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N.M. Delegation Announces Over $11 Million in Infrastructure Law Funding to Bolster Wildfire Resilience in Advance of 2023 Fire Season

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) announced a total of $11,482,174 in Infrastructure Law funding to make New Mexico communities more resilient to wildfires and strengthen the federal, state and local response.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Community Wildfire Defense Grant program – a $1 billion new initiative funded under the Infrastructure Law. These funds will help at-risk communities implement plans to protect themselves from wildfires. Activities funded include developing or updating a community’s Wildfire Protection Plan or implementing projects outlined in a community’s existing plan – such as removing overgrown weeds or dead vegetation from around homes, properly marking evacuation routes in preparation for smoky conditions, identifying invasive species that create fire risk like invasive bamboo, or clearing brush from around powerlines.

“After last year’s historic wildfire season, New Mexico’s Congressional Democrats delivered nearly $4 billion in federal resources to help make our communities whole again. But all of our communities need to be prepared for the new reality of drier conditions and increased wildfire risks. These critical projects funded by the Infrastructure Law will help at-risk communities in New Mexico take preventative actions to make our forests more resilient on the front end and protect our homes from future fires,” said Heinrich.

“Last year's devastating wildfire season highlighted the clear need for increased wildfire resilience to help protect our communities,” said Luján. “I was proud to lead the New Mexico delegation in securing nearly $4 billion to help impacted communities recover from last year's historic Hermit's Peak wildfire. But more investments are urgently needed to make New Mexico's communities more resilient against the next wildfire. That’s why I’m glad to welcome over $11 million in funding to help prepare areas that are at risk and strengthen our government's response.”

“As we recover from the intergenerational loss of homes and businesses, beautiful forests, and invaluable memories, we remain vigilant to risks of future wildfires,” said Leger Fernández. “Our promise to seek justice stands. These grants from the USDA are an example of how legislation we passed in Congress protects communities across New Mexico. This funding will support watershed revitalization, fuels management, and firefighting logistics in Taos, Colfax, Sandoval, and Santa Fe counties. Let’s make our forests–and our communities–safer and more resilient.”

“Last year, communities across New Mexico were devastated by wildfires. In the face of this destruction, I was proud to join our federal delegation in securing nearly $4 billion in federal disaster relief for impacted families and funding to invest in forest management and fire prevention,” said Stansbury. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is continuing to deliver for New Mexico and our communities by doing just that—bringing home good-paying jobs to support forest management, prevent wildfires, and rebuild our rural economies while we continue the work to get recovery dollars on the ground and support New Mexico families.”

“After one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in our state’s history this federal funding will provide critical defense for our communities,” said Vasquez. “I will continue to call on the federal government to support wildfire prevention measures and firefighters across the state.”

USDA’s Community Wildfire Defense Grant program has awarded the following funding to New Mexico:

  • Cimarron Watershed Alliance Inc., Colfax Collaborative Wildland Urban Interface Project: $8,048,150 to create defensible space around homes and structures of value, thin forests to reduce hazardous fuel loading, maintain existing fuel breaks, and create new fuel breaks. The project will treat about 150 to 175 properties per year and approximately 3,400 acres over the next five years.
  • Cimarron Watershed Alliance Inc., Flying Horse Ranch Fuel Break Project: $1,821,254 to maintain and widen an existing four mile fuel break and then expand it approximately 10.2 miles covering 702 acres. This 14.2 mile fuel break project is a small but critical piece of approximately 75 miles of fuel breaks. It's currently being planned and implemented in the Enchanted Circle Priority Landscape within Taos and Colfax Counties.
  • Forest Stewards Guild, Community Wildfire Mitigation in the Greater Santa Fe Fire shed: $1,314,366 to deliver accomplishments in measurable timely outcomes over the next five years, with over 500 home hazard assessments completed, and over 125 acres of high priority treated fuel mitigation treatments. This will increase the number and geographic coverage of fire shed ambassadors and the number of education and outreach events.
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs, Exercise and Project Implementation of Community Wildfire Protection Plan: $235,404 to provide peer-to-peer guidance, subject-matter expertise, and funding to aid in the exercise and implementation of projects within the 2018 San Miguel County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) over a 24-month period. The CWPP identifies high priority projects including training, community education and outreach, and evacuation planning projects. It's all aimed at reducing wildfire risk to the community. Unification of stakeholders will support capacity and sustainable actions, evacuation, and recovery operations.
  • Sandoval County, Sandoval Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update: $63,000 to update the Community Wildfire Protection Plan and make it a useful document for both first responders and community members that live within the wildland urban interface. This will be done through outreach meetings with a wide array of key community stakeholders to determine priorities for the impacted areas.

Last year, New Mexico Congressional Democrats passed the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act and secured $3.95 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to better meet the expected costs to fund the provisions of the bill. The lawmakers also secured language in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Agreement to allow for the repairs and replacement of the water treatment facility in Las Vegas, New Mexico to ensure the community has access to clean drinking water.