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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Wildfire projects in Mountain West receive new federal funds

Huge plumes of dark smoke can be seen from a fire burning a long distance away. The smoke is traveling across a field with sparse plant life. A car can be seen in the foreground, stopped along a fence.
Courtesy Of InciWeb
Fire activity as seen from along the southeast edge of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the largest and most destructive in New Mexico’s history, on May 7, 2022.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending nearly $200 million to reduce wildfire risk to communities nationwide, including many parts of the Mountain West.

The money comes from the department’s new Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, a $1 billion initiative funded by President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law. The first round of funding is aimed at 100 projects in 22 states and seven tribes, with most plans focused on clearing flammable brush near homes and businesses, and in forests.

Communities are increasingly at-risk as the climate changes, Vice President Kamala Harris said in a call with reporters on March 20.

“I have seen entire neighborhoods burned to the ground,” she said. “I have been in neighborhoods where the only thing left standing were the chimneys, which looked almost like tombstones.”

Harris said investing in wildfire preparedness is more critical than ever, adding: “Because we know the best time to fight a fire is before it starts.”

In the Mountain West, the largest share of funds are going to projects in New Mexico, led by an $8 million effort in Colfax County. A project spread across both Colfax and Taos counties is receiving $1.8 million, and another in Sante Fe is getting $1.3 million. Other funded plans are in San Miguel County ($235,404) and Sandoval County ($63,000).

In Central Utah, $4.7 million will be used to plan a wildfire risk reduction program and remove hazardous fuels around structures. In Washoe County, Nevada, $2.3 million is funding wildfire awareness and mitigation projects in a community in Northwest Reno. In Archuleta County, Colorado, $1.1 million is being used to treat 600 acres of hazardous fuels protecting 235 structures.

Rounding out the region, funds are going to projects in Idaho’s Clark County ($690,000) and Idaho County ($193,844) as well as Wyoming’s Crook Creek ($234,825).

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see more, visit KUNR Public Radio.

Kaleb Roedel