Fire Policy

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New findings on policy barriers and opportunities: Strategies for increasing prescribed fire application on federal lands from case studies in the US West

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Prescribed fire is an important management tool on federal lands that is not being applied at the necessary or desired levels. Since 2017, we have been investigating policy barriers and opportunities for increasing prescribed fire application on US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands in the Western United States. In the first phase of our work, we found that lack of adequate capacity and funding were the most commonly cited barriers to increasing application of prescribed fire, and that successful approaches rely on collaborative forums and positions that allow for communication, problem-solving, and resource sharing among federal and state partners. In 2019, we completed case studies of locations using unique strategies to increase application of prescribed fire in complex land management contexts. This webinar reports on the primary themes from these case studies, highlighting specific examples of practice from different Forest Service and BLM units.

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Online Fire and Natural Resources Courses from the University of Idaho

Please visit the UI website for details about dates and timing.

The University of Idaho (UI) offers a variety of online fire and natural resources courses with Great Basin content.  These courses and degree programs can help you develop as a professional and succeed in fire and natural resources management. View the list of online courses or certificate and degree programs. Consider taking one or more online courses, a certificate or enroll in a degree program. This is a great option as many professionals are place-bound, face limits on travel budgets, and are challenged to effectively accomplish science-based management on the ground to address pressing needs for management and conservation in Great Basin ecosystems and beyond.

The Fire Ecology, Management and Technology Certificate and the Master of Natural Resources (MNR) degree can be completed entirely online — without ever coming to campus, and at in-state tuition rates for all.

As many professionals are place-bound and face limits on travel, these online training options can help practitioners accomplish science-based management on the ground to address land management challenges in the Great Basin and beyond.

Questions? Contact [email protected]

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Forest Service fire management and the elusiveness of change

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There is broad recognition that fire management in the United States must fundamentally change and depart from practices that have led to an over-emphasis on suppression and limited the presence of fire in forested ecosystems. In this paper, we look at competing problem definitions in US Forest Service policy for fire management, the presence of goal ambiguity, and how these factors can explain why changes in fire management have been elusive, despite policy change. We consider US Forest Service fire policies, performance incentives, and decision-making processes for two sides of the agency: the National Forest System, which is responsible for land management on the national forests, and Fire and Aviation Management, which oversees response to wildland fire.

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Evidence of effectiveness in the Cohesive Strategy: Measuring and improving wildfire response

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Survey results from 21 fires during the 2013 wildfire season are presented to illustrate relative areas of strength and weakness related to wildfire response and how these measurements can feed into processes to facilitate social learning, adaptation and ultimately more resilient socio-ecological wildfire response institutions.

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Some advice for getting a politician to listen to science

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To create a better road map for scientists, researchers interviewed Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress to ask what advice they would give the scientific community to help it improve the way it communicates with policymakers. The sample, which included 22 members of Congress and 20 staff members, was an even mix of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. This was then combined with the feedback from a random survey of more than 600 scientist members of AAAS, more than half of whom had experience communicating with policymakers.

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Living with fire: Bridges between policy, science, and management

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In his October 26, 2017 commentary in these pages, Dr. Tom Zimmerman highlights a number of ongoing and future challenges faced by wildland fire management. To address these challenges he also identifies an important role for science and in particular management-relevant wildland fire research. Here, we first briefly elaborate on Dr. Zimmerman’s challenges and how they relate to new opportunities for the role of science. Second, we focus on three additional institutional or “cultural” barriers or divides that should be acknowledged and addressed when forging a path forward for wildland fire research and its necessary companion: science delivery. As commenters on these matters, we represent only a small portion—even within the federal wildland fire science community—of those responsible for or interested in the funding, execution, and delivery of actionable science to end users. Nevertheless, we represent key programs with specific missions to serve federal wildland fire-related management and policy information needs.

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Does wildfire open a policy window? Local government and community adaptation after fire in the US

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We examined how destructive wildfire affected progress toward becoming fire adapted in eight locations in the United States. We found that community-level adaptation following destructive fires is most common where destructive wildfire is novel and there is already government capacity and investment in wildfire regulation and land use planning. External funding, staff capacity, and the presence of issue champions combined to bring about change after wildfire. Locations with long histories of destructive wildfire, extensive previous investment in formal wildfire regulation and mitigation, or little government and community capacity to manage wildfire saw fewer changes. Across diverse settings, communities consistently used the most common tools and actions for wildfire mitigation and planning. Nearly all sites reported changes in wildfire suppression, emergency response, and hazard planning documents. Expansion in voluntary education and outreach programs to increase defensible space was also common, occurring in half of our sites, but land use planning and regulations remained largely unchanged. Adaptation at the community and local governmental level therefore may not axiomatically follow from each wildfire incident, nor easily incorporate formal approaches to minimizing land use and development in hazardous environments, but in many sites wildfire was a focusing event that inspired reflection and adaptation.

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Rethinking the wildland fire management system

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Using the Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a relevant test case for systemic investigation, this paper argues that fundamental changes in how the fire management community thinks about, learns from, plans for, and responds to wildland fires may be necessary. The intent is to initiate a broader dialog around the current and future state of wildland fire management.

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The politically possible and wildland fire research

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Often missing or underdeveloped in wildland fire research is a clear sense of the link between contemporaneous political possibility and the desired ecological or management outcomes. This study examines the disconnect between desired outcomes and what we call the “politically possible”. Politically possible policy solutions are those that recognize how compromise, stakeholder engagement, and the distribution of costs and benefits combine to structure political acceptability. Better attending to the politically possible in wildland fire-related research can, in turn, inform our understanding of the cause, effect, and the potential solutions to fire management challenges. A lack of awareness and attention to the politically possible can create divisions or barriers to realistic action.

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What is ‘managed fire for resource benefit’?

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Managing wildfire for resource benefits and ecological purposes refers to a strategic choice to use naturally ignited fires to achieve resource management objectives.

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