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WRSC Newsletter #24 10/15/2014
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The Western Regional Strategy Committee (WRSC) delivers articles and stories each month that demonstrate the collaborative efforts of agencies, organizations and communities supporting and promoting the three goals of the Cohesive Strategy: Restoring Resilient Landscapes, Creating Fire Adapted Communities and Responding to Wildfire. The newsletter is our primary communication tool with our partners and the public. Past issues of the WRSC newsletter are available on our blog. Feel free to contact us with ideas for articles or comments. 

TREX Spells Success for Resilient Landscapes and Fire Adapted Communities

Prescribed Fire TRaining EXchanges, or TREX, are held in high risk areas across the country to mitigate wildfire risk around communities and provide prescribed fire training to interested participants. The TREX projects are facilitated by a 12-year agreement between the US Forest Service, Department of the Interior agencies, and The Nature Conservancy to provide experiential training events with three objectives -- treatment, training, and outreach. To date, TREX events boast almost 100,000 acres treated through these collaborative projects. The benefits to both the landscapes and communities are tremendous. TREX projects create fuel breaks, reduce hazardous fuels, restore forests, and create defensible space around communities at risk. 
The TREX concept is more than just landscape and community treatments. By engaging professional fire practitioners as well as non-traditional practitioners such as students, community members and ranchers, TREX provides excellent hands-on learning opportunities and experience.  Participants engage in prescribed burning events that meet NWCG standards to gain skills to work more safely and effectively.  From understanding ecosystems and the role of fire, to gaining proficiency with fire equipment and on the fire line, participants in TREX access valuable knowledge and experience. Each TREX project implements a series of prescribed burns, usually over 5-10 days, and treats hundreds or even thousands of acres of priority landscapes around communities at risk from wildfire. 
The Klamath River, CA TREX
Between 2003 and 2009 the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council burned approximately 250 acres on 18 properties ( see Sparking a Change video) with minimal local resources. In contrast, in the Fall of 2014, the inaugural year of the Klamath River TREX, 240 acres were burned on 13 properties in a 10 day period. The focus for 2014 was community protection, maintaining fuels treatments, training and capacity building, and Native American food and fiber resource enhancement.

Over 50 people from the US Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Karuk Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Mid Klamath Watershed Council, Salmon River Restoration Council, The Nature Conservancy, Firestorm, Humboldt State University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Orleans Volunteer Fire Department and local residents participated in TREX projects. They received quality training ranging from FFT 2 trainees to Type 1 burn boss assignments. The TREX included a 24-acre prescribed burn on a property that lost two homes just two months prior in this summer’s wildfire, showing how local residents embrace the concepts of Fire Adapted Communities. Visit and LIKE the  Salmon River & Orleans Complexities Facebook page and the Hot Off the Fire Line video for photos and comments from participants. 
The Black Lake, NM TREX
In 2013 and 2014, prescribed fire crews treated 360 acres of high priority WUI acres and over 20 wildland firefighters were trained in TREX events. Partnerships included the New Mexico State Land Office, The Nature Conservancy Fire Learning Network, HR Vigil Small Products, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, the Taos Office of the Bureau of Land Management, the Moreno Valley Fire Department, and the Village of Angel Fire’s Fire Department. Building on 2013 efforts led to an even better outcome for the 2014 Black Lake TREX. Treated acreage nearly doubled thanks to the returning partners above and new partners Taos County and the City of Santa Fe Fire Department Wildland Division. New Mexico State Forestry provided significant support for the controlled burn with crucial contributions including drip torches, radios, and post-burn site patrolling by the Cimarron District engine.
With support from the New Mexico State Land Office and the Fire Learning Network, this year’s efforts included a focus on communications with the communities of Angel Fire and Black Lake. NM State Forestry provided a knowledgeable Public Information Officer who employed “trap line” techniques with frequent updates through traditional and social media to keep the communities informed throughout the burns. As a result, the local Rotary Club requested a presentation about Fire Adapted Communities and a favorable editorial appeared in the local news.

For more information on TREX, see the latest TREX Report. For information on the USFS, DOI and TNC partnership that enables TREX and Fire Adapted Communities, contact Tim Melchert, Pam Leschak or Lynn Decker.

Snag Canyon Shows Logging Can Help    

Washington State had its worst fire season in history this year. As the fires burned, the difference in how fire burns in dense forest versus logged or treated stands was visible.  A recent news story in the Yakima Herald-Republic describes the difference. "This summer's Snag Canyon Fire burned across 12,600 acres of brush and forest north of Ellensburg, but the intensity of the fire and resulting damage varied dramatically across the ridge slopes."

