Newsletter #42

May 24, 2016


Resilient Landscapes
Fire Adapted Communities
Safe & Effective Wildfire Response
A publication by the Western Region to highlight progress within the framework of the
Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy and demonstrations of successful implementation across the West. 

In this issue:

WRSC Spring Meeting.  Photo: Kate Lighthall

Western Regional Strategy Committee Update

Twice per year, the WRSC gets together in person to take a long hard look at what we've accomplished and how we can continue to facilitate implementation of the Cohesive Strategy. This year's spring meeting on May 9-10 in Portland, OR was no exception. With over 35 in attendance, stakeholder members shared their individual experiences with Cohesive Strategy implementation, participated in robust discussion and agreed that the work of the WRSC is not complete. While there has been much progress and integration within the federal agencies in the West, there are still many stakeholders at all levels who are seeking solutions to wildland fire issues and how they can integrate the principles and tenets of the Cohesive Strategy. Jim Hubbard, Deputy Chief for the US Forest Service, reminded us that "successful implementation and integration of the Cohesive Strategy will involve two key components: cross-boundary collaboration and the engagement of communities." 

The group also received an interesting presentation from the Cohesive Strategy Science Team that highlighted wildfire risk transmission potential and how the data might be used to support cross-boundary work in and around communities. 

The WRSC committed to:
  • an even more robust communications effort, 
  • a task group that will undertake validating the tenets of the Cohesive Strategy based on ground-level experience,
  • continued effort within the priorities established by the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, and
  • increasing the dynamic relationship between science and the Cohesive Strategy and a national level workshop around that topic.  
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the group remains more committed than ever to facilitating the implementation and integration of the Cohesive Strategy.
The Greater Santa Fe Fireshed.  Photo: Forest Stewards Guild

What is a Fireshed?

In New Mexico, the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition (GSFFC) is a collection of agencies, private organizations and concerned citizens working to improve the ecology in the forests surrounding Santa Fe. It's a relatively new concept...going beyond traditional borders to include all lands, resources (like watersheds) and communities that can be impacted by wildfire. In Santa Fe, they say it's time to act at the scale of a wildfire.
Integrating all three tenets of the Cohesive Strategy the GSFFC has accomplished much in just the last six months. The group is concentrating on high priority landscapes to match up funds, resources and planning so that they can maximize efforts on the ground at a landscape scale. Early in 2016, the Santa Fe City Council and the Board of County Commissioners adopted Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Resolutions that will help secure and align funding, implement projects and increase collaboration across boundaries in the area.  More here
The Left Hand and Right Hand forks of the Bear River converge in the High Uintas in Utah.
Photo: Roger Arave, Deseret News. 

Protecting Utah's Forested Watersheds

Utah's Catastrophic Wildfire Reduction Strategy (CatFire) is in it's third year and making a difference in reducing the risk of wildfire across boundaries to protect lands and watersheds across the state. 

CatFire is an example of Utah's state government taking a leadership position on protecting public and private lands from catastrophic wildfires. With $1 million from the state for FY 2017, CatFire is working on projects and actions including capacity building, fuels mitigation in five counties and funding a community planner to assist with CWPP creation in the Cedar City area of SW Utah.  They are particularly excited about leveraging risk-based analysis in their decision making as they stand up the Utah Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (UWRAP) in late May.  More here
Photo: Susie Kocher & US Forest Service

Messaging is Important to Increase Understanding and Build Support 

At the WRSC spring meeting stakeholders expressed their needs to communicate better with their own publics. When the public understands the need for their actions at the home and neighborhood level, and they understand the need for, and benefits from, putting planned fire and using unplanned fire on the landscape, they are more supportive of restoration and resiliency projects, fire management activities and community fire adaptation. 

This spring, stakeholders in California worked together to bring a key message to the public - a little smoke now from prescribed burning helps prevent a lot of smoke later. This is just one example of using simple images and a short tag line to help people understand their roles and the role of fire on the landscape.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page where we share great ideas like this one daily. 

 White House Roundtable on Wildfire in the Wildland - Urban Interface. Photo Shawn Stokes.

