WASHINGTON—As the 2014 wildfire season approaches, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots today released the Administration's National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. This strategy, developed by federal, state, tribal and local community partners, and public stakeholders, outlines new approaches to coordinate and integrate efforts to restore and maintain healthy landscapes, prepare communities for fire season, and better address the nation's wildland fire threats.
The comprehensive principles and processes highlighted in the strategy have already been implemented successfully in some areas of the country, such as the Blue Range Area near Flagstaff, Arizona and the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners in Georgia. The Strategy will encourage knowledge sharing between communities and expand best practices to other projects and locations across the country.
“As we move into implementation, it is important to note that this collaborative effort is broader and more inclusive than previous efforts," said National Association of State Foresters' President and Alaska State Forester Chris Maisch. “It is national in scope, includes all lands, is grounded in a science-based risk analysis, and built with an emphasis on the field level perspective.”
In addition to the Strategy, the President's fiscal year 2015 budget, released in March, outlines a new framework for funding fire suppression. The budget updates how fire suppression costs are budgeted by treating extreme fires like other natural disasters. This change will stabilize U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets, provide stable support for fire suppression, and allow the agencies to invest in fuels management, preparedness, restoration and other land management activities critical to the success of the National Cohesive Strategy.
Together, these actions support the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan's call to reduce wildfire risks. The impacts of a changing climate on wildland fire risk management are observable in the form of extended drought periods, longer fire seasons, timber stands that are susceptible to insect infestation and mortality, and greater rates of fire spread, all of which can contribute to larger and more complex and costly incidents. These impacts challenge the fire community to provide more annual coverage and response capability for a longer period of time, as well as maintain a high initial attack success rate on faster growing fires, all while managing incidents of unprecedented size and complexity. Improving the resilience of landscapes will make natural areas and communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire.