Fact Sheet / Brief

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Management to improve forest resilience and reduce wildfire risk

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Past practices, such as fire suppression, have created densely packed forests with an overabundance of woody vegetation. Live or dead, this vegetation can fuel severe wildfire. Overcrowded growing conditions also prevent  trees and other plants from obtaining sufficient nutrients, light, or water to bounce back and remain healthy following a stressful event. The warming climate further stresses vegetation and can foster tinderbox conditions on the landscape, especially under widespread persistent drought.

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Landscape-scale Rx burning supported by science

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The Wildfire Crisis Strategy calls for ramping up forest treatments on Federal, State, Tribal, and private lands well above current levels. Public and stakeholder engagement, consultation, and collaboration are critical to successful implementation of the strategy. Best available science can inform how to improve the way we engage with communities and help us collectively determine the right treatment locations and tools.

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Weeds, fire risk, and resilient forest landscapes – An infographic

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Nonnative species can be introduced or exacerbated by fire and fuels treatments. This resource describes how this can happen and what can be done to minimize the occurrence of nonnative species on burned sites or following fuels management.

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Wildfire: Helping aspen get one stem ahead of a warming climate

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Fire can be a useful tool for promoting migrations of shade-intolerant wind dispersed species such as aspen. Aspen successfully established in burned areas far from seed sources, so managers may choose to focus attention on other species in postburn reforestation.

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Decision tools for assessing watershed sensitivity and ecological resilience in the Great Basin

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Assessing the geomorphic sensitivity of streams and the ecological resilience of riparian ecosystems provides the basis for understanding how they have responded to disturbances and management actions and how they are expected to respond in the future.

A collaborative group of managers and scientists led by Jeanne Chambers, research ecologist and senior scientist (emeritus) with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, and geomorphologist Jerry Miller, a professor of environmental science at Western Carolina University, developed a multiscale approach to help land managers rapidly assess watersheds and categorize them based on resilience and sensitivity to disturbance. The project was built on the long-term work of Chambers and her collaborators on Great Basin riparian ecosystems.

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2020 fire season: An eye opener but not a fluke

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2020 was a record year for wildfires in recent history, though the area burned was close to estimates of pre-suppression burning. We should expect more of these types of fire seasons in the future. Much of the burning was destructive rather than restorative and impacts to humans were severe.

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Winter burning opportunities in the Sierra Nevada

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With narrowing and potentially non-existent opportunities during other times of year, winter may currently be the most realistic and advantageous time to conduct prescribed burns. This study evaluated the effectiveness and feasibility of winter burning to demonstrate its potential utility in mixed conifer forests.

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Oregon wildfire smoke communications and impacts: An evaluation of the 2020 wildfire season

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Oregon Health Authority and the University of Oregon partnered to conduct a survey-based evaluation of wildfire smoke communications and impacts experienced by Oregon residents during the 2020 wildfire season. The purpose of this survey was to (1) understand how Oregonians respond to wildfire smoke and (2) provide an open-source evaluation tool and data to support wildfire smoke communication practitioners in Oregon.

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LANDFIRE data and applications

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Wildfire risk, species conservation, and ecosystem management all depend on seamless spatial data. LANDFIRE may already be supporting your mission if you have ever asked questions like these:

  1. What is the wildfire risk within a particular landscape?
  2. Where can I get data to evaluate fauna habitats?
  3. If ignited, how might a wildfire move through a particular landscape?
  4. How does the vegetation cover in one area compare with the vegetation in another area?
  5. How have disturbances in the past affected current forest conditions?
  6. What is the spatial distribution of a certain vegetation type?
  7. Where can I find spatial vegetation and structure data for all lands, regardless of ownership?

National LANDFIRE datasets can help answer all these questions for areas of interest within the United States and insular areas at the 30-meter pixel level. LANDFIRE is a Federal program that provides a suite of spatial datasets indicating areas of disturbance, vegetation and fuels distributions and structure, and historical conditions. Although LANDFIRE is the definitive dataset used by the interagency fire community for surface and canopy fuels, the program also maps more than 30 spatial datasets that can be used for a variety of purposes.

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Why fires are climbing higher than ever before due to increased western aridity

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Climate-driven changes in global temperatures and aridity are directly correlated with the decreasing interval between high-elevation fires. Fire activity is increasingly disproportionate at higher elevations than that of lower elevation forests in the Western United States. Studies documented an upslope advance of high-elevation fires of roughly 7.6 m (25 ft) per year. An additional 81,500 km2 (31,500 miles2) of the western United States forested regions were exposed to fires due to increased aridity between 1984 and 2017.

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