It’s not the way we fight wildfires in the West that’s the problem. The problem is the way we manage our fire-dependent forests.
Since 2000, 154 wildfires in the region have cost over $20 million each to control. Many of them cost several times more. Together, these costliest fires, which were less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all Western wildfires in the period, cost more than $9 billion to fight. If you factor in property losses, natural resource damage and environmental impacts, the true costs skyrocket, but they are rarely measured or accounted for. What can’t be ignored is that these unprecedented wildfires tell us we need a much better land-management strategy.
Stephen Pyne is Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. This is an abridged version of a piece that appeared on The Conversation; to read the entire piece, go to theconversation.com
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Conditions such as dense vegetation and drought have resulted in more severe wildland fires in recent years, and some communities are experiencing the devastating effects of these fires. Federal agencies can collaborate with nonfederal stakeholders to reduce the risk of wildland fires. This is a key aspect of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The Government Accountability Office recommends that federal agencies work with the Wildland Fire Leadership Council—which provides oversight and leadership for the strategy—to develop measures to assess progress toward achieving the strategy’s goals.
This Association for Fire Ecology position paper is an organization-wide initiative with two objectives: to determine the prevalence of these two issues throughout the profession, including management, education, and research; and to provide a set of principles and actions that are strongly recommended for implementation in order to foster organizational cultures of respect, equity, and parity.
This report makes the case that forest restoration should be at least equal to other land management priorities because large-scale restoration is necessary for the sake of forest ecosystem integrity now and into the future. Another proposal is to switch the “default” rule in federal planning documents that currently have to “justify” managed wildland fire; instead, U.S. federal agencies should be required to disclose the long-term ecological impacts of continued fire suppression.
This synthesis examines the fundamental spatial and temporal disconnects between the specific policies that have been crafted to address our wildfire challenges. The biophysical changes in fuels, wildfire behavior, and climate have created a new set of conditions for which our wildfire governance system is poorly suited to address. To address these challenges, a reorientation of goals is needed to focus on creating an anticipatory wildfire governance system focused on social and ecological resilience. Key characteristics of this system could include the following: (1) not taking historical patterns as givens; (2) identifying future social and ecological thresholds of concern; (3) embracing diversity/heterogeneity as principles in ecological and social responses; and (4) incorporating learning among different scales of actors to create a scaffolded learning system.
This final report includes actions to be implemented by Interior’s bureaus to immediately address the threat of rangeland fire and other disturbances to Western sagebrush-steppe landscapes and improve fire and fuels management efforts.
The initial report includes actions to be implemented by Interior’s bureaus to immediately address the threat of rangeland fire to Western sagebrush-steppe landscapes and improve fire management efforts before the start of the 2015 wildfire season.
View the Order.
This Order sets forth enhanced policies and strategies for preventing and
suppressing rangeland fire and for restoring sagebrush landscapes impacted by fire across the West. These actions are essential for conserving habitat for the greater sage-grouse as well as other
wildlife species and economic activity, such as ranching and recreation, associated with the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem in the Great Basin region.
This is the final national report of the three-phased National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy development. The National Strategy includes a set of guidelines intended to provide basic direction when planning activities. Broadly defined to address national challenges, these guidelines can be tailored to meet local and regional needs