The Burned Area Rehabilitation Program supports efforts to repair or improve burned landscapes unlikely to recover without human assistance.
A recently burned area. Photo by USGS.
$20.5 million: money spent by this program in Fiscal Year 2022
Recent burned area rehabilitation work:
• Replanted more than 300 acres of native vegetation affected by wildfires that burned in Hawaii, Washington, and Arizona.
• Surveyed and treated 27 wilderness campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park impacted by the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fire.
• Repaired more than 100 miles of trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park damaged by the Dixie wildfires that burned in California in 2021.
• Supported post-wildfire giant sequoia recovery within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Fire plays a natural and necessary role in many landscapes. Periodic low-intensity fires speed up forest decomposition and deliver nutrients to remaining plants. They build resilience to future fires by reducing vegetation and creating a mosaic of burned, partially burned, and unburned areas, which makes it less likely that future fires will torch an entire landscape. Some trees, like lodgepole pine, require the heat of flames to open their cones and disperse new seeds.
Not all landscapes react to fire in the same way. Sometimes wildfire burns so hot it incinerates everything over a large area, including the plant roots and other organic matter that stabilize the topsoil. This type of disturbance leaves an area vulnerable to erosion by floods or mudslides that can delay plant recovery for decades (or longer), reduce water quality, and possibly damage homes. Invasive plants pose another threat; if they outcompete native plants, they can transform a landscape and negatively affect people’s livelihoods, recreation, and wildlife.
In the first five years after a wildfire, our rehabilitation efforts work to prevent these problems and jump-start the landscape recovery process by:
• Spreading native plant seeds or planting native seedlings.
• Applying herbicides to kill invasive plants, removing them by hand, or introducing bacteria to control them.
• Using heavy equipment to disrupt the growth of targeted plant species or contour landscapes to control runoff.
This program also funds the repair or replacement of minor infrastructure damaged by a wildfire, such as small trail bridges, handrails, campgrounds, boat ramps, stock tanks, or informational kiosks.
The Department of the Interior assesses the effectiveness of rehabilitation treatments, frequently in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service, and other scientific institutions.