Decision Support

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Challenges to determining and demonstrating efficiency of large fire management- A review

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Characterising the impacts of wildland fire and fire suppression is critical information for fire management decision-making. Here, we focus on decisions related to the rare larger and longer-duration fire events, where the scope and scale of decision-making can be far broader than initial response efforts, and where determining and demonstrating efficiency of strategies and actions can be particularly troublesome. We organize our review around key decision factors such as context, complexity, alternatives, consequences and uncertainty, and for illustration contrast fire management in Andalusia, Spain, and Montana, USA. Two of the largest knowledge gaps relate to quantifying fire impacts to ecosystem services, and modelling relationships between fire management activities and avoided damages. The relative magnitude of these and other concerns varies with the complexity of the socioecological context in which fire management decisions are made. To conclude our review, we examine topics for future research, including expanded use of the economics toolkit to better characterize the productivity and effectiveness of suppression actions, integration of ecosystem modelling with economic principles, and stronger adoption of risk and decision analysis within fire management decision-making.

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Human dimensions of spatial, pre-wildfire planning decision support: Barriers, facilitators, and recommendations

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Respondents identified numerous barriers, as well as recommendations for improving decision support systems (DSS) development and integration, specifically with respect to capacity, communication, implementation, question identification, testing, education and training, and policy, guidance, and authorities. These recommendations can inform DSS use for wildfire risk assessment and treatment prioritization to meet the goals of national policies and frameworks. Lastly, a framework for organizing spatial, pre-wildfire planning DSSs to support end-user understanding and use is provided.

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State-and-transition-simulation-modeling in real-life: A 3-part miniseries

This 3-part modeling miniseries takes a wide-ranging look at State-and-Transition-Simulation-Models (STSMs) and use the LANDFIRE BpS models as a launching point for inquiry about ecosystem change over time. It communicates practical ways to use STSM in real-life research, management and academia.

Part 1 Recording: Kori Blankenship (LANDFIRE Fire Ecologist) will discuss the basics of (STSMs), introduce the LANDFIRE BpS models and share resources for both novice and intermediate state-and-transition modelers.

Part 2 Recording: Leonardo Frid (Systems Ecologist at Apex Resource Management Solutions) will showcase real-life STSM applications with the ST-Sim package for SyncroSim, demonstrate how to use both the Graphical User Interface and rsyncrosim R package and discuss different approaches for applying state and transition modeling tools in real-life management scenarios.

Part 3 Recording: Randy Swaty (LANDFIRE Ecologist) & Dr. Priscilla Nyamai (Asst. Professor, Grand Valley State Univ.) will discuss how integrating STSMs in the classroom can be useful for conceptualizing ecosystem changes.

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USGS Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan, 2021-26

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The Strategic Plan also defines critical, core fire science capabilities for understanding fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns and informing management decision making. The Strategic Plan is composed of four integrated priorities, each with associated goals and specific strategies for accomplishing the goals:

  • Priority 1: Produce state-of-the-art, actionable fire science.—Provide scientific analyses, data, and tools that inform current and future fire and land management decision making and promote understanding of fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns.
  • Priority 2: Engage stakeholders in science production and science delivery.—Use a science co-production approach throughout the fire research life cycle to develop and maintain collaborations with stakeholders who are actively and continually engaged. This ensures that USGS research platforms and science products are relevant and useful for fire and land management decision making.
  • Priority 3: Effectively communicate USGS fire science capacity, products, and information to a broad audience.— Strategically manage communications to effectively build awareness of and access to USGS wildland fire science and decision-support tools among key external and internal stakeholders.
  • Priority 4: Enhance USGS organizational structure and advance support for fire science.—Provide organizational structure and support that improves fire science production, coordination, and cooperation within the USGS and with external partners.
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Using information from global climate models to inform policymaking

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Description: Climate change is a risk management challenge for society because of the uncertain consequences for natural and human systems across decades to centuries. Climate-related science activities within the USGS emphasize research on adaptation to climate change. This research helps inform adaptive management processes and planning activities within other DOI bureaus and by DOI stakeholders.

