Increasing federal support for community climate resilience

In exciting news for land trusts, the House of Representatives passed the Resilient AMERICA Act, H.R. 5689, earlier this month.

By Chelsea Welch April 27

The bipartisan bill would make some major updates to FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, a new federal program that provides funding to help communities proactively reduce risk and improve resilience to disasters before they strike. Namely, it would expand eligibility for the BRIC program to private nonprofit organizations like land trusts and add wildfires as eligible hazards for project funding. This is hopeful news not only for land trusts that engage in natural disaster mitigation work, but also for our nation’s climate resiliency. Land trusts play an important role in disaster mitigation in a variety of ways, such as through strategic acquisition of natural areas that buffer communities from the effects of disasters and restoration of habitats that act as natural infrastructure.

In its first year, the BRIC program funded $500 million in disaster mitigation projects, and Congress has allocated $1 billion for its second round of grants this year. It’s a huge sum of money, and if the Resilient AMERICA Act becomes law, land trusts could more easily access this funding for projects that boost community resilience to natural disasters. The bill would also increase the funding available for disaster mitigation at large. Currently, only 6% of federal funds spent annually on disaster response are allocated to pre-disaster mitigation programs. This bill would increase that set-aside to 15%, more than double the currently available funds. It would also require that any unspent funds be recaptured for mitigation and resilience projects.  

In written comments to FEMA last year, the Land Trust Alliance recommended expanded eligibility for the BRIC program as a measure that could increase the climate resiliency of FEMA programs. We are pleased to see that bipartisan leadership in the House also recognizes the importance of organizations like land trusts in helping communities prepare for natural disasters.

The Resilient AMERICA Act was introduced by bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and passed the House in April with a vote of 383-41. Now, the bill heads to the Senate for action.

To help make sure this bill becomes law, contact your Senator and share your support for increasing community climate resilience through the Resilient AMERICA Act.