December Director's Update

Rocky Mountain National Park firefighters conduct pile burning operations in the snow, limiting risk and reducing fuels during the winter months. (NPS)


As we wrap up 2019, the focus of our work has been centered around supporting efforts to identify risk at a local level. Building an understanding of where work has occurred across the landscape in a spatial and visual manner allows for stakeholders to identify priorities and shared risk to their communities. We are working to bring focus to local efforts first, and then build on that foundation of local values, to develop a shared ownership in the solution.

Looking forward to 2020, we are also taking steps to meet the demands of longer and larger wildfire seasons by developing a better understanding of the workforce needed to accomplish the year-round work on the ground. By engaging with partners and organizations, like the Intertribal Timber Council, we hope to continue the dialogue around conducting work in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. Building sustainable workforce strategies that look at future needs is a priority and allows us to set the stage for effective wildfire response and the successful implementation of projects that reduce wildfire risk.

As we go about these efforts, our thoughts go out to our partners across Australia as they work to confront the risk posed to their communities during this unmatched wildfire season. Earlier this month, 22 wildland fire personnel from across the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service responded to requests for support from Australia. This interagency team of professionals represent the best in wildland fire management. Their expertise, in everything from ground operations to aviation, will provide critical incident support and represents a continued partnership between our two countries.

Jeff Rupert is the Director of the Office of Wildland Fire. In over 20 years with the Department of the Interior, Jeff also served as the Chief of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuge Manager of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma), and Refuge Manager for the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Texas).