Decision Support

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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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Ready, set, go! and Camp Fire lessons learned videos

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Access WildfireSAFE

WildfireSAFE provides simplified access to an advanced suite of fire weather and fire products. The Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS) is a USDA Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management-supported system that was developed by Forest Service fire behavior researchers as an avenue to increase the utility of remote sensing and spatial data in fire management. It is an integrated, web-based resource to support fire management decisions. It provides multi-temporal and multi-spatial views of fire weather and fire potential, including fuel moistures and fire danger classes from the US National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS), Keetch-Byram and Palmer drought indices, lower atmospheric stability and satellite-derived vegetation conditions. It also provides access to fire potential forecasts from 24 hours to 7 days. Wildfire SAFE integrates WFAS with federal agency incidents to provide targeted fire weather information on an incident basis.

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Sharing Science and Lessons Learned: COVID-19 and Wildfire

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Description: As COVID-19 cases and wildland fire activity increase across the country, wildland fire personnel are looking for ways to quickly identify cases and prevent the spread of the disease on the fireline. The Southwest Fire Consortium will be hosting a webinar sharing information about the current state of the science and lessons learned from the 2020 wildfire season.

Presenters: Kathleen Navarro and John Piacentino from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Alex Viktora, from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center will provide a summary of the lessons learned from the 2020 wildland fire season; Jayson Coil from Sedona Fire will provide a view from the field after multiple fire assignments in the Southwest.

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Wildland Fire Decision Support System: End user perspectives

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The increasing complexity of wildland fire management highlights the importance of sound decision making. Numerous fire management decision support systems (FMDSS) are designed to enhance science and technology delivery or assist fire managers with decision-making tasks. However, few scientific efforts have explored the adoption and use of FMDSS by fire managers. This research couples existing decision support system research and in-depth interviews with US Forest Service fire managers to explore perspectives surrounding the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS). Results indicate that fire managers appreciate many WFDSS components but view it primarily as a means to document fire management decisions. They describe on-the-ground actions that can be disconnected with decisions developed in WFDSS, which they attribute to the timeliness of WFDSS outputs, the complexity of the WFDSS design, and how it was introduced to managers. We conclude by discussing how FMDSS development could address concerns raised by managers.

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