Today, Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), members of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, introduced the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act of 2021, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to establish a commission of federal and non-federal stakeholders—including city and county level representation—to study and recommend fire prevention, mitigation, management, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands.
Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the Senate last week.
“Right now Utah is experiencing multiple extreme wildfires and land managers are preparing for another unprecedented fire season. The current drought combined with decades of poor federal forest management has made wildfires more likely, fire behavior unpredictable, and fighting fires more difficult,” Curtis said. “As those charged with ensuring our land is healthy and available to future generations, we must do better and follow the advice of professionals to mitigate fire risk in the first place, ensure our national fire response is sufficient, and help our communities swiftly recover. The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act will bring together experts to inform Congress and land managers on best practices. I’d like to thank Senator Romney for sharing my commitment to proper wildland management and stopping the devastation and destruction that wildland fires leave in their wake.”
“This year’s fire season in Arizona is shaping up to be one of the worst on record; several extremely dangerous wildfires are spreading without containment across the First District as we speak,” saidO’Halleran.“With their homes and businesses at risk season after season, Arizona families need solutions. Our bipartisan bill to establish a commission of stakeholders to recommend fire prevention, mitigation, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands will help to identify and implement these needed solutions before another deadly fire season burns more of the Southwest.”
Last year, nearly 60,000 fires burned across ten million acres, more than 53,000 of which were human-caused fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Council. So far this year, in Utah, nearly 400 fires have burned more than 40,000 acres of land. Almost 90% of these fires are human-caused.
Current federal wildland fire policy is a patchwork of legislation and agency guidance across departments and jurisdictions, further complicated by mixed landownership. This bill would require a review of the nation’s wildland firefighting strategy, accompanied by specific policy recommendations, by a commission made up of the nation’s top experts, including state and local stakeholders.