Bennet, Romney reintroduce emergency wildfire cleanup bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have reintroduced legislation that would expedite disaster cleanup and work to prevent future wildfire disasters.
The bill, the Making Access To Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act, also was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. John Curtis, R-Utah, and John Garamendi, D-Calif.
The measure would direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a list of watershed rehabilitation activities for potential Emergency Watershed Protection program sponsors to carry out prior to project approval. It also would direct that agency to establish a procedure for potential program sponsors to consult with state NRCS offices about additional pre-approval watershed rehabilitation work. Finally, the bill would ensure that those activities count towards the program’s required 25% sponsor match.
“Colorado has experienced some of the most catastrophic wildfires on record in just the past few years,” Bennet said in a prepared statement. “We need more investment from the federal government and a stronger partner in Washington. The bipartisan MATCH Act will help communities recover faster from wildfires by reducing hurdles posed by local match requirements and delays in project approval. There is still a lot we need to do to address wildfires across Colorado and the American West — including by investing in forest management and wildfire prevention on the front end — but this is an important step forward.”
“In the aftermath of a wildfire, many Utah communities face delays in receiving necessary funds to begin recovery efforts in a timely manner,” Romney added. “Our legislation would help local communities cut through burdensome red tape, expediting the cleanup process and the start of restoration projects. We are proud to continue advocating for leaders in our state by reintroducing this important legislation and hope we can get it across the finish line this Congress.”
Last month, Bennet introduced the Protect the West Act to invest $60 billion in forest management and protection. This bill would aim to reduce wildfire risk, restore watersheds, and protect communities while creating or sustaining more than two million jobs and addressing the backlog of projects across public, private and Tribal land.
Bennet and Romney first introduced the MATCH Act in 2020 and 2021. At that time, La Plata County manager Chuck Stevens hailed the bill for attempting to fix a “flaw” in the Emergency Watershed Protection program that currently “delays the critical work needed to protect life and property in the wake of flooding and debris flow.” That county, which includes the town of Durango, was hit in 2018 by the 416 Fire, which burned more than 50,000 acres.