Posted: August 1, 2022
Washington – Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) voted to pass the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, legislation that will help to address wildfires, drought, and the climate crisis.
“Our district has experienced some of the worst wildfires in our state’s history in part due to the impact of climate change,” said Thompson. “We made significant investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to fight and prepare for wildfires. The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act is another step towards providing our communities with the resources we need to combat wildfires and reduce drought.
“I am particularly pleased to see my language requesting information from the Department of Agriculture on crop losses due to natural disasters included in this bill. Given the prolonged drought conditions and the constant threat of wildfire and smoke exposure, we already know that many of our growers will need disaster assistance for 2022 losses. The information we request from USDA will help inform my work to reauthorize the Emergency Relief Program (formerly known as the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus or WHIP+) for 2022 losses.
“As the climate crisis continues, I am committed to working with my colleagues to deliver the policies that will help us keep our communities safe from wildfires and improve drought resilience.”
To improve wildfire response, the WRDR Act:
- Establishes new hiring authorities and a minimum basic pay rate (approximately $20/hour) for wildland firefighters, as well as mental health leave and hazard pay.
- Authorizes a 10-Year National Wildfire Response Plan for landscape-scale projects across the country.
- Provides tools and resources to assist communities’ wildfire activities, including prescribed fires, and supports opportunities for Tribes and Conservation Corps in wildfire activities.
To improve drought resiliency, the WRDR Act:
- Provides $500 million to prevent key reservoirs of the Colorado River from declining to unsafe levels.
- Invests in innovative drought-proof water infrastructure, including water recycling and desalination projects.
- Secures water reliability for Indian Country, by advancing tribal water rights settlements, investing $1 billion in tribal clean water access, and supporting technical assistance for tribal water needs.
- Supports the development of modern water management data and technology.
- Protects and restores important ecosystems and wildlife populations that have been impacted by drought and climate change.
To ensure a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to wildfire and drought, the WRDR Act also:
- Improves wildfire-related programs at the Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fire Administration and provides improved assistance and relief for communities that have been impacted by recent wildfires.
- Establishes the National Disaster Safety Board and directs the President to establish a National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program.
- Advances environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately harmed by environmental discrimination and climate change-induced wildfire and drought.
- Updates the Stafford Act, law that dictates FEMA’s response to a disaster, enabling FEMA to respond more effectively to wildfires.
A summary of the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act can be found here.