AFEs position paper on the role of fire in managing long-term carbon stores was created in response to President Obamas Executive Order (No. 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance”) issued on October 5, 2009. This executive order mandated all federal agencies to develop plans within 180 days that consider and account for sequestration and emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from Federal land management practices. AFE Board members were concerned that policies intended to minimize carbon emissions from forests might mistakenly propose fire exclusion by further restricting prescribed fire and aggressively suppressing all wildfires. The short time frame and sense of urgency to get fire ecology perspectives into the hands of policymakers prompted the AFE Board of Directors to draft a position paper in time for AFE general members to discuss and ratify it at the Fourth International Fire Ecology and Management Congress meeting in Savannah in early December.
The position paper was drafted by a committee of four AFE Board members (Crystal Kolden, Scott Stephens, Paul Hessburg, and Timothy Ingalsbee), then sent to a select group of issue experts who peer-reviewed the draft. Their comments were incorporated into a second draft that was posted on the members section of the AFE website for further review and comment. During the Fire Congress, Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the keynote speaker at the awards banquet, gave a passionate endorsement of the position paper and urged us to promptly get it into the hands of policymakers. The next evening, the paper was unanimously endorsed and ratified at the annual members meeting. AFE now intends to send copies to President Obama and other Administration officials and Congressional leaders. AFE also intends to develop a longer, more comprehensive paper on the issue of fire management and carbon accounting systems for publication in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed AFE journal, Fire Ecology.