Romney, Kelly Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Wildfire Prevention and Resilience Efforts

Legislation represents years-long effort by Romney to modernize national wildfire policies

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Enhancing Mitigation and Building Effective Resilience (EMBER) Act, comprehensive bipartisan legislation based on recommendations from the Wildfire Mitigation and Management Commission—which Senator Romney secured in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—to help communities across the country better assess, prevent, and manage wildfires. This legislation represents a five-year effort to modernize our country’s wildfire policies based on the knowledge and experience of experts from local communities, the private sector, and government agencies.

“Utah averages 800-1,000 wildfires annually—making our state one of the most wildfire-prone states in the country. With wildfires getting more widespread and destructive, what was once primarily an issue for Western states has become a national priority,” Senator Romney said. “Senator Kelly and I took many of the recommendations from the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission—which I ensured became law during bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiations—and turned them into a comprehensive piece of legislation. Effectively addressing the growing threat of wildfires across our country will require us to modernize our policies and focus on bolstering resilience and restoration efforts.”

“Wildfires are a significant and growing threat to our communities, environment, and economy. In places like Arizona where families face this threat every year, the federal government must step in to invest in mitigation and establish innovative solutions to reduce risks and help communities respond after major fires and associated events, said Senator Kelly. “The EMBER Act, which is based on recommendations from the Commission Senator Romney and I helped establish in 2021, is a direct response to these needs. I thank each individual on this Commission, particularly Lucinda Andreani and Neil Chapman, who are tireless Arizona public servants, for their thorough work that makes this legislation possible. Wildfire-threatened communities will be better off because of the EMBER Act.”

“There’s a mistaken belief that wildfires are the inevitable result of climate change and there’s nothing we can do except clean up afterwards,” said Utah Governor Spencer Cox. “The recommendations of the wildfire commission disprove that and show there are lots of actions the federal government can take to prevent catastrophic wildfires. I’m grateful for Senator Romney’s legislation to implement these recommendations, including expedited permitting for active forest management, more common sense grazing policies, and forcing collaboration between the Department of Interior, USDA, and other federal agencies. Much of these policies should have happened long ago, but I’m grateful for Senator Romney’s good work to make them a reality.”

The EMBER Act would:       

  • Encourage states and localities to fund wildfire prevention projects by allowing the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Interior, and the FEMA Administrator to waive cost-sharing requirements if a state, locality, or Indian Tribe has undertaken wildfire mitigation or management projects before the wildfire occurs.
  • Expedite and expand grazing rights in high-risk areas to reduce fine fuel loads and support livestock.
  • Streamline the process for communities to receive federal support in times of crisis by mandating the Department of the Interior, USDA, and FEMA to collaborate on wildfire prevention and response efforts.
  • Authorize wood processing facilities to be built on federal land in order to safely dispose of harmful vegetation that fuels fires.
  • Allow FEMA to streamline the NEPA compliance process post-wildfire, reducing delays caused by potential litigation and enabling quicker responses to affected communities.
  • Update policies and guidance for post-fire incident recovery, including debris removal, emergency protective measures, and toxicity of drinking water.     

Click here to read the bill text. Click here for a one-pager. 


Since 2020 alone, Arizona and Utah have seen a combined total of 11,650 reported wildfires that have resulted in more than 2,260,000 acres burned. Senator Romney has made wildfire mitigation and recovery a priority during his time in Congress, working to address the current patchwork of federal legislation and agency guidance across departments and jurisdictions. In October 2020, he first announced the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act, legislation that would 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. He introduced the legislation during the next Congress—in June 2021—with Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Representative John Curtis (R-UT).

As part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law in 2021, Romney secured the inclusion of the wildfire commission legislation and successfully advocated for $8.25 billion for programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms, and building more resilient infrastructure.

The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission was established in December 2021 and subsequently selected its members, including two Utahns—Kathy Holder, Utah’s State Hazard Mitigation Officer, and Bill Cox, Rich County Commissioner. In February 2023, the Commission released its first report outlining a strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030. The report re-examined existing approaches to aviation fleet procurement, mobilization, composition, and quantity in order to set aviation management on a new trajectory for the next decade and beyond. In September 2023, the Commission released its second and final report—which contained 148 specific recommendations. The report outlined the urgent need for an expanded workforce to mitigate wildland fires, the importance of beneficial fires—like prescribed and cultural burning—and the need for increased investment in proactive pre-fire and post-fire planning and mitigation.

Senators Romney and Kelly teamed up again to write legislation to implement 29 of the Commission’s findings.

See what Utah and Arizona wildfire experts and stakeholders are saying about the EMBER Act:

“With the increasing wildfire risk our communities are facing, it is important for us to prioritize mitigation that targets high-risk areas and builds resilient forests,” said Jamie Barnes, Director and State Forester for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “Wildfire does not respect boundaries and our work to prevent and address the wildfire risk should be the same. This is another step forward that helps all partners involved in wildfire mitigation, suppression and post-fire recovery have access to the resources they need.”

“The EMBER Act provides the Forest Service, local governments and private industry with the necessary tools to prevent wildfire, manage our watersheds and to conduct effective post-fire recovery efforts. It is comprehensive and provides a holistic approach to better management of our nation’s forests. Utah needs the EMBER Act,” said Redge Johnson, Director of the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office.

“As a former member of the National Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, I am happy to see the EMBER Act bring many of the Commission’s recommendations to fruition. This bill is a very sizable move in the right direction, and I thank Senator Romney for his leadership over the last several years to ensure Utah communities are better prepared to mitigate and recover from wildfires,” said Kathy Holder, State Hazard Mitigation Officer, Utah Division of Emergency Management and member of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.

“The Alliance for Wildfire Resilience is thrilled to see this important legislation developed from the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Report. The EMBER Act will address some of the critical issues the Commission identified, including the need to improve post-fire recovery and lower the barrier for partnership through improved flexibility for matching funds. This legislation is a huge step forward for communities preparing for and recovering from the impacts of wildfire,” said Annie Schmidt, Alliance for Wildfire Resilience Director. 

“Serving as the representative of counties across the country on the Congressionally established Wildland Fire Commission, I greatly appreciate Senators Kelly and Romney introducing the EMBER Act today. The EMBER Act represents the critical nature of the Commission’s recommendations and lays the foundation for significant policy improvements related to wildfire prevention, suppression and recovery. Counties and their communities bear the brunt of the devastation that results from catastrophic wildfires – both during wildfires and after wildfires with post-wildfire flooding – this bill is a game changer,” said Lucinda Andreani, Coconino County Deputy Manager and member of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.  

“The EMBER Act is well aligned with many of the recommendations of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. Expanding Federal wildfire response and prescribed fire resources to local fire departments and districts, targeting economic bottlenecks associated with forest product utilization, and increasing FEMA’s ability to provide timely support to communities experiencing catastrophic post-fire impacts, will positively impact how communities enable beneficial fire at a pace and scale that that can significantly reduce undesirable wildfire risk,” said Neil Chapman, City of Flagstaff Wildland Forest Health Specialist and member of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. 

The EMBER Act is endorsed by the National Association of Counties, National Association of State Foresters, Coalitions and Collaboratives, Alliance for Wildfire Resilience, and Megafire Action.