WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) released the following statement after the Administration announced the establishment of a Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, fulfilling a key provision of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will help combat the West’s wildfire crisis. Senators Romney and Kelly first introduced legislation to establish this Commission earlier this year, and advocated for its inclusion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“Our states are facing historic numbers of wildfires and desperately need assistance with fire prevention, mitigation, and response. Earlier this year, we introduced legislation to establish a Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission because existing fire policies must be adapted to meet today’s challenges. A commission that brings experts from local communities and the private and public sectors will help improve strategies to prevent future wildfires from becoming catastrophic disasters across the West. We are proud that this Commission is now a reality, and look forward to seeing the recommendations it puts forth.”
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. In Utah this year, more than 1,100 fires have burned nearly 64,000 acres of land. In 2021 alone, over 500,000 acres burned in Arizona, damaging homes, small businesses, and agricultural properties. The total acres burned in the first six months was 22% more than during the same period in 2020, which was the most active season in nearly a decade.
In June, Senators Romney and Kelly 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. This bill passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously in July. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ).
Senators Romney and Kelly advocated for the inclusion of their wildland fire commission bill during negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August. President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on November 15, 2021. Today’s announcement of the establishment of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission was made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).