ENVIRONMENT

Utah set to receive millions of dollars of federal funding to combat wildfires

Jan 23, 2023, 7:20 PM | Updated: May 21, 2023, 4:38 pm

Over a hundred million dollars is planned to reduce the wildfire danger across Utah, thanks to federal funding focusing on specific areas to keep communities safer.

The focus will be on forest land that impacts homes, businesses, and recreational areas. There have been controlled burns and other efforts to thin the fuel, but rarely with the type of funding coming down to the state.

“Uinta-Wasatch-Cache is one of those places that has a high risk of catastrophic fire affecting communities,” explained Mary Farnsworth.

Farnsworth is Utah’s regional forester with the US Forest Service. She said we’ll see about $160 million over the next seven to ten years to help thin out overgrown areas through methods like harvesting and burning.

It comes as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act and is expected to create hundreds of new jobs to get the work done. In total, there are close to $500 million for 11 landscapes across the western US.

“It means that we can do the work that we’ve been wanting to do around forest health because the investment is at the appropriate size and scale for us to do that work,” Farnsworth said.

Jamie Barnes & Mary Farnsworth speaking about the funding plan. (KSL-TV)

The kind of scale they really haven’t been able to do before.

‘The state’s a big place. There’s a lot of work,” said Jamie Barne, the Director and Forester with Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.

He said the effort will improve the overall health of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, and Dixie National Forests, helping protect areas from invasive species and insect disease.

“I truly believe that we’re in historical times to be able to start doing this. This is money that we’ve never had before,” Barne expressed.

Planning is already underway, as Utahns can see some of this work take place in the coming months. The two national forests getting this help here in Utah are huge, but the hope is to treat around 30 to 40 percent of the land.

“Throughout the west, the drought has caused us a great issue, and when we have a drought, and you have unhealthy forest conditions, it makes wildfires worse,” Farnsworth explained.

Hopefully, these big chunks of improvement will lead to lessened wildfire danger across Utah.

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Utah set to receive millions of dollars of federal funding to combat wildfires