National Leaders Commit to
Cohesive Strategy

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell led a discussion last week with federal firefighting agencies at the White House regarding the increasing danger to communities in wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas as fire seasons become hotter, drier and longer. Leaders from over 39 agencies and jurisdictions committed to the following:

We are committed to safely and effectively extinguishing fire, when needed; using fire where allowable; managing our natural resources; and as a Nation, living with wildland fire safely.   

Sound familiar?  Full statements here
Drone launching ignition balls. Photo: UNL

Using Drones to Ignite Rx Fire

Researchers at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln (UNL) recently tested prototypes of drones that can set fires while airborne, to make controlled burns easier and safer. These tools can help reduce the risks to firefighters by letting them set controlled burns remotely.  

The aircraft carries balls of potassium permanganate powder that are injected with liquid glycerol before being launched to the ground. The combined chemicals set off a reaction that ignites the materials within 60 seconds after landing.  More
Sheep grazing near Carson City, NV. Photo: US Forest Service

Not Just a Goat's Game Anymore 

The US Forest Service in Carson City, NV is taking advantage of a local opportunity to reduce hazardous fuels near town. On the Arrowhawk Project, 800 ewes and lambs are currently grazing 1,000 acres and on the other side of town, 800 more are grazing 500 acres. Fuels managers time the projects for when the cheat grass is starting to green up because the sheep will eat it. The Cohesive Strategy recognizes innovative approaches like these to reduce wildfire risks around communities. Read more and watch the video here

Wildland Session Ale. Photo: GoodLife Brewing

Non Traditional Partnerships
Build Awareness and Support

The Central Oregon Fire Learning Network tried something new during this year’s training exchange (TREX) in an attempt to connect with new audiences regarding the need for forest restoration and fire in Central Oregon. They hosted a Prescribed Fire Open House at GoodLife Brewing in Bend, OR. Visitors were introduced to the tools and equipment used to safely conduct prescribed burns, as well as information about the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, US Forest Service, and The Nature Conservancy where folks could talk with fire and restoration professionals about the need for forest restoration and the role of fire in that process.

The Cohesive Strategy encourages developing non-traditional stakeholder partners and this one is a great example that showcased the partnership with GoodLife Brewing and their shared interest in healthy forests and clean water.  More here.

Cross Boundary Collaboration
and Engaging Communities


At the beginning of this newsletter, I mentioned that Jim Hubbard, Deputy Chief of the US Forest Service, likes to remind us that full implementation of the Cohesive Strategy involves two key components: cross-boundary collaboration and engaging communities. In most cases, that a tall order when you're talking about bone-deep passions around our natural environment. Just how does that occur? 

The Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) sought the same answers when seeking to return fire the landscape, restore local forests, reduce the risk of high intensity wildland fire, and provide traditional returns for local Tribes.  They knew it wouldn't be easy, or fast, and embarked on an effort toward collaborative fire management in the Western Klamath landscape in Northern California. The desire was driven by the Karuk Tribe, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, the US Forest Service, area Fire Safe Councils, environmental groups and other community-based stakeholders to explore what fire management could be like using a collaborative paradigm.

Part of the collaborative process has included the use of the 
Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. Facilitated, multiple small group brainstorming, and whole group validation and wordsmithing helped them hone in on values and targets. Those were matched with associated direct threats. Root causes were identified and strategies assigned to turn threats into actionable pathways. The WKRP is now moving from agreement in principle to actions on the ground.  Read more about how this collaborative process occurred and is still underway here

Upcoming Learning Opportunities

July 17-20, 2016 - North American Prairie Conference—From Cemetery Prairies to National Tallgrass Prairies Illinois State University is hosting this conference, with presentations on prairie ecology, restoration, management and some innovative ideas on working lands.

November 14-17, 2016 - International Smoke Symposium  The IAWF and the NWCG SmoC (smoke committee) will be hosting this in-person / virtual symposium. The call for presentations is now open; submissions are due by May 16.     

November 28 - December 2, 2016 - Southwest Association for Fire Ecology Conference in Tucson, AZ.  Save the date for “Beyond Hazardous Fuels: Managing Fire for Social, Economic and Ecological Benefits,” hosted by AFE and the Southwest Fire Science Consortium. 
Articles and information from around the West that demonstrate collaborative efforts
and meaningful progress towards Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities
and Safe & Effective Wildfire Response.

Contact:  Kate Lighthall, WRSC Coordinator:

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