Introducing the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, Chief Tidwell opened with a statement that US wildland fire suppression resources are the best in the world, are always improving, and are prepared for the coming fire season. He emphasized that “wildfires know no boundaries”, so cooperation between federal, state, and local resources is critical, and effective (Indeed, it is very effective).
The commitments of the strategy:
- Wildfire response
- Risk-informed performance
- Support for state and local agencies
- Assistance to fire-adapted communities
He outlines three “main components” of the strategy, which I will summarize below, adding my own perspective and goals as the owner and operator of Running Tree Forestry and Fire.
Restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes
We need to restore our forests to a more natural, fire-resistant, ecologically diverse condition – and then we need to work continually to keep them that way. You’ve heard this, I’m sure, but the bottom line is that we – human society – have changed the landscape around us dramatically, most detrimentally by suppressing all fires for about the last one hundred years. Fire has a place in the ecosystem – indeed, most places that have fire now, had it for thousands of years before we came along. That fire was almost always lower intensity, burning here and there, creating pockets of diversity, clearing out accumulated dead material, killing small trees and favoring larger, more healthy ones.
In fact “the net effect (on most animal numbers) is positive” following a wildfire, according to one study I recently read. Tidwell said in his testimony that “many ecosystems across the country are out of balance and in need of restoration” – a massive fuel load, invasions of pests, and large swaths of dead and dying timber – and that these imabalances pose a great risk, in the form of extreme fire danger, to our communities.
But we can change fire behavior with restorative, preventative work in these forests, and we need to be doing so. Every year, the USFS and it’s cooperators treat millions of acres by hand, mechanically, and with prescribed fire. One of my biggest early influences, before buying this company, was the book Mimicking Nature’s Fire by Stephen Arno – a call to do in a controlled way, what natural, uncontrolled fire had been doing long before we came along. Tidwell calls for a combined effort, bringing together and coordinating existing fuels management programs with the Integrated Resource Restoration line item in the President’s FY 2012 budget, and calls for more community engagement in these projects through the locally-planned Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Programs.
You can read more (and please do!) at my other blog – thanks!