SAF Statement on New Forest Service Wildfire Strategy
January 25, 2022
Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and USDA Forest Service Chief Randy Moore announced a comprehensive, 10-year national strategy for combatting the wildfire crisis in the United States. The plan, titled “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,”
offers a "paradigm shift" in wildfire management by prioritizing the protection of our most vulnerable communities in the West and ramping up fuels and forest health treatments by up to four times current levels.
“Preventing catastrophic wildfires and their impacts on vulnerable communities requires scaling up fuels and restoration treatments across forests and rangelands, particularly in the West. Expanding these efforts means that we need to work collaboratively across all lands and boundaries. The agency’s new wildfire crisis strategy signals a major step forward in shaping fire-resilient landscapes and safer communities across the country,” said SAF CEO Terry Baker.
The new strategy focuses on "firesheds," which are forests and rangelands that put communities at high risk of wildfire exposure. Fire seasons have been growing in size, intensity, and duration in recent years, and the wildfire crisis has become increasingly defined by its risk to lives, property, and infrastructure. Alongside its partners, the Forest Service plans to first address those communities that have already been impacted by catastrophic fires, like California's Sierra Nevada Mountains and the eastern Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The strategy will then focus on the most at-risk firesheds in the West in its early phases, gradually turning to other firesheds and accelerating treatments over the 10-year horizon.
“Federal land managers have been limited by insufficient budgets and waning capacity, and there’s been a need to rethink our national strategy on locating and scaling wildland restoration treatments. With the recent influx of funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, the Forest Service can begin to focus on high priority landscapes at a scale that protects the most at-risk communities and starts to build healthier, more resilient ecosystems,” explained SAF Policy & Public Affairs Director Danielle Watson.
Since collaboration across boundaries is key to success, the Forest Service is planning a full series of engagement opportunities with other federal and state agencies, partner organizations, and stakeholders. The strategy is intended to be a living document, which will evolve based on an ongoing dialogue with these groups.
SAF fully supports cross-boundary efforts like these to sustainably restore fire-adapted landscapes and create more resilient communities. We are invested in discovering collaborative solutions to these challenging issues and committed to helping our members stay informed and engaged throughout this process.