Wildfire has become a problem Congress can’t ignore and we’re seeing innovative policy solutions pop up across a wide range of committees and agencies. If you are interested in engaging in fire policy in 2024, there will not be a lack of opportunities. Below are some key areas to watch in 2024 impacting fire:
- EPA PM 2.5 Final Rule: The EPA is planning to release its highly anticipated air quality final rule later this month. While the rule is intended to regulate industrial sources, it will inadvertently suppress states’ ability to allow prescribed fire. Conservation groups have taken issue with this piece of the rule and we expect the EPA, working with USFS, DOI and other agencies will need to find avenues to allow prescribed fire to take place in areas that do not meet the new particulate matter threshold.
- Smoke MOU: In late 2023, DOI, CDC, EPA, and USDA announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to “further their joint work to protect communities from the impacts of wildfire smoke, while promoting land management practices that reduce the risk of large, severe fires.” The agencies released a joint plan outlining wildland fire priorities, which will be an opportunity to engage at the agency level on implementation.
- Wildland Fire Commission Report: Congressional offices and agencies are quickly laying claim to the various recommendations released within the report. Multiple committees are considering which recommendations fall within their jurisdiction and what is feasible. Once the commission disbands this year, it will be up to external stakeholders to educate on the importance of recommendations they care most about.
- Farm Bill: We expect the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to contain many provisions on wildland fire within their respective bills. Specifically, we expect to see language on hazardous fuel mitigation and prescribed fire training centers and other mechanisms that expand prescribed fire.
- Wildfire Package: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee considered multiple wildfire-related bills late last year during a hearing and are looking at advancing a broader package in 2024.
- Appropriations: There are multiple pots of funding within the appropriations cycle that can have an outsized impact on fire. For example, the Joint Fire Science Program must be appropriated every year and can go towards fire science projects across the country.