Date: Friday, July 23, 2021
Contact: [email protected]
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland traveled to Grand Junction, Colorado, today, where she discussed the Department of the Interior’s wildland fire preparedness and response efforts, including investments to improve the Grand Junction Air Center complex, a multi-purpose wildland fire management and operation center. Secretary Haaland was joined by Governor Jared Polis and members of the Colorado congressional delegation.
While touring the Grand Junction Air Center — the dispatch and air tanker base at the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit — Secretary Haaland announced a $6.1 million investment to replace facilities at the complex, which will eliminate safety hazards by replacing multiple structurally deficient buildings with a single cost-effective building.
"We owe the brave women and men on the frontlines the right tools and training they need to protect our communities and our lands from the increasing threat of fire,” said Secretary Haaland. “By making smart investments in critical infrastructure as well as climate resilience, we will strengthen our wildland fire preparedness and response across the West.”
Secretary Haaland’s visit comes a week after the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) raised the National Wildfire Preparedness Level (PL) to 5, only the third time in the past 20 years the nation has reached PL 5 by mid-July. The increase to PL 5 reflects ongoing and severe wildfire activity in every western geographic area and competition for firefighting resources and equipment on a national level. Already this year, 35,000 wildfires have burned more than 2.5 million acres of land.
In preparation for the challenging wildfire season, President Biden directed a number of actions to ensure the federal government can most effectively protect public safety and deliver assistance to communities. Secretary Haaland joined the President at a meeting in June with Governors from Western states, Cabinet officials and private sector partners to discuss actions the public and private sector are taking to strengthen prevention, preparedness, mitigation and response efforts to wildfires.
Secretary Haaland also highlighted how investments in President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda would help better prepare communities and ecosystems against the threat of wildland fire. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework contains historic investments to restore and leverage nature-based infrastructure to protect communities and the environment. The Department also recently outlined updated wildland fire management goals, including supporting science and research into the effects of climate change on wildland fire.
The infrastructure improvements to the Air Center complex announced today will keep workers safe and increase efficiency while reducing operation costs. Additional structural repairs to the Tanker Base concrete apron pavement will correct multiple deficiencies and bring the apron into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
The project is supported by the Great American Outdoors Act’s (GAOA) National Park and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF) program. Through GAOA, Interior will invest more than $1.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2022 to address critical deferred maintenance projects and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure in national parks, national wildlife refuges and visitors centers, as well as dams, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures.
The Grand Junction Air Center complex supports federal efforts to improve the health, resiliency and recovery of wildland ecosystems and address the climate crisis by mitigating the risks and impacts of catastrophic wildfires. The Air Center provides tactical aircraft resources locally and regionally and is the only facility that can support large air tankers coverage for Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.