The fuels program supports strategic vegetation management to restore and maintain ecosystems and limit the negative impacts of wildfires. Managing fuel and risk: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees use hand tools to conduct fuels management activities during a prescribed burn on the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. Prescribed fires like this reduce the chance of a catastrophic wildfire. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) Quick Facts 2.59 million: number of acres treated by Interior in Fiscal Year 2023*1.97 million: number of acres treated by Interior in Fiscal Year 2022*1.67 million: number of acres treated by Interior in Fiscal Year 20211.53 million: number of acres treated by Interior in Fiscal Year 20201.41 million: number of acres treated by Interior in Fiscal Year 20191.27 million: number of acres treated by Interior in Fiscal Year 2018*Includes accomplishments completed with regular and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. $247 million: funding appropriated to this program in Fiscal Year 20231,274: number of FTE* funded by this program in Fiscal Year 2023* FTE (full-time equivalent) is the annual number of "work years" produced by employees. A "work year" is roughly 2,080 hours. Reporting personnel in this way enables a common view of the workforce across government agencies. Interior’s fuels management program is implemented by more than 1,000 hard working men and women across the country within the bureaus that have wildland fire management programs: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These personnel play a critical role by reducing wildfire impacts before they start. We also work in tandem with our many partners to reduce wildfire risk and improve wildfire resilience. These efforts support the goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which emphasizes an “all-hands, all-lands” approach to managing wildland fire. What are fuels? All kinds of plant material can act as fuel, including grasses, shrubs, trees, dead leaves, and fallen pine needles. As these burnable materials pile up, so do the chances of extreme wildfire events. In the right conditions, excess fuel allows fires to burn hotter, larger, longer, and faster, making them more difficult and dangerous to manage. Drought and other climate factors are also increasing wildfire activity in many areas. Why manage fuels? We manage fuels to restore and maintain ecosystems. Wildfires can be devastating, but not all fire is bad. Fire plays a natural and necessary role in many landscapes. Periodic low-intensity fires speed up the process of forest decomposition, create open patches for new plants to grow, improve habitat and food for animals and deliver nutrients to the plants that survive. Fuels management builds wildfire resilience by reducing small trees, brush, dead branches, and limbs (called ladder fuels) which makes it less likely that future wildfires will torch an entire landscape. Alternately, in some landscapes, such as the Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin deserts, invasive plants have established. Invasive plants typically increase wildfire activity in these ecosystems. In these ecosystems, we work to detect invaders early and treat them to reduce potential for establishment. We also create and maintain fuel breaks to slow the spread of wildfires. We manage fuels to reduce the chances that lives or property will be lost to wildfire. Homes and other developments near grasslands, forests, or other areas (called the wildland urban interface) can be vulnerable to wildfires. We work with partners to develop fuel breaks and other treatments in these areas to reduce the potential of devastating wildfire impacts. By working with communities and learning to live with fire, we can improve public and firefighter safety and reduce fire impacts. Learn more about fire-adapted communities (link is external). We manage fuels to improve the efficiency and safety of wildfire suppression. Wildfire suppression remains the biggest cost in our wildland fire management program's annual budget. While wildfire behavior is influenced by several factors, including weather, vegetation conditions, and topography. Interior and its bureaus manage fuels to make wildfires less intense and easier to control with fewer people and equipment. This makes fuels management one of the most effective means to manage wildfire safely and efficiently. A wildland fire employee moves recently cut tree branches into a pile during a fuels management project in New Mexico. (Avi Farber, BLM contract photographer) How do we manage fuels? Managing fuels means reducing their availability to feed a wildfire. We do this by: Deliberately starting a fire (a.k.a. prescribed fire) under favorable conditions (so we can manage where and how the fire burns) in order to remove excess vegetation and other fuels, such as leaves, pine needles, branches, etc. Thinning forested areas with chainsaws or heavy equipment. Removing brush and small trees by hand. Reducing grasses and shrubs mechanically or through domestic grazing animals, like cows and goats. Chemically treating an area overgrown with invasive plants using herbicides. Fuels treatment projects occur year-round depending upon location, vegetation type, weather, and many other factors. How are projects planned and evaluated? Since wildfires burn without regard for administrative boundaries or land ownership, we typically plan fuels management projects with multiple partners, including other federal agencies, Tribes, states, counties, local organizations, and private landowners. These partnerships foster a holistic, "all hands, all lands" approach to wildland fire management that recognizes the importance of common goals on shared landscapes. Through partnerships we work more efficiently, cost taxpayers less money, ensure projects meet local needs, and help communities build wildfire resistance and resilience. Fuels projects typically require more than one treatment, often over several years, to achieve objectives, and maintenance is often needed to ensure they remain effective. Staff in the Office of Wildland Fire help manage a number of interagency planning tools to support this work. The Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools Project (known as LANDFIRE) provides detailed maps and data about vegetation and fuel types for the entire country so we can identify where work needs to be done. The Interagency Fuel Treatment Decision Support System helps us plan and model the effects of a project by analyzing the effectiveness of past treatments and estimating future risk reduction. The National Fire Plan Operations & Reporting System helps us track the work across public and Tribal lands. Learn more about the technology behind wildland fire management. Who does the work? Fuel treatment projects are carried out by staff in the four Department of the Interior bureaus with wildland fire management responsibilities: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We also work in tandem with our many partners. Community Assistance Helping individuals and communities to adapt to, prepare for, and respond to wildfire is an important part of what we do. We foster and support this by: Developing educational materials about wildland fire ecology and prevention. Presenting educational programs at local businesses, events, parks, and schools. Helping communities develop and update wildfire protection plans. Help landowners create fire-resilient landscapes. These efforts support the goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which emphasizes an “all-hands, all-lands” approach to managing wildland fire through community engagement and partnerships. Learn more at forestsandrangelands.gov.