The White House announced the creation Wednesday of the American Climate Corps to train 20,000 young adults for work in clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience. At the same time, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Forest Corps, operating through the U.S. Forest Service, would be the first major interagency partnership with the Climate Corps.
Groups across the United States will receive a total of $1.1 billion to plant and maintain trees in cities and towns to combat extreme heat and mitigate climate change, announced the Biden administration on Thursday. “We’ve never had the opportunity to provide resources at this level,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
In a long-expected step, the White House announced hefty increases in pay for wildland firefighters on Tuesday, amounting to an additional $600 million over two years, to confront increasingly destructive fires. The Forest Service has acknowledged difficulty in hiring enough firefighters this year; some state and local agencies offer much higher pay.
Responding to a "wildfire crisis" in the West, the Biden administration will double or even triple its efforts to thin forests and prevent fires that would threaten communities, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. The 10-year plan will focus on large, high-risk "firesheds" in places such as the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada in California, the Front Range of Colorado and the Southwest.
The Biden administration took the first step to quash a proposed copper mine near the popular Boundary Waters wilderness area in northeastern Minnesota on Wednesday with an inter-agency request to block mineral leases in the area for 20 years. It was a change in course from the Trump era, when the government smiled on the proposed Twin Metals mine.
The government needs to quicken the pace of its fuel reduction work in public forests at the same time that it marshals enough crews to fight wildfires, said Forest Service chief Randy Moore at a House hearing on Wednesday. "The sobering takeaway: America's forests are in a state of emergency, and it's time to treat them like one."
President Biden's nominee to oversee the 193 million-acre national forest system said on Thursday that he would focus on wildfire management and prevention and on eradicating racial and sexual discrimination at the Forest Service. "If confirmed, I will be the person responsible for providing leadership to ensure that everyone is treated fairly," said Homer Wilkes, a 41-year USDA employee.
Randy Moore, a career USDA employee who now oversees 20 million acres of national forests in California, will be the first Black chief of the U.S. Forest Service in its 116-year history, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday.
California experienced more wildfire last year than any previous year on record, but the severe drought currently strangling nearly three-quarters of the American West threatens to make the 2021 fire season even worse. And while many state and federal agencies are taking extraordinary measures to prevent the further loss of life and property – including prescribed burns, thinning and the deployment of the largest firefighting force in California’s history – some question the efficacy of these increasingly costly measures. (No paywall)
Citing recent increases in timber sales from the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the Forest Service to "identify new opportunities to increase America's energy dominance and reduce reliance on foreign countries for critical minerals." In a memo to the Forest Service chief, Perdue also said livestock grazing should be regarded as an essential part of management of the grasslands that are part of the 193-million-acre National Forest System.
The USDA intends by this fall to put in place a revised land management plan for the greater sage-grouse, once a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
In the name of greater efficiency, the U.S. Forest Service said on Wednesday that it would modernize its procedures for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act, the bedrock federal environmental protection law.
With congressional leaders calling the shots on forestry language, and with an incendiary Republican proposal for strict SNAP work requirements apparently off the table, negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a farm bill that is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in a press briefing Tuesday on California’s raging forest fires, called for more management of federal forest lands to be shifted to local authorities, arguing that this would help prevent fires.
Forest Service chief Vicki Christiansen, who took office on Thursday after six months as interim chief, said the USDA agency would spend $2.6 billion on fire suppression “for this historic fire season,” roughly the same as in 2017.
After six months as the agency’s interim leader, Vicki Christiansen will take the oath of office today as chief of the U.S. Forest Service, one of the USDA’s largest agencies.
On Tuesday, the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee announced that three of President Trump’s nominees have received Senate approval to begin work at the USDA and the CFTC.
Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are scheduled to vote Tuesday on two Trump administration nominees, Dan Berkovitz to be a CFTC commissioner and James Hubbard to be agriculture undersecretary for natural resources.