WASHINGTON, D.C.—On July 31, 2023, State Foresters lauded Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service is accepting applications for this year’s edition of the $1 billion Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program. Launched in July of 2022, the newly established program has already demonstrated itself as a distinct asset in supporting wildfire mitigation efforts in our nation’s most at-risk communities. Per instruction guidelines, applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on October 31, 2023.
The CWDG program, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), will provide up to $250,000 in funding for projects that create and update Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) and a further $10 million for associated resiliency projects. CWPPs are locally developed action plans designed to anticipate and respond to wildfire. They help build wildfire resiliency by identifying and prioritizing areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and make recommendations for reducing structural ignitability. They may even incorporate wildfire response procedures and community preparedness programs. Plainly put, these plans routinely save lives.
“The timeliness of this round of CWDG funding is imperative. The nation’s becoming increasingly aware of wildfire mitigation efforts that have long been performed at state and local levels, but this awareness comes as a result of rampant devastation, particularly to our underserved communities,” shares Kacey KC, Nevada State Forester and President of the National Association of State Foresters. “Wildfire mitigation is an extensive, complex and ever-evolving process, and the endowments provided through CWDG are proving a critical component in ensuring its success. As State Foresters, we’re deeply appreciative of this assistance to our mission.”
The deliberate language in the BIL ensures that the program prioritizes communities that have a high or very high wildfire hazard potential, are identified as low income or have been impacted by a severe disaster. “Effective mitigation of community wildfire risk is dependent on coordinated efforts across a variety of landowners and landscapes,” shared Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “This critical, collaborative effort to provide additional assistance to underserved communities will build capacity for wildfire planning and ensure successful risk reduction especially in the most vulnerable areas.”
Awarded projects are allowed five years for completion. The number of projects selected will be determined by available funding, set at a ceiling of $250 million.
Additional information on the Community Wildfire Defense Program as well as access to applications can be found on the Forest Service’s CWDG site page.