PHOENIX — Arizona will have more boots on the ground to prevent wildfires under a bill signed today by Governor Doug Ducey. The legislation creates a new partnership, employing Arizona inmates to clear forests of debris. The program is a win-win: forests will be healthier and inmates will have new skills setting them up for employment once they are released.
After the signing, the Governor reiterated the importance of the $24.5 million appropriation and looks forward to working with the Legislature to include this piece as part of a comprehensive budget package.
“As I shared in my State of the State address, guarding against wildfires is an important issue that requires a new strategy for the state. That new strategy of taking additional steps to reduce wildfire risk to Arizona communities is reflected in the Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative,” Governor Ducey said in a signing letter.
“I want to extend my gratitude to the sponsors of this legislation, Senator Kerr and Representative Griffin, and to all of the legislators supporting this critical mission. I am very pleased to sign Senate Bill 1442 today, and look forward to working with the legislature to complete the other necessary pieces of this ongoing effort to protect our forests and communities,” he added in the letter.
View a video of the Governor signing the legislation HERE.
Senate Bill (SB) 1442, the legislation signed today by the Governor, aims to prevent wildfires by allowing for additional partnerships to reduce the risk of wildfires on federal lands neighboring communities.
The legislation aligns with the Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative, a $24.5 million proposal that builds on proven methods to protect communities, while engaging individuals in state correctional facilities to equip them with new skills and reduce recidivism.
“Every year, wildfires threaten our communities and beautiful landscapes,” said SB 1442 author Senator Sine Kerr (LD13 – Buckeye). “This legislation provides additional resources to prevent and combat wildfires, while expanding opportunities for individuals in correctional facilities. My thanks to Governor Ducey for supporting these crucial efforts.”
Representative Gail Griffin (LD14 – Hereford) introduced mirror legislation, HB 2440. Representative Griffin represents a legislative district hard hit by wildfires.
“This legislation will strengthen our fight against wildfires and provide additional resources to our firefighters,” said Representative Griffin. “Wildfire season poses serious threats year after year, and it’s important that we prepare ahead of time to protect at-risk areas, the environment, lives and property.”
The Arizona Healthy Forest Alliance is a joint program between the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) and the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADCRR) that provides opportunities for state inmates to learn skills for post-sentence employment through treating Arizona’s land and wildlife. The crews will help with wildfire prevention through vegetation management.
“The Department is committed to preventing the spread of wildfires and protecting Arizonans living in communities that are most affected,” said DFFM Director David Tenney. “This bill will help continue to ensure the safety of our crews as they fight wildfires across the state and provides more tools for getting the job done.”
As part of the initiative, more than 700 ADCRR inmates will address the need to remove fire-prone vegetation from Arizona communities over a two-year period. The crews will handle vegetation management, gain experience with various types of tools and gear, strengthen teamwork skills, and more. The skills learned through the program will help inmates connect with job opportunities upon release, reducing recidivism across the state and helping those who served their time build better lives.
“The Healthy Forest Initiative will be instrumental in Arizona’s work to expand opportunities for those serving time, while protecting our forests and communities,” said ADCRR Director David Shinn. “Through this program, individuals in our facilities will learn skills and develop tools necessary to help them secure employment after they’ve served their time.”
Today’s signing comes a day after a wildfire caused the evacuation of about 100 people in the Tonto Basin and the closure of State Route 188.
Arizona’s wildfire season runs from around May to July each year, destroying thousands of acres of land, devastating communities and risking the health of Arizonans.
View the signing letter HERE.
View the Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative one-pager HERE.
View more information on the initiative HERE.
View Governor Ducey’s policy priorities HERE.
View Governor Ducey’s budget priorities HERE.