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Biden, Harris Discuss Wildfire Impacts, Response With Western Governors

 The Snake River Complex Idaho burning in Idaho is comprised of wildfires that merged together.
The Snake River Complex Idaho burning in Idaho is comprised of wildfires that merged together.

News Brief

As Western states battle thousands of acres of wildfires that are degrading air quality across the country, President Biden on Friday told Western governors that his infrastructure plan provides needed relief.

“It includes billions of dollars to strengthen wildfire preparedness, resilience and response. It includes funding for prevention efforts like forest management and to restore millions of acres of high-risk areas to protect homes and public water sources for drinking,” Biden said during a call with governors from the Western states of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, California, Oregon and Washington.

This year’s intense fire season highlights “the necessity to successfully confront climate change,” he added.

Biden’s nearly $1 trillion infrastructure plan cleared a key vote on Friday and continues to move through the U.S. Senate.

State leaders, meanwhile, told Biden they want to see a shift among federal agencies in terms of year-round mitigation and faster response times.

“We ask that our federal partners join us in doing what needs to be done year-round to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” said Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana, where 19 large-scale wildfires are burning.

Among Montana’s nine million acres at high risk for wildfire, 60 percent are on federal land, Gianforte said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the U.S. Forest Service employs a “wait-and-see” approach. A California wildfire spread to Nevada because of a slow response from that agency.

“Greg was making an oblique point here. I want to be a little bit more explicit. We need your help to change the culture in terms of the suppression strategies in this climate, literally and figuratively, to be more aggressive on these federal fires,” Newsom said.

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 2021 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.