Utah’s wildfire resilience programs will get a financial boost as the Department of Interior announced it will disperse $10 million for wildfire management for more than 43,000 acres of land in the Beehive State.

This grant, almost double what Utah received last year, is a part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was negotiated by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021. The legislation set aside $1.5 billion for the Interior Department to distribute over five years for investments in preparedness, fuels management, post-fire restoration, and fire science. 

“Utahns, and residents of the American West, understand the reality that decades of severe drought and poor forest management practices have caused wildfires to become more numerous and destructive,” Romney said in a press release on Friday.

This funding comes after the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission released a 340-page report in late September.

The wildfire commission was established in 2021 as a part of the infrastructure act. The idea was first introduced by Romney along with Republican Rep. John Curtis, who represents Utah’s 3rd District, in the form of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act.

The commission’s latest report highlighted an urgent need to expand the wildfire workforce, invest in pre- and post-fire planning, and advocate for an increase in beneficial fires, like prescribed burning.

Romney also backed easy remedies — like controlled burns and deadwood removal — for wildfire resilience, adding he looks forward to seeing how the critical projects will be implemented across Utah. He stressed the importance of bolstering wildfire resilience to prevent catastrophic disasters in the future.

The report also pointed to climate change as the reason behind warmer and drier conditions in the West that make wildfires more frequent and also extreme in severity.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said on Nov. 30 that this investment will help take a strategic approach to “wildland fire management and mitigation, greater support of wildland firefighters, and much-needed equipment and preparedness methods.”

There have been more than 800 fires in 2023 that burned at least 18,000 acres — proving to be one of the mildest wildfire seasons in Utah history, according to KSL.com. Roughly 40% of the fires were human-caused.

Romney has praised Utah for its policies that “deal with the reality that wildfires are going to become an increasing problem.”

“Our state actually has begun a program of contacting people with alerts about fire danger, and that has had an impact on reducing the number of human-caused wildfires,” he said at a Senate hearing in March. “So, I would suggest that as at least one thing we (should) consider even at the federal level or at least encouraging states to consider.”