Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, voted to pass H.R. 5118, The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, a bill to reduce forest fires and help Western communities conserve water. The legislation includes the text of his Roadless Area Conservation Act, which will codify protections for inventoried roadless areas.
"With Arizona and other western states experiencing the driest conditions in centuries, the threat of drought and wildfires has increased exponentially," said Rep. Gallego. "We need a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the threat of drought and wildfire, and this bill delivers. I am particularly proud of provisions that will prevent key reservoirs of the Colorado River from declining even further, language that will secure water reliability for tribes, and my provision to protect our nation's forests from deforestation. I strongly encourage my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly and send this critical package to the President's desk."
The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act will directly benefit Arizonaby:
Requiring the creation of a ten-year strategy to prevent, mitigate, and combat wildfire;
Providing $500 million for actions to keep water in Lake Mead and other Colorado River reservoirs;
Establishing a minimum basic pay and mental health leave for wildland firefighters, which will boost the resources we have to both fight and prevent fires;
Creating new training and planning resources for prescribed fires training and planning, which will decrease the risk of wildfires forming from escaped prescribed burns;
Including $50 million to help public water systems create water efficiency incentive programs; and
Directing funding towards research and community planning around the health impacts of wildfire smoke.
Gallego's Roadless Area Conservation Act included in the bill codifies protections for inventoried roadless areas. This provision will enhance conservation goals and access to clean water while also allowing for responsible forest management.
The bill also directs a whole of government approach to tackle these issues and ensures that historically disadvantaged communities benefit from wildfire and drought management provisions.
Together, the effects of drought and wildfire cost the United States roughly $20 billion in 2021 alone. The 22-year period from 2000 to 2022 is the driest the southwest U.S. has experienced in at least the last 1,200 years.