Infrastructure bill makes climate progress

President Biden signed into law this month the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. And that’s great news for land conservation.

By Chelsea Welch November 21, 2021

The bill includes significant funding for our community’s priorities, such as $5.7 billion for wildfire management and restoration on public and private lands, including $300 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program, along with a measure to plant more than 1 billion trees on Forest Service lands. There’s another $492 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Coastal Resilience Fund grant program. (As an aside: That program recently released a request for proposals for an Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund. The deadline for proposals is Feb. 3 and there is no cost share requirement.)

Further demonstrating the administration’s commitment to invest in natural disaster mitigation and resilience, the infrastructure bill appropriates $3.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Mitigation Assistance program and $1 billion for its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program. The legislation also includes more than $200 million for natural infrastructure through the Department of Transportation’s new Healthy Streets grant program and the Bureau of Reclamation’s waterSMART grants. These measures and more comprise one of the largest federal investments in climate mitigation and adaptation to date.

The bill also expands federal authority for siting interstate transmission lines and allows for the designation of national interest energy transmission corridors for clean energy projects. This change in siting authority may cause concern for some in the land trust community, but on a promising note, the latter measure includes explicit language to safeguard sensitive environmental areas and cultural heritage sites. We will continue to engage key policymakers on the importance of avoiding conserved lands when siting energy infrastructure and monitor the implementation of this provision.

For more about what’s in the bill for the land trust community, see my earlier blog. The Land Trust Alliance’s government relations team will continue to track implementation of the legislation and help land trusts access the new funding.