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USDA Under Secretary visits Superior National Forest to support Great Lakes wildfire mitigation efforts

Tours BIL funded partnership work supporting wildfire mitigations at time of increased wildfire risk

Duluth, MN – March 12, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Dr. Homer Wilkes, visited northern Minnesota and met with partners, Tribal members, and Forest Service employees to discuss the Inflation Reduction Act funded collaborative wildfire risk reduction program, work that's underway to confront the nation's wildfire crisis, and current needs and conditions on the Superior National Forest.

Wildfire risk reduction work includes increasing wildfire awareness, hazardous fuels removal and assisting communities in becoming more wildfire resistant. Wilkes toured wildfire risk reduction projects to see work in progress, meet the people doing this important work, and discuss lessons learned.

Stops included a Forest Service Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) project funded Bipartisan Infrastructure Law where the Under Secretary saw work being completed by Dovetail Partners and St. Louis County. The CWDG program assists communities with planning for and mitigating wildfire risks on Tribal, state, and privately managed land.

The Under Secretary also explored a proposed cross-boundary wildfire risk reduction project on the border of the Superior National Forest, in recognition that the wildfire crisis crosses all land ownership and requires coordination between government, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and landowners.

Visiting with Tribal members, state and local leaders, partners, and Forest Service employees, Wilkes underscored the importance of additional funding to continue wildfire reduction work, such as the recently announced $100M Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program (CWRRP) funding opportunity, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. Minnesota is one of 24 eligible states for CWRRP funding, identified by a science-based analysis showing they have a high level of wildfire risk in specific areas. On the Superior National Forest there are approximately 198,000 acres that are considered at risk and eligible for these funds.

Wilkes said these funds, along with other major investments and initiatives already underway, could help the Forest Service significantly increase fuels and forest health treatments in areas of need across the country. "I'm excited to see that the Superior National Forest, working in collaboration with others, are looking to take advantage of these new funding opportunities."

Per the March report from the Eastern Area coordination center and National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) predictive services, all of Minnesota has significant wildland fire potential.

"The Superior National Forest has a long history of working in partnership with our communities, non-government organizations, local and state governments, and tribal members to mitigate wildfire risk and rehabilitate areas impacted by wildfire. We look forward to additional opportunities to partner to do this essential work," said Superior Forest Supervisor Tom Hall.

"Throughout the Forest Service Eastern Region's 20 state footprint, our forests and tallgrass prairie work with partners and communities to reduce wildfire risk in the Wildland Urban Interface. The wildfire reduction work on the Superior National Forest exemplifies this critical work and highlights the importance of crucial investments that help communities confront the wildfire crisis and reduce wildfire risk on federal and non-federal lands," said Deputy Regional Forester Jim Copeland.

For more information on the CWRRP funding opportunity, visit Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program | US Forest Service (usda.gov)

For more information on the CWDG funding, visit Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program | US Forest Service (usda.gov)

For images from the Under Secretary's visit on the Superior National Forest, see our Flickr album: USDA-Under Sec Wilkes Visit March 2024. | Flickr

Background Information: The Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program (CWRRP) is an opportunity to promote greater equity in funding distribution from the Inflation Reduction Act. To that end, the program will solicit projects from Forest Service units in cooperation with partners that focus on wildfire risk reduction across the National Forest System (NFS) lands and within the Wildland Urban Interface as defined by the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA WUI). The competitive process is intended to support projects that will (1) significantly improve wildfire risk with a focus on very high wildfire hazard potential areas and/or high-risk fire sheds on NFS in WUI outside the 21 landscapes, and (2) support greater equity and diversity in partnership opportunities, relationship development, and economic support. The overall goal of the CWRRP is to advance wildfire risk reduction efforts at the intensity and scale necessary to reach a resilient/maintenance state with a secondary goal of knitting together the work of diverse partnerships to achieve greater on-the-ground outcomes and grow our partnership base with diverse and equity-focused organizations, operators, and practitioners.

To be eligible for CWRRP funding, projects must be located in the wildland urban interface, within high-risk fire sheds identified in the Forest Service Wildfire Crisis Strategy, or in an area with very high wildfire hazard potential.

 

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