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Thank you for inviting me here today to testify on the President's fiscal year 2022 Budget for the
The President's Fiscal Year 2022 Budget for the
* Wildland fire risk management is a top priority for the
* The FY 2022 Budget requests
* To further the President's goal to conserve 30 percent of
Over the past year, the coronavirus pandemic brought human loss and suffering to untold numbers of American families. Job losses, challenges with social distancing, separation of loved ones, telework, and virtual schooling, all impacted our society and agency workforce. In response, the
Given the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to complete and sustain forest treatment work on the ground. The
In fiscal year 2021, we have treated over 2 million acres to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest conditions. We have had great success in implementing prescribed fire projects thus far, with nearly 1.5 million acres treated using prescribed fire. The agency is on track to 3.25 million acres of the 3.5 million-acre target by the end of the fiscal year. These prescribed burns are low-intensity surface fires that release substantially less carbon dioxide than wildfires of the same size.
We are also working to sustain rural small businesses and industries by relying on local communities to fulfill logistical firefighting personnel needs rather than outsource to larger cities, keeping communities open by supporting lodging, restaurants, grocery stores, and hardware suppliers.
In a year where demand for outdoor recreation reached record levels during the pandemic, we expect a modest rise in spending from
I will now discuss how our ongoing work to implement the fiscal year 2021 budget aligns with the
Controlling the COVID-19 pandemic
Last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic as well as historic natural disasters and civil unrest, the
Our 2021 field work and fire seasons are currently underway. In accordance with the Administration's priority in Executive Order 13987 to halt the spread of COVID-19, by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures, the
Tackling Climate Change Today, the need to address the climate crisis is more urgent than ever. Fire seasons are longer with wildfires occurring outside the span of historic fire seasons in different parts of the country. Other climate change threats include regional drought, invasive species, and major outbreaks of insects and disease. The
Wildfire Management. The 2020 fire year was unprecedented in many ways. Not only did we fight fire during a global pandemic, but more acres burned on
In 2021, we are anticipating and are prepared for another long and arduous fire year. We continue to invest in pre-planned response using risk assessments and analytics to inform fire managers about resource allocations needed and used on fires. We are also investing in several key technology and modernization portfolios; including, Data Management, Enhanced Real Time Operating Picture, Decision Support Applications, and Modern Tools for a Modern Response. Additionally, implementation of the Large Fire Assessment process, as directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus), is helping us better account for our actions while fostering a learning culture. Cooperation with partners at the federal, state, and local levels also ensures we have a strong workforce of firefighters and equipment to provide for safe and effective wildfire response throughout the year. We are working to implement administrative solutions that address pay equity, fatigue, and mental wellbeing of our firefighters.
Climate Adaptation and Mitigation. In line with Executive Order (E.O.) 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the
Restoration and Reforestation. Natural resource challenges are best met with collective action. Stakeholders of the
Moving forward we will maintain our Shared Stewardship approach of working together in an integrated way to make decisions and take actions on the land. With this shared approach, the
The Administration has also placed a priority to restore nature-based infrastructure including our lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and other natural resources. As part of the American Jobs Plan, the Administration is calling on
Providing Economic Relief
The fiscal year 2021 Omnibus authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to use up to
Fiscal Accountability and the Fire Funding Fix
In fiscal year 2021, the
At the beginning of fiscal year 2021, fire activity was at its peak with most resources committed throughout the country. In prior years the end of the most severe part of the fire season typically occurred in early to mid-September. This year, however, there were more than 24,000 firefighters engaged nationally on
Advancing Racial Equity and Improving Our Work Environment
It is essential that we create a work environment that promotes the safety of our employees and fosters equity and inclusion for all people.
In closing, we are always mindful of the need to demonstrate to