July 27, 2022

Rep. Neguse Opens Debate on Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Package

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

Washington, D.C — Yesterday, Congressman Joe Neguse opened debate on the House floor on his Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, H.R. 5118. The bill, led by Neguse, encompasses over fifty proposals aimed at enacting investments for tackling wildfires and drought, investments in resiliency, and mitigation efforts for communities impacted by recent climate-induced disasters. Currently, the House plans to secure final passage of this bill on Thursday evening. 

“The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act represents a major step by House Democrats to address the dual crisis of wildfires and drought plaguing communities across the country – communities like those in my district, Colorado’s Second Congressional District. This legislation makes specific, strategic, and targeted investments to protect communities from catastrophic wildfires and from drought, reducing risk for future fires and helping our firefighters who are currently fighting these flames. Similarly, the bill improves drought resiliency by investing in water projects with rapid timelines, modernizing data and technology, and providing near-term drought response.” said Congressman Neguse.

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.