Global climate models are sophisticated numerical representations of the Earth’s climate system. Research groups from around the world regularly participate in a coordinated effort to produce a suite of climate models. This global effort provides a test bed to assess model performance and analyze projections of future change under various prescribed climate scenarios. These climate scenarios describe a plausible future outcome associated with a specific set of societal actions. Examining a range of projected climate outcomes based on multiple scenarios is a recommended best practice because it allows decision makers to better consider both short- and long-term risks and opportunities.

Presenter: Adam Terando, Research Ecologist, Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

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Pre-season fire management planning: the use of Potential Operational Delineations to prepare for wildland fire events

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US fire scientists are developing Potential Wildfire Operational Delineations, also known as ‘PODs’, as a pre-fire season planning tool to promote safe and effective wildland fire response, strengthen risk management approaches in fire management and better align fire management objectives. PODs are a collaborative planning approach based on spatial analytics to identify potential wildfire control lines and assess the desirability of fire before ignition. They offer the opportunity to apply risk management principles with partners before the compressed timeframe of incident response. We sought to understand the potential utility of PODs and factors that may affect their use through semi-structured interviews with personnel on several national forests. Interviewees said PODs offer a promising shift in the wildland fire management dynamic, particularly by facilitating proactive communication and coordination about wildfire response. Successfully employing PODs will require leadership commitment, stakeholder and partner engagement and interdisciplinary staff involvement. Our work offers insights for national forests and other jurisdictions where managers are looking to strengthen coordination and strategic approaches for wildland fire response by utilizing pre-season collaboration and data analytics.

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Fireshed Registry: Prioritizing forest and fuel management investments

Fireshed Registry guide.

The Fireshed Registry is a geospatial dashboard and decision tool built in ArcGIS online. It provides an interactive system to view a wide array of information about firesheds (see below) and monitor progress towards risk reduction from management investments. The Fireshed Registry is the geospatial data warehouse for the Forest Service Scenario Planning Platform. The system integrates available data into a series of panels that address specific question related to risk to developed areas. While the Fireshed Registry was organized around fire risk to developed areas, the framework does not preclude integrated assessment of other resource management priorities such as protecting water, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunity. The all lands geography of the fireshed registry makes it a useful platform for shared stewardship as well.

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Climate Adaptation Integration Tool (CAIT)

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A new USGS report supported by the Northwest CASC presents a novel decision making framework to help resource managers use climate science and local knowledge to identify adaptation strategies appropriate for their specific situations. This Climate Adaptation Integration Tool (CAIT) consists of four steps:

  1. Define a focal resource and assess its vulnerability to climate change.
  2. Answer Critical Questions about the future climactic suitability, value, and current condition of these resources.
  3. Select appropriate management approaches based on the answers to these questions.
  4. Select adaptation strategies and actions most likely to address the management approaches identified.

Within the tool, managers can find resources to make decisions at each step, such as information on finding and choosing appropriate downscaled climate models and decision-making matrices to help link decisions across steps.

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Role of risk management prioritization decision support tools

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Presenter: Melanie Colavito, Ecological Restoration Institute

Description: The Ecological Restoration Institute recently completed a project analyzing the use and adoption of wildfire risk assessment and fuels treatment prioritization methods and products—broadly referred to here as decision support tools (DSTs)—by federal land managers. There is a need to demystify the topic of spatial fire planning specifically with respect to assessing wildfire risk and determining areas for fuels treatment prioritization to facilitate effective development and use of DSTs for pre-fire planning. We used semi-structured interviews with key informants to identify common DSTs for assessing wildfire risk and treatment planning and prioritization, approaches for the development and transfer of DSTs, examples of DST uses, common barriers and facilitators in the development and use of DSTs, and recommendations for facilitating the development and use of DSTs. Although there were many barriers identified to the effective development, integration, and use of DSTs in pre-fire planning, interview respondents had numerous recommendations for improving this process. We hope these recommendations can help shape the perspectives of science, management, and decision-making audiences for how to improve the use of DSTs for wildfire risk assessment and treatment prioritization in order to effectively meet the goals of national policies and frameworks.

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Potential Operational Delineations (PODs), what are they, how do they work?

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A presentation on Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) from multiple perspectives including both scientists and managers. We will discuss how PODs were used in Northern New Mexico past fire seasons where PODS were utilized; with an emphasis on PODs as a fire planning tool, new developments in research and applications, and innovations within the planning framework.

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