The Biden-Harris administration’s Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission released a report outlining a strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030. As climate change fuels longer and more intense wildfire seasons, aerial assets bring unique response capabilities to wildland fire suppression.
The Commission, chaired by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, was tasked with developing a report on aerial firefighting to Congress.
The report reexamines existing approaches to aviation fleet procurement, mobilization, composition and quantity to set aviation management on a new trajectory for the next decade and beyond.
The Commission, created by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and announced in December 2021, was charged with making recommendations to improve federal policies related to the mitigation, suppression, and management of wildland fires in the United States, and the rehabilitation of land in the United States devastated by wildland fires.
Findings and recommendations outlined in the report include:
- The need to develop new or update aviation resource benchmarks and national procurement models, including the need for greater coordination with partners in these efforts.
- Improvements to appropriations, contracting, staffing and interoperability to improve the use and availability of existing resources.
- Improvements and limitations to the military surplus process and equipment.
- Additional considerations, including aviation resource use in beneficial fire and the emerging importance of uncrewed aerial systems.
In addition to establishing the Commission, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides historic funding for a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms and building more resilient infrastructure.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also supports landmark pay increases for federal wildland firefighters, which aim to bring federal firefighter pay in alignment with their state and local counterparts, while aiding in recruitment and retention of a more permanent and stable wildland firefighting force across the federal government.
These investments support the implementation of the Department of the Interior’s “Five-Year Monitoring, Maintenance, and Treatment Plan,” which provides a roadmap for addressing wildfire risk on Department of the Interior-managed and Tribal lands. They also support the USDA Forest Service’s “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis” strategy, which aims to treat 20 million acres of national forests and grasslands and 30 million acres of state, local, Tribal and private lands over the next 10 years to reduce wildfire risk where it matters most. These plans help facilitate the collaborative work between the two Departments.
The Commission’s work builds on existing interagency federal efforts, such as the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and the White House Wildfire Resilience Interagency Working Group, and will continue to pursue an all-of-government approach to wildfire risk reduction and resilience.