Kelly, Romney Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Wildfire Mitigation and Resilience

Today, Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) introduced the Enhancing Mitigation and Building Effective Resilience (EMBER) Act, comprehensive bipartisan legislation based on recommendations from the Wildfire Mitigation and Management Commission to better assess, prevent, and help communities across the country manage wildfires.   

In 2021, Kelly and Romney introduced the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act, a bipartisan and bicameral bill to establish a commission of federal and non-federal stakeholders to study and recommend fire prevention, mitigation, management, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands. The legislation was later included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  

Since its establishment, the Commission issued two reports in February and September of 2023. The first report outlined a strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030. The second report raised the need to mitigate wildland fires and an increased investment in proactive pre-fire and post-fire planning and mitigation, as well as the importance of beneficial fires.   

“Wildfires are a significant and growing threat to our communities, environment, and economy. In places like Arizona where families face this threat every year, the federal government must step in to invest in mitigation and establish innovative solutions to reduce risks and help communities respond after major fires and associated events,” Senator Kelly said.The EMBER Act, which is based on recommendations from the Commission Senator Romney and I helped establish in 2021, is a direct response to these needs. I thank each individual on this Commission, particularly Lucinda Andreani and Neil Chapman, who are tireless Arizona public servants, for their thorough work that makes this legislation possible. Wildfire-threatened communities will be better off because of the EMBER Act.”   

“Utah averages 800-1,000 wildfires annually—making our state one of the most wildfire-prone states in the country. With wildfires getting more widespread and destructive, what was once primarily an issue for Western states has become a national priority,” Senator Romney said. “Senator Kelly and I took many of the recommendations from the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission—which I ensured became law during bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiations—and turned them into a comprehensive piece of legislation. Effectively addressing the growing threat of wildfires across our country will require us to modernize our policies and focus on bolstering resilience and restoration efforts.” 

Wildfires have become increasingly frequent and severe, posing a significant threat to communities, ecosystems, and economies, particularly in states like Arizona. In 2023 alone, over 176,939 acres of land burned in Arizona damaging homes, forests and businesses. In response to this growing crisis, the EMBER Act was crafted to address both immediate and long-term wildfire challenges by strengthening the nation’s wildfire preparedness, enhance recovery efforts, and promote sustainable practices to mitigate future risks.  

Supporting organizations of the bill include the National Association of Counties, Coalitions and Collaboratives, Inc., Alliance for Wildfire Resilience, Megafire Action, National Association of State Foresters, and The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. 

Click here to read the bill text. Click here for a one-pager. 

See what Arizona and Utah wildfire experts and stakeholders are saying about the EMBER Act:  

“Serving as the representative of counties across the country on the Congressionally established Wildland Fire Commission, I greatly appreciate Senators Kelly and Romney introducing the EMBER Act today. The EMBER Act represents the critical nature of the Commission’s recommendations and lays the foundation for significant policy improvements related to wildfire prevention, suppression and recovery. Counties and their communities bear the brunt of the devastation that results from catastrophic wildfires – both during wildfires and after wildfires with post-wildfire flooding – this bill is a game changer,” said Lucinda Andreani, Coconino County Deputy Manager and member of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.   

“The EMBER Act is well aligned with many of the recommendations of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. Expanding Federal wildfire response and prescribed fire resources to local fire departments and districts, targeting economic bottlenecks associated with forest product utilization, and increasing FEMA’s ability to provide timely support to communities experiencing catastrophic post-fire impacts, will positively impact how communities enable beneficial fire at a pace and scale that that can significantly reduce undesirable wildfire risk,” said Neil Chapman, City of Flagstaff Wildland Forest Health Specialist and member of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.  

“The Alliance for Wildfire Resilience is thrilled to see this important legislation developed from the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Report. The EMBER Act will address some of the critical issues the Commission identified, including the need to improve post-fire recovery and lower the barrier for partnership through improved flexibility for matching funds. This legislation is a huge step forward for communities preparing for and recovering from the impacts of wildfire,” said Annie Schmidt, Alliance for Wildfire Resilience Director.  

“There’s a mistaken belief that wildfires are the inevitable result of climate change and there’s nothing we can do except clean up afterwards,” said Utah Governor Spencer Cox. “The recommendations of the wildfire commission disprove that and show there are lots of actions the federal government can take to prevent catastrophic wildfires. I’m grateful for Senator Romney’s legislation to implement these recommendations, including expedited permitting for active forest management, more common sense grazing policies, and forcing collaboration between the Department of Interior, USDA, and other federal agencies. Much of these policies should have happened long ago, but I’m grateful for Senator Romney’s good work to make them a reality.” 

“With the increasing wildfire risk our communities are facing, it is important for us to prioritize mitigation that targets high-risk areas and builds resilient forests,” said Jamie Barnes, Director and State Forester for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “Wildfire does not respect boundaries and our work to prevent and address the wildfire risk should be the same. This is another step forward that helps all partners involved in wildfire mitigation, suppression and post-fire recovery have access to the resources they need.” 

“The EMBER Act provides the Forest Service, local governments and private industry with the necessary tools to prevent wildfire, manage our watersheds and to conduct effective post-fire recovery efforts. It is comprehensive and provides a holistic approach to better management of our nation’s forests. Utah needs the EMBER Act,” said Redge Johnson, Director of the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office. 

“As a former member of the National Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, I am happy to see the EMBER Act bring many of the Commission’s recommendations to fruition. This bill is a very sizable move in the right direction, and I thank Senator Romney for his leadership over the last several years to ensure Utah communities are better prepared to mitigate and recover from wildfires,” said Kathy Holder, State Hazard Mitigation Officer, Utah Division of Emergency Management and member of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.