The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act was passed July 29 by the House of Representatives.
The act is a package of 49 bills that will provide investments to improve fire-adapted ecosystems, protect communities against catastrophic wildfires and enhance drought resiliency..
The bill also will expand science programs, modernize data and technology and ensure a whole-of-government approach to wildfire and drought issues as well as helping to improve the understanding of wildfires, their behavior, and their long-lasting effects.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) applauded passage of the act, which included four amendments he authored.
A statement released by Perlmutter’s office said climate change has increased wildfire risk nationally presenting a year-round threat to the United States as well as made drought more severe and persistent, with parts of the western U.S. experiencing their driest conditions in over 1,200 years. Together, the effects of wildfire and drought cost the U.S. roughly $20 billion in 2021 alone.
“Close to half of Colorado’s population lives in or near places prone to wildfires. We need to get serious about our approach to wildfires to protect people’s lives, (their) homes and our natural resources,” Perlmutter said. “It’s long past time Congress took the issue of climate change and wildfires seriously, and this package is a big step forward in ensuring we can better prepare for and respond to these worsening threats.”
The four amendments secured by Perlmutter:
- Expand research and development opportunities to better protect buildings from wildfire hazards as well as promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, and encourage greater collaboration between FEMA and other agencies on hazard resilience research to protect buildings from wildfires.
- Ensure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collaborates with other agencies, like NASA, on its work in fire weather forecasting and alerts.
- Expand the Department of Energy’s activities under the Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program to include fire modeling, forecasting fire spread, and analysis of wildfire fuels.
- Expand opportunities for NOAA and NASA to purchase commercial data products from satellites and airborne data sources to support their efforts to improve our understanding of wildfires under the bill.
As a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Perlmutter also is a lead sponsor of H.R. 5781, the National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act, a comprehensive package to identify and invest in R&D, set up warning and forecast systems, develop observation and sensing technologies, and standardize data collection efforts to improve the nation’s preparedness, resilience and response to wildfires.
Earlier this year, he introduced H.R. 6845, the Commercial Remote Sensing Amendment Act to support commercial remote sensing activities in the U.S. and renew the requirement for an annual report on the status of commercial remote sensing applications and regulations. H.R. 6845 also passed the U.S. House this week. Commercial remote Sensing is a way to detect wildfire using satellite imagery.
Perlmutter and fellow House Science Committee members have advocated for a more sustainable, comprehensive solution to the growing threat of wildfires across the U.S. but particularly in the Western U.S.