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Biden administration has announced the plan to confront worsening wildfires

The Biden administration announced a plan to fight wildfires

January 21, 2022: This week, the Biden administration unveiled a 10-year plan to spend billions of dollars to combat destructive wildfires on millions of additional acres of land and make forests resilient to future blazes.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that its plan, known as “wildfires crisis strategy,” targets dozens of areas in eleven Western states. The program includes treatments like thinning overgrown trees, pruning forests, and conducting prescribed burns to minimize dead vegetation.

The administration’s planning quadruples the government’s fuels and forest health treatments. It came after a year in which California experienced the second-largest fire in state history. Colorado endured its most destructive fire that ignited unusually later in the season.

“We’re not going to stop fires,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a press briefing in Arizona. “But what we can do is start the process of reducing the catastrophic nature of those fires,” he added.

Hotter temperatures and more serious drought conditions fueled by climate change, along with expanding development in wildland-urban areas, have prompted an intense and prolonged wildfires season in the U.S. Researchers to say that decades of policies calling for all fires to be extinguished instead of letting them burn in a controlled way, has caused a buildup of flammable brush that adds fuel to blazes.

The U.S. Forest Service treated up to 2 million acres in the U.S. West each year. Under the new plan, the Forest Service will work with the Department of the Interior and different partners to treat up to 20 million acres of national forests and grasslands and 30 million additional acres of different federal, state, tribal, and private lands next decade.

The agency is going to focus its efforts on fire-prone land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington. The plan is only partially funded, with $3 billion over five years coming from the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law in November.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information data, over 58,000 fires burned more than 7 million acres in the previous year. In 2020, the worst wildfires season on record burned over 10 million acres in the U.S.

Last year, fires in California, Canada, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest emitted nearly 83 million tons of carbon pollution. Plumes of smoke from those blazes traveled all over the Atlantic Ocean and reached huge swaths of Europe.

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