Federal wildland fire strategy released

Wildland fire management strategy focuses on maintaining healthy landscapes and preparing communities for fire season.

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 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 April 9 announcement said.

"Through more strategic coordination with local communities, the National Cohesive Strategy will help us better protect 46 million homes in 70,000 communities from catastrophic wildfires," Vilsack said. "This effort, combined with the Administration's newly proposed wildland fire management funding strategy, will allow (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and our partners to more effectively restore forested landscapes, treat forests for the increasing effects of climate change and help avert and minimize destructive future wildfires."

Noting that this new "wildfire blueprint" will help restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire, Boots pointed out that the Administration "is committed to promoting smart policies and partnerships like this strategy that support states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders who are working to protect themselves from more frequent or intense fires, droughts and floods and other impacts of climate change."

The strategy includes both national strategic planning and region-specific assessment and risk analysis to address such factors as climate change, increasing community sprawl and pests and disease affecting forest health across landscapes, regardless of ownership. Approaches include:

* Adopting preventive measures, such as fuels thinning and controlled burns;

* Promoting effective municipal, county and state building and zoning codes and ordinances;

* Ensuring that watersheds, transportation and utility corridors are part of future management plans, and

* Determining how organizations can best work together to reduce and manage human-caused ignitions.

"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, which updates how fire suppression costs are budgeted by treating extreme fires like other natural disasters.

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