July 27, 2022

Following Boulder County Navigating Disaster Announcement, Rep. Neguse Spearheads Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Package

Watch the Congressman’s remarks on the House floor here.

Washington, D.C — This week, Boulder County announced that residents affected by last year’s Marshall Fire could start meeting with recovery navigators. Congressman Joe Neguse joined the County in prioritizing disaster recovery efforts as he opened House floor rule debate yesterday on his Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, H.R. 5118. The bill, led by Neguse, encompasses over fifty proposals to enact investments for tackling wildfires and drought, investments in resiliency, and supporting mitigation efforts to communities affected by recent climate-induced disasters. Currently, the House plans to secure the final passage of this bill on Thursday evening. 

Much as the recovery navigators will assist residents through a range of services, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act includes key provisions to help communities recover from natural disasters, including the REPLACE Act, which requires that certain critical document replacement fees be automatically waived for individuals that are affected by major disasters and where Individuals and Households Program (IHP) assistance has been granted for that disaster. The package also includes the Wildfire Recovery Act, which increases flexibility in the federal cost share for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) and brings in additional community resources as they rebuild from wildfire damage. 

“On December 30th of last year, the Marshall Fire swept through the City of Louisville, the Town of Superior, and unincorporated areas of Boulder County. All incredible communities that I have the privilege of representing here in the United States Congress. The fire destroyed and damaged more than 1,000 homes in a single night. It became the most destructive wildfire that our state has ever known.” said Congressman Neguse. “Over the last several months, I have heard countless concerns from Coloradans across our great state, including in my district, about future wildfires, about our ability to recover, about our ability to build resiliency and tackle the drought that we're experiencing. This bill meets those needs, it meets the needs of the American West, and that is why I am proud to support the bill.”

From wildfires to drought, the impacts of climate change are worsening and becoming increasingly devastating for communities across America. The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act makes strategic and targeted investments toward protecting households from catastrophic wildfires, reducing the risk of future fires, and helping to support the federal firefighters that put their lives on the line to protect American families. Similarly, the bill improves drought resiliency by investing in water projects with rapid timelines, modernizing data and technology, and providing near-term drought response.

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act contains several Neguse-led legislative priorities, including:

  • The Wildfire Recovery Act increases flexibility in the federal cost share for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) and brings in additional resources for communities as they rebuild from wildfire damage.

  • The Wildfire Smoke Relief Act provides federal emergency assistance to at-risk individuals in Colorado and nationwide suffering from unhealthy air quality caused by wildfire smoke.

  • The REPLACE Act requires that certain critical document replacement fees be automatically waived for individuals that are affected by major disasters and where Individuals and Households Program (IHP) assistance has been granted for that disaster. 

  • The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act protects endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins, and preserves critical water infrastructure projects. 

  • The Land Restoration and Resiliency Act establishes the Community Resilience and Restoration Fund, to provide grants to invest in restoration and resiliency projects to protect against the threat of climate change, administered through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). 

The bill also includes provisions from:

  • The Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act— Specifically, the sections which establish a GS-6 starting wage with parity for federal firefighters, annual adjustments, disability annuity, hazard duty pay, and 7-day mental health leave. The package also includes sections of Tim’s Act that issue a report to Congress on compensation comparable to state and local federal firefighters. 

  • The Western Wildfire Support Act— Specifically, these sections:

    • Establishes a Long-Term Burned Area Recovery Account to protect watersheds, prioritizing those recently impacted by wildfires.

    • Requires a spatial wildland fire management plan, specifically for prescribed burns.

  • The Tribal Access to Clean Water Act— Specifically, the section that allocates funds to the Bureau of Reclamation for water infrastructure development and maintenance. 

  • A provision based on the SOAR Act, which encourages the use of Conservation and Youth Corps to fulfill the goals of the 10-year wildland fire management plan.

###