Biden's wildfire commission convenes in Salt Lake City for first meeting
The Biden administration's newly formed Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission met for the first time this week in Salt Lake City.
Details: The commission, made up of federal, state and local leaders, convened over two days to discuss ways to better mitigate future wildfires from becoming catastrophic.
Why it matters: Utah is one of the most wildfire-prone states in the nation, and many people here have felt the impacts of fires through smoky air, evacuations and destroyed property.
- Last year, 1,131 wildfires burned 63,792 acres across the state, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
- Even after a wildfire is put out, burn scars can lead to flooding.
Context: The commission, charged with providing policy recommendations, was formed this year through a bill authored by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). It became law with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's passage.
- Salt Lake City was chosen as the commission's first meeting site due to its connection with Romney and Utah being at high risk for wildfires.
What they're saying: "[Wildfires] are going to occur, but their impact is going to depend on how we as a nation respond," U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell told Axios Salt Lake City.
- Climate change and drought have exacerbated wildfires seen across the West, she added.
In a video to the commission, Romney called the commission's work "extraordinarily consequential."
- "With fires becoming more devastating and frequent, the policy recommendations and strategies can be a critical step in better protecting our communities and the environment," he said.
Of note: Utahns who serve on the commission include Utah State Hazard Mitigation Officer Kathy Holder and Rich County Commissioner Bill Cox.
What's next: The commission is required to submit a report to Congress by January.
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