On September 19, 2022, during a visit to Tucson’s Saguaro National Park, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau announced the government’s plans to allocate over $10 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure fund to support a variety of fuel management projects in Arizona. According to a report released by the Department of the Interior, this additional funding will likely allow fuel treatment tests to be completed on two million acres of land nationwide, nearly doubling the amount from the prior year. This conservation investment is only the first installment of a more significant $103 million fund provided to the state earlier this year to significantly reduce wildfire risks, mitigate environmental impacts and research resilience efforts to rehabilitate destroyed habitats.
This visit and the subsequent announcement by Deputy Secretary Beaudreau were the first stop in his ongoing tour of environmentally affected Western states. The announcement highlights how the funds provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act will advance wildfire measures and drought resilience. The law, which will allocate roughly $1.5 billion in funding from the Department of the Interior over five years, is prepared to invest in fuels management systems, post-fire restoration projects and research in the field of fire science. Additionally, the law will directly control any future reforms put on federal wildland firefighters, including overall pay increases and new occupational classifications more in tune with the daily tasks of a wildland firefighter.
“As climate change drives harsher heat waves, more volatile weather and record drought conditions, we are seeing wildfire seasons turn to wildfire years, threatening communities, businesses, wildlife and the environment. Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are investing in Arizona communities, advancing wildfire resilience work across the country, improving resources for the heroic firefighting workforce and reducing the risk of wildfire,” said Deputy Secretary Beaudreau.
Deputy Secretary Beaudreau also announced an additional $200,000 to fund a new buffelgrass fuels reduction project at Saguaro, a long-term restoration project essential to protecting native Arizona vegetation, park resources and other state-owned infrastructures. Buffelgrass, not native to the United States, is an invasive species of grass currently threatening Arizona’s desert ecosystems by altering fire regimes and out-competing native plants. Saguaro Park Superintendent Leah McGinnis believes this $200,000 investment will strengthen the park’s efforts through removal via pulling and aerial spraying. “As you know, the fight against buffelgrass will not end anytime soon. It requires about three to five years of treatment in the same area to begin to see signs of eradication. This requires dedication and perseverance by all of us,” stated McGinnis, as reported by the Tucson Sentinel.
For Arizona communities still left reeling from environmental destruction, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law should bring some much-needed support to areas with a higher risk of wildfire hazards by increasing overall fire resilience to protect local businesses, homes and the state’s already limited public water supply. The Department of the Interior’s five-year Monitoring, Maintenance and Treatment Plan, developed by the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, will begin to lay out a wildfire risk roadmap, hopefully improving land conditions and fire mitigation tools across the whole state.