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Environment

White House moves to assist Western U.S. communities hit by drought

2 minute read

U.S. President Joe Biden removes his face mask to speak about the status of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations and his administration's ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

April 21 (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday announced an effort to provide immediate support to farmers, tribes and communities suffering from worsening drought conditions in the Western United States.

After a meeting of the National Climate Task Force, President Joe Biden's administration said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland would lead an interagency effort to coordinate the federal response to the water shortages.

The administration has sought to ramp up the federal response to climate change that produces more extreme weather, including droughts. The Interior Department said in a separate statement that the group will identify both immediate financial needs and develop longer-term measures to help communities and the environment.

Parched conditions throughout the West follow quickly on the heels of a multi-year drought in the region last decade. Farmers and ranchers in some areas are grappling with historically low water allocations, according to the White House. Many creeks and stock ponds remain dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

"We are committed to using every resource available to our bureaus to ensure that Tribes, irrigators and the adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support," Haaland said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, a group of tribes, commercial fishing and conservation groups from the Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California border sent a letter to Biden requesting urgent support for fishing-dependent communities, farmers and ranchers.

"The scope and scale of impact the drought will have on the already-strained people, economies, infrastructure, and wildlife of the Klamath Basin cannot be overstated," the letter said.

Earlier this month, California said a key measure of snowfall in the state was about 40% below average. The state relies on snow melt in the spring to replenish streams and reservoirs for drinking water and irrigation.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by David Gregorio

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