Press Releases

DelBene Announces National Landslide Strategy Resulting from Her Law

Law will help communities better prepare for landslides and protect lives and property

Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) announced that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a new national landslide strategy that includes steps necessary to equitably reduce our risk from landslide hazards. The strategy is a core element of the National Landslide Preparedness Act, legislation that she introduced and was signed into law in January 2021.

“Washington state knows too well the devastating impact landslides and natural disasters can have in the blink of an eye. This law is helping us better prepare for and mitigate future disasters by equipping communities with the tools, resources, and information they need to protect lives and property. This strategy is a major step in implementing this law and I will keep working with federal agencies to ensure timely implementation of the other provisions,” said DelBene. “The next natural disaster should not become our next national tragedy.”

“We may not be able to stop landslides from happening, but we can help reduce their impact,” said Jonathan Godt, program coordinator for the USGS Landslide Hazards Program. “By bringing everyone together from state, local and Tribal governments; colleges and universities; and private, community-based, and non-profit organizations, we can lower the risk landslides pose to people and property.”

There are four key goals to this comprehensive strategy:

  1. Assess – Ensure that decision-makers have access to detailed, consistent, and relevant information about landslide hazards and risks across the country.
  2. Coordinate – Enable effective coordination of landslide-hazard response, mitigation, and recovery efforts across federal, state, Tribal, and local authorities.
  3. Plan – Ensure communities-at-risk, decision-makers and land managers understand and are prepared for potential landslide hazards.
  4. Respond – Ensure surveillance of and responses to landslide events are effective, equitable, cooperative, and data-driven to protect life, property, and resources.

Additional aspects of the strategy include the development of a publicly accessible national landslide database, support for existing early warning systems, and streamlined capabilities for rapid emergency response.

Landslides kill 25 to 50 people and cause between $1.6 billion and $3.2 billion in damage in the U.S. annually. These statistics are expected to worsen because of climate change.

The National Landslide Preparedness Act:

  • Expands early warning systems for post-wildfire landslides in recently burned areas across the United States. It also requires procedures to be developed for federal monitoring of stormwater drainage in areas with a high risk of landslides, in coordination with state, local, and tribal governments.
  • Creates a new federal program focused specifically on landslide hazards through USGS, which would identify risks and hazards from landslides to protect at-risk communities and improve communication and emergency preparedness.
  • Develops new maps to help communities prepare for landslide risk. The bill would direct the USGS to implement a 3D Elevation Program to increase data collection and landslide threat identification across the country. Enhanced elevation data, such as LIDAR, is critical for numerous reasons—to help communities plan for and respond to natural hazards; to update the nation’s topographical maps; and to inform a myriad of uses including public safety, national security, planning, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, and natural resource management.
  • Authorizes new landslide-related grant programs to provide funding to state, territorial, local, and tribal governments for landslide research, mapping, assessment, and data collection.
  • Establishes committees to better deal with landslide risks and better coordinate landslide responses from the multiple government agencies with jurisdiction.

More details about the strategy can be found here.