The reporter interviews land managers from the US Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy to explain how modern logging techniques differ from clearcutting, and can be used to enhance wildlife habitat and forest health. "Recognition is growing that harvest can be done in environmentally friendly ways and needs to be done to reduce fire impacts.... Research shows that following thinning with prescribed fire is the best way to push the forests back to a more fire-tolerant condition. That way when a wildfire hits, it'll be less destructive", said Reese Lolley of The Nature Conservancy. Read more here >

Wildfire Impacts Hawaiian Coral Reefs

Land managers, fire suppression agencies, and municipal entities dealing with the wildfire issue in Hawaii have long discussed the increase in wildfires and their widespread impacts on communities and natural resources throughout the state, but never anticipated how the numbers would turn out.  In 2013, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, a 501(c)3 non-profit, completed an analysis of statewide fire records, soon to be published, and revealed the true enormity of the size and scope of Hawaii’s wildland fire issue. Hawaii experiences <1000 ignitions that burn an average of <20,000 acres each year, resulting in about 0.5% of Hawaii's total land area burning each year. 

In a relatively small state comprised of multiple islands, the impacts of such a large proportion of Hawaii’s land area burning are long lasting and affect many facets of life and resource health.  Steep slopes, high winds, and soils made hydrophobic (water repellent) by fire create a landscape prone to post-fire erosion, flooding, and human health concerns.  These include changes in ground water (from reduced infiltration) and air quality (from major increases in airborne sediment/dust).  Post-fire erosion during heavy rain events not only contributes to degraded landscapes that encourage the proliferation of non-native fire-prone species that exacerbate the fire issue, but significantly impact coastal waters.  Heavy sediment output after rain events degrades water quality, smothers coral reefs, and negatively affects fisheries. These resources can take many years to recover, and in some areas may never recover. 

Hawaii is a state where nearshore waters are the underpinning of the economy (tourism), recreation, livelihoods, culture, and in some cases, sustenance. Wildfire in Hawaii, and its consequent post-fire erosion, are underpublicized, under-recognized, and pose critical challenges that Hawaii is just beginning to tackle through an increase in post-fire management activities and research. For more information; see also "Building a Spatial Database of Wildfire in Hawaii" in the next issue of Fire Management Today, soon to be released.

Along the Hawaii coast after a post-fire rain event.  Photo by Carolyn Stewart.       
Same spot with clear water. Photo by Elizabeth Pickett.

Wildfire Partners Create Defensible Space in Boulder County   

Wildfire Partners is a new voluntary program to help homeowners in Boulder County, Colorado prepare for wildfire. They provide a comprehensive, on-site assessment of homes and the home ignition zone, a report detailing the actions the homeowner should take, and a follow-up visit to inspect the results and continue the dialogue. The program is funded by a Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, with matching funds from Boulder County and numerous partners. The program was featured in a recent news story.

Upcoming Learning Opportunities

October 15 1:00 MDT - Smoke Management Tools in the Southwest webinar information.

October 16-17 - Conference on Forests, Water and a Resilient Arizona, Scottsdale, AZ.  Conference information

October 21-22 - Restoring the West Conference 2014, Utah State University, Logan, UT. Conference information >

October 23-24 - National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation, Washington, DC. Conference information >

October 28-30 National Forest Management & Collaboration in the Interior Mountain West - Missoula, MT. Conference information >

November 6-8 - Wildland Fire Smoke Workshop - Albuquerque, NM. Conference information >

November 13 2:00-3:30 PM EDT, A Discussion of Challenges and Opportunities Associated with Forest Planning & Collaboration: A Partnership Network Peer Learning Session. Webinar information >
Stay up-to-date with the WRSC by visiting our web channel! We invite your comments!
Does your agency or community have a project or event you'd like to see featured in the WRSC Newsletter? Tell us about it! Just contact Cheryl Renner.
Tony Harwood
Co-chair (Tribal representative)
Confederated Salsih and Kootenai Tribes
Ann Walker
Co-Chair (Non-federal representative) 
Western Governors' Association
Brad Washa
Co-chair (shared Federal representative)
Bureau of Land Management
Denise Blankenship
Co-Chair (shared Federal representative)
US Forest Service
Katie Lighthall
Coordinator, Western Region
Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy 
Cheryl Renner
Communications Support, Western Region
Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
Copyright © 2014 Western Regional Strategy Committee, All rights reserved.

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