Department of Interior outlines changes enabled by Infrastructure Bill

The legislation provides a historic $4.5 billion for federal wildland fire management programs

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Firefighters air tanker
Firefighters observe a retardant drop by an RJ85 air tanker. DOI photo.

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service outlined the changes the agency will implement in their fuels management program to reflect the large influx of funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by the President November 15, 2021.

This week the Department of the Interior released information about how the funds will affect a range of Interior’s programs. Four agencies in the DOI have significant wildland fire responsibilities: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The article below was written by Erin McDuff, a public affairs specialist with the DOI’s Office of Wildland Fire.


The law includes $1.2 trillion to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and railways; expand access to clean drinking water; ensure every American has access to high-speed internet; tackle the climate crisis; advance environmental justice; and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.

A Historic Investment in Wildland Fire Management

The law is a once-in-a-generation investment, but you might be wondering what it has to do with wildfires. As part of the nation’s efforts to address climate change and support resilient, climate-adapted communities, BIL provides a historic $4.5 billion for federal wildland fire management efforts over the next five years.

Within the federal government, the Interior and Agriculture departments both administer wildland fire programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service will receive an additional $3 billion through BIL while the Interior Department will receive approximately $1.5 billion for wildland fire management over the next five years. Both departments will coordinate closely to maximize the benefits of these additional investments.

What It Means

The Interior Department will dramatically expand its efforts to reduce wildfire risk, prepare for and respond to harmful wildfires, and support post-fire recovery, including in communities that have traditionally been overlooked. In 2022 alone, the Interior Department will invest an additional $407 million in wildland fire management.

Over the next five years, the primary investments will include:

Reducing Risk
The Interior Department will improve ecosystem health and remove fuel for wildfires on additional acreage using an additional $878 million.

Wildfire Recovery
With an additional $325 million, the Interior Department will expand burned area restoration activities.

Workforce Improvements
An additional $164 million will enable the Interior Department to improve firefighter classification, compensation, benefits, mental health resources, and training.

Technology and Equipment
With an additional $72 million, the Interior Department will improve the use of technology and equipment to detect and respond to wildfires.

Supporting Science
The Interior Department will invest an additional $10 million in the Joint Fire Science Program to identify and fund high-priority fire science research.

What Happens Next

The Interior Department, in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, is currently developing plans for the strategic implementation of this historic investment.

We are focused on implementing these significant investments in forest and rangeland restoration, hazardous fuel management, wildfire preparation, and post-wildfire recovery as quickly and efficiently as possible. BIL includes aggressive timelines, which we are prepared to meet, and we will share updates throughout the year as our work progresses.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

12 thoughts on “Department of Interior outlines changes enabled by Infrastructure Bill”

  1. All fed wildland fire needs to put put under a new agency and housed under Homeland Security.

    Simply put, wildland fire suppression and planning have outgrown land management agencies that are structured in the stone age. If this were private industry fire would have been spun off into their own division loooooong ago.

    It’s time for a serious perestroika!!!! We’re tablet computers being managed by a typewriter company.

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  2. I usually see at least 1 knowledgeable comment out of 5. Not today. Just by the way yall talk about NPS BLM and USFS I can tell you never were primary fire or worked more than perhaps 2 Duty Locations if that. The old Dogs in the USFS are all about gone. The tide is changing and no one cares how they screwed everything up before. It is all recorded and at our fingertips to go back and look at and not repeat. They are barely getting this done in time. If the pay increase doesn’t come by October. You will see a mutiny.

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    1. Skip,

      You draw so many assumptions about everyone on here and their carrier path. Why do you hold such a grudge about individuals that strive to work up the chain of command? If you don’t have self-confidence, stop taking it out on others. The majority of us have 10 -15 years of primary fire time. Things don’t change much in secondary positions. We still go out and fight fire for months and come back to an enormous admin load required at the home unit. Trust me; I would rather work in the field than write FMP’s, NEPA, and Rx plans. But you know, someone got to do it. Why don’t you challenge yourself, step up and expose yourself to what the lazy secondary fire positions jobs require? They often pay more for a reason. It seems like you’re whining about pay, and this is one way you can increase it. Low pay has been an issue for years now. No one has ever put handcuffs on yourself or me to keep us employed in this field. I choose to work hard, challenge myself, move to 6 different duty stations to increase my pay, and become happy internally.

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    2. Skip, you said the tide is changing. How is it changing? I don’t mean any disrespect. I really want to know how its changing. I know I can be hard on NPS/FS, but that’s because of my experiences with them, but if there are changes and things are getting better it would be nice to know. Maybe if I knew things were better I would, I could, change my mind. Change my view point. Thanks!

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  3. So, the last admin cut the budget and this admin gets a pat on the back for giving the money back. Ok? Interesting!?! I do have to give the NPS kudos for posting a lot of jobs on USAJobs compared to the FS, however the positions are very low pay. For example, I was a GS-12 at the FS and the same job at the NPS is a GS-4. (Not sure that’s legal, but whatever!) As for the commit about moving FS under DOI. I like the idea…either way, the NPS and FS, both need more accountability.

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    1. Just curious, what position/series was that for? Not doubting you, I have full faith in the NPS’s ability to screw the employee.

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  4. [2nd try]
    Further commendation your ever pertinent reporting!
    Ongoing endangering electrical Gr9d induced wildfires also deserve continued exposures/timely coverages

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  5. I totally agree with Capt. LD. FS has become a money pit when it comes to spending fuels/preparedness funding. I’ve seen people get their entire salaries covered because a fire pamphlet sits in a district office visitor center. That’s just one of many examples I could use.

    I, as a taxpayer, would love to see the Forest Service removed from the Department of Agriculture and placed under the Department of the Interior where there’s more accountability.

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    1. Moving the USFS out of USDA and into USDI has been talked about for decades, and then discarded. Bad Idea! USDI agency heads are required to be approved by the Senate, seriously politicizing the Agencies. Look back a very short time and you’ll see the consequences: no real Director of the BLM for 4 years, forces re-location of the HQS to Colorado to be housed in the same building as gas and oil companies, etc. The USFS Chief is not a political appointee, and is usually a career Natural Resources person. Yes, the USFS has some problems, but I’m optimistic that the Infrastructure Act has real potential to do good without a massive re-organization.

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      1. Emmett,

        All agency heads at the ES level are politized. Have you ever heard agency leads speak when questioned before the senate or committees? They can never give an honest and truthful answer. Consolidation or abolishment of government agencies with highly similar management goals needs to happen. I grew up in the Washington D.C. area, and something happens even to the best when they step foot in the old swamp of the Potomac.

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  6. I have more faith in the DOI to implement this than I do of the Dept of Agriculture, who have a Hugh history of dragging their feet to implement new solutions after being told to do so but Congress!
    BLM and the other agencies in DOI, have always fought fire more aggressively then the FS. I always enjoyed working with the DOI .

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