On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, an historic investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness. Since being signed into law, it has been instrumental in transforming the lives and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, small businesses and communities nationwide. Through this landmark legislation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is bringing economic opportunity, telemedicine and distance learning to rural America, with investments in high-speed internet; protecting and making communities more resilient to wildfires by restoring forests and investing in the wildland fire workforce; and supporting innovative solutions to the many environmental, economic and social challenges faced in communities across the nation.
“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is helping to ensure that many communities – too long left behind -- have historic resources to address historic challenges, including by tackling the wildfire crisis and mitigating drought, repairing roads, bridges and dams, and connecting communities to high-speed internet,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment in rural communities and in just two years, the law’s historic resources have made communities across America safer, their landscapes more resilient, and their economies stronger, more equitable, and better able to compete.”
In the two years since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed into law, USDA has delivered funding to historically underfunded and backlogged programs -- protecting communities, natural resources and supporting rural economies. The funding has also allowed for the development of new programs, which listen to local voices, include underserved communities, and focus on responding directly to community needs.
Reducing Wildfire Risk and Supporting Rural America
With $5.5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, USDA is reducing wildfire risk, restoring healthy, resilient and productive forests, while improving economic, environmental and recreation infrastructure. Listening to local voices, USDA has taken historic strides in fighting climate change, growing sustainable forest economies and supporting wildland firefighters.
Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and regular appropriations, USDA treated more than 7.5 million acres to protect communities, watersheds and critical infrastructure from wildfire over the last two years. Treatments prioritized work across 21 high-risk landscapes as part of the 10-Year Wildfire Crisis Strategy to reduce wildfire risk where it poses the most immediate threats to communities.
In fiscal year 2023, USDA Forest Service set an agency record for acres of hazardous fuels treated, including a record for most acres ever treated with prescribed fire, exceeding the agency's target by nearly 400,000 acres.
Launched an interactive story map for communities to see wildfire risk reduction efforts across these 21 western landscapes.
Launched the Community Wildfire Defense Program with the National Association of State Foresters and the Intertribal Timber Council, committing $1 billion in grants to help private forest owners, Tribal communities, state forestry agencies and other at-risk communities reduce wildfire risk.
Released a new National Reforestation Strategy (PDF, 7 MB) to guide how the Forest Service and partners will address a four million acre reforestation backlog on national forests over the next ten years.
Increased the pay of more than 20,000 federal wildland firefighters, established a Wildland Firefighter occupational series and developed an historical $569 million funding request to Congress to reform wildland firefighter pay, invest in workforce housing, and vital health and wellbeing. Urgent congressional action is required to permanently authorize and continue the pay increase.
Co-led the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission alongside the Department of the Interior and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The commission submitted its recommended (PDF, 5.3 MB) strategies and policies to Congress on September 27, 2023 to better prevent, suppress and recover from wildfires.
Invested $55 million to improve recreation infrastructure, historic sites and cabins on national forests, supporting recreation economies and improving experiences for visitors.
Funded $75 million in community wood and wood innovations grants to expand wood product use and strengthen wood markets that support long-term, sustainable forest management.
Distributed $466 million to 742 counties to fund schools, roads and other public services through the Secure Rural Schools program. The program was reauthorized through 2023 by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.