Western State Governors Push Biden Admin to Declare Federal Drought Disaster

Several Western state governors sent a letter on Sunday to President Joe Biden’s administration requesting he declare a federal drought disaster.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) drought disaster declaration would shore up additional funding in the states currently experiencing severe drought conditions.

The letter was signed by the governors of Utah, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington.

“We continue to do what is within our power, including working with our state legislatures and local governments to mitigate the immediate impacts of the drought, but the situation is now beyond our capacity as states or a region to manage without additional federal assistance,” the letter reads.

Drought in Great Salt Lake
In an aerial view, drought pushes to lowest levels on record on the north section of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, on Aug. 2, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Currently, 99 percent of the western U.S. is experiencing a drought, compared to 63 percent at this time last year, the letter noted. Significant parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington are experiencing “Exceptional Drought,” according to the U.S Drought Monitor.

Many of those states are also experiencing a growing number of wildfires, of which their “direct and indirect impacts act as a force multiplier in the severity of hardships agriculture producers are experiencing.”

More than one million acres have been burned so far in California, with an estimated 3.9 million acres burned nationally so far in 2021, according to National Interagency Fire Center data.

The disaster declaration would allow the states’ “agriculture communities to access funding beyond what is available through existing emergency programs,” the governors said.

By Derek Draplin