Jewell: $10 million program to protect lands

Posted at 2:37 PM, May 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 19:40:08-04

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in Boise Tuesday announced $10 million in funding to help increase the resiliency of critical landscapes across the country to better mitigate the impacts of wildfire and climate change.

Officials say the Wildland Fire Resilient Landscapes Program is a new approach to achieve fire resiliency and help restore public lands nationwide through multi-year investments in designated landscapes. Launched last year, the program works to ensure multi-agency collaboration in the planning efforts, to help lessen the risks from catastrophic wildfires, and enhance the protection of critical natural resources and watersheds.

“These projects will protect the nation’s diverse landscapes -- making them more resilient to wildfire for future generations; with help from our partners who also recognize that this challenge is too great for any one organization to tackle on its own," Secretary Jewell said. “The funding restores iconic landscapes and vital watersheds, reduces fuels and controls invasive species to re-establish native vegetation, while reducing the risks to the public and our firefighters who respond to wildland fires.”

Secretary Jewell called on Congress to fix how the federal government budgets for wildland fire suppression. If the fire season is as costly as recent years, federal agencies will be forced to take funding out of other critical programs that increase the long-term resilience of public lands to fund wildfire suppression. President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 budget continues to propose changing how the federal government budgets for fire suppression costs to treat the requirements of extreme fire seasons in the same way as other emergency disaster needs.

Jewell made the announcement after touring the Soda Fire Rehabilitation site, the location of an almost 280,000-acre wildfire last year, that burned federal, state and private lands in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon.