfire response and have them provide a review to fill in any gaps in our wildfire and extreme weather detection systems,” said Rep. Schrier.

In addition, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act would:

  • Establish a minimum basic pay rate of $20/hour and increase benefits for wildland firefighters, including 7 consecutive days of special mental health leave
  • Allow the U.S. Forest Service to bypass the usual bureaucratic hiring process to help recruit Job Corps graduates
  • Establish U.S. Department of Agriculture teams to speed the timeline for permitting and environmental regulatory reviews
  • Direct the EPA to establish research centers at universities to carry out research relating to the effects of wildland fires on public health
  • Support drought-proof water infrastructure projects with rapid construction timelines, such as water recycling and reuse, innovative desalination projects
  • Allow the federal government to cover more than 75 percent of Fire Management Assistance Grants and directs FEMA to conduct a rulemaking to determine the circumstances for when federal cost share should be increased

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