Washington, DCToday, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, along with Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) and Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Making Access to Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act. 

In September 2019, Rep. Curtis hosted US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary James Hubbard and senior USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service officials in Utah County for a roundtable discussion with local elected leaders, state officials, and USDA Forest Service representatives. Among other topics, they discussed ways to address wildfire cleanup challenges and how to improve the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. See [HERE] for more information. 

Working with the USDA, Congressman Curtis was able to take the solutions from the roundtable and develop the MATCH Act, bipartisan legislation that will expedite disaster cleanup, save taxpayers money, and prevent further disasters.

“After a wildfire disaster, the land is left at its most vulnerable. Rehabilitation and protection efforts must be quickly implemented to guard against further damage, and in most cases, the workload continues to increase as a project waits for the federal government’s approval,” said Curtis. “I am proud to introduce the Making Access To Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Actto allow certain watershed rehabilitation work, carried out by a sponsor before the Emergency Watershed Protection project is approved, count toward the sponsor’s required financial contribution to the overall project. This change will allow communities the flexibility that they need to recover from wildfire more quickly without using any additional taxpayer dollars.”

“California is experiencing historically devastating wildfires with regularity and a year-long wildfire season. We must take forward-thinking steps to recover from wildfires as quickly as possible to support our communities. The MATCH Act takes critical steps to prioritize wildfire prevention and recovery, and I am proud to support this legislation,” Garamendi said.

“After seeing the many bureaucratic hurdles communities in Utah and Duchesne counties faced after the wildfires of 2018, Congressman Curtis and I are advocating on behalf of local leaders to streamline the mitigation process,” Romney said.“Our legislation will cut through the red tape that local communities face in the aftermath of wildfires to make it easier for them to recover.”

“Communities that take steps to mitigate damage in the wake of destructive fires deserve a reliable partner in the federal government. The Emergency Watershed Protection Program is a valuable tool for post-fire recovery in Colorado and throughout the West, but communities often face significant hurdles accessing funding quickly,” said Bennet. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill help relieve some of the burden on local project sponsors and improve the effectiveness of EWP for wildfire recovery.” 

Statements of Support

Utah Governor Gary Herbert: “As a former county commissioner myself, I applaud Senator Romney and Representative Curtis for their leadership in giving communities the tools to prevent or recover from wildfires. The first responsibility of county leaders is to protect their residents, and anything Congress can do to provide more flexibility for federal funds is a welcome improvement.”

Tanner Ainge, Chairman of the Utah County Commission: “We are grateful for the work of Senator Romney and Congressman Curtis for their prompt and direct response to challenges we have been facing after the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires. This legislation will cut through the bureaucratic red tape we face and help our county and our impacted communities as they continue to recover from the damaged caused by these fires.”

Ty Ellis, Mayor, Elk Ridge: “The MATCH Actwill eliminate the crippling delay we encountered after the Bald Mountain Fire. Had this been in place during last year’s fire season, we would be better equipped to handle the threats we will face this summer from wildfires. We appreciate Senator Romney and Congressman Curtis for hearing our concern and doing something about it.”

Kari Malkovich, Woodland Hills City Council Member: “I appreciate the efforts of Congressman Curtis and Senator Romney in helping local communities recover from the aftermath of a natural disaster.  The MATCH Act will greatly assist the city of Woodland Hills in our post-fire mitigation efforts as we prepare for potential flooding, debris flow, and mudslides after the devastating Bald Mountain/Pole Creek fires of 2018.”

Background

This bill will:

  • Direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a list of watershed rehabilitation activities for potential EWP sponsors to carry out prior to project approval. 
  • Direct the NRCS to establish a procedure for potential EWP sponsors to consult with state NRCS offices about additional pre-approval watershed rehabilitation work. 
  • Ensure that those activities count towards the program’s required 25% sponsor match.

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