Luján, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Waive Cost Sharing for New Mexicans Impacted by Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Forest Restoration Program Relief Act to waive the cost share requirement for the Emergency Forest Restoration Program for those impacted by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire. The Emergency Forest Restoration Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides payments to eligible owners of nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) land in order to carry out emergency measures to restore land damaged by a natural disaster. Under this legislation, this program would be expanded to cover 100% of the cost of communities impacted by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.

“As a result of a controlled burn—started by the federal government—the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire has devastated our communities. It’s clear there needs to be a strong federal response as  our communities have already begun the recovery process, and waiving cost-share payments is one area in particular where an immediate impact will be felt,” said Senator Luján. “Under current restoration guidelines, the federal government is only required to cover 75% of the cost for extreme events, forcing our local governments and New Mexican farmers and ranchers to pay out of pocket for the remaining damages. This is unacceptable for a fire started by the Forest Service, and that’s why I am leading this bill to ensure New Mexicans can be made whole once again, by requiring the federal government to fully cover the cost of the damage caused by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.”

“The federal government should be pulling every lever to make sure all New Mexicans are made whole again,” said Senator Heinrich. “This legislation would expand the Emergency Forest Restoration Program so that we can waive eligible damage costs and help alleviate financial burdens for impacted communities.”

Background:

Earlier this year, Senators Heinrich and Luján and the New Mexico Delegation introduced the Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act, to require FEMA to fully compensate New Mexico residents and business owners impacted by the Hermit’s Peak Fire. This legislation was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives as a part of the NDAA.

Recently, the Senators introduced two bills to support efforts in New Mexico and across the country to put fires out faster and better protect communities from post-fire flooding.

  • The Fire Suppression Improvement Act would help ease the burden on state and local governments who are shouldering the weight of increasingly devastating wildfires by expanding FEMA’s Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) to better support the pre-deployment of assets in advance of major wildfires.
  • The Post Fire Flooding and Debris Flow Act would include mitigating and preventing post-wildfire flooding and debris flows as eligible under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and allow for state and local governments to act quickly when storms are imminent to protect lives, property, and public infrastructure.

Senator Luján also joined President Biden and Vice President Harris at the White House as he signed a Major Disaster Declaration for New Mexico in the wake of severe wildfires. Senator Luján also visited Los Alamos, Mora, and Las Vegas to see firsthand how these communities have been impacted by wildfires..

Senator Luján also confirmed with Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that New Mexico farmers and ranchers affected by recent and ongoing wildfires will receive the USDA’s full support — including access to U.S. Forest Service grazing lands for cattle and livestock.

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