State foresters herald USDA announcement of funding availability for community wildfire mitigation projects

The National Association of State Foresters looks forward to working collaboratively with the USDA Forest Service to deliver the new Community Wildfire Defense Grant program.

WASHINGTON—The nation’s 59 state foresters applaud USDA’s announcement today that $1 billion in new funding will be made available over the next five years for critically important wildfire preparedness and fuels mitigation work in at-risk communities nationwide.

The Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program, created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will make approximately $200 million available to communities in its first year. Selected CWDG projects will either (1) develop or revise a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) or (2) implement wildfire risk reduction projects described within a CWPP.

“The success of the CWDG program hinges on the proven efficacy of CWPPs,” said Washington State Forester and NASF Wildland Fire Committee Chair George Geissler. “CWPPs are locally developed and endorsed by the state, municipality or tribe, local fire department, and other partners, including federal agencies that manage public forests in the vicinity of the planning area. These plans routinely save lives. They help build wildfire resilience by identifying and prioritizing areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and make recommendations for reducing structural ignitability throughout an at-risk community. They may even incorporate wildfire response procedures and community preparedness programs.”

“CWDG program funding will be used to implement projects outlined in CWPPs throughout the country, enhancing cross-boundary hazardous fuels reduction work in support of National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy priorities and the shared goals identified in state Forest Action Plans,” Geissler added.

Units of local government, non-profit organizations, tribes, state forestry agencies, or Alaska Native corporations may apply for a CWDG. Priority for CWDG funding will be given to proposals that serve wildland-urban interface communities that are low-income, have been impacted by a severe disaster, or are located in areas of high or very high wildfire hazard potential.

The CWDG program is an integral tool for implementing the USDA’s ten-year wildfire crisis strategy. While there are several existing initiatives for reducing wildfire risk on federal lands, CWDGs will support hazardous fuels reduction and community wildfire preparedness exclusively on non-federal lands. For this reason, the Forest Service is partnering with states and tribes in the implementation and administration of the CWDG program.

“Effective mitigation of community wildfire risk is dependent on coordinated treatments across many land ownerships,” said Wisconsin State Forester Heather Berklund. “CWDGs will provide the necessary funding to the non-profits, tribes, states, and private landowners that will be critical partners in helping communities reduce their wildfire risk and become more fire adapted.”

The Forest Service will be conducting outreach—including holding webinars for both applicants and program administrators—about this funding opportunity through and with the help of partners to ensure communities and tribes are aware of this new program.

“State forestry agencies across the country are excited to enhance wildfire mitigation support for at-risk communities through this unprecedented opportunity,” said Oklahoma State Forester Mark Goeller. “We will work closely with the Forest Service to ensure an equitable and effective distribution of CWDG funding as we strive toward a more fire-safe and fire-resilient nation.”

More information about the CWDG program is available at www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/fire/grants.

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at wforman-cook@stateforesters.org