July 29, 2022

Rep. Neguse Applauds Passage of Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act

The Congressman managed House debate of his omnibus bill earlier today, watch here

Washington, D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Neguse secured the passage of his Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, H.R. 5118. The monumental legislative package significantly increases investments to tackle wildfires, boosts wildland firefighter pay, and funds resiliency and mitigation projects for communities impacted by recent climate-induced disasters.  

“It has been roughly six months since the community I’m honored to serve experienced the most destructive wildfire in our state history. Today, the House has taken a significant step forward in our work to recover from these devastating disasters and better prepare for both wildfires and drought in the future by passing the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act. For the families across the country who’ve lost their homes due to wildfires, and for the neighborhoods impacted by drought, this legislation provides an all-hands-on-deck approach to recovery, creating and funding several programs that support rebuilding and bolster resiliency.” said Congressman Neguse. “Notably, we’ve also secured the passage of several measures that will make drastic improvements to firefighter pay and improve retention rates for the brave firefighters who sacrifice so much to protect our communities. Together, we are working to take every precaution necessary to reduce the threat of any future disaster.”

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act advanced 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 included 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.

Neguse, the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, has emerged as a leader amongst his colleagues in the fight for increased federal support to communities recovering from climate-induced natural disasters. Following Colorado’s record-setting wildfires seasons in 2020 and 2021, Neguse has worked tirelessly to bring federal resources home to recovering communities and advocate for increased support for wildland firefighters, wildfire prevention, and forest management. He serves as Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, where his Restoring Our Lands and Communities Agenda prioritizes addressing the causes and impacts of wildfires.