USA — On Wednesday April 21 at the Wildland Fire Leadership Council in Washington, DC, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar jointly announced a blueprint for the first comprehensive national strategy for wildfire management.
The council was attended by numerous state governors, as well as local and tribal government representatives.
“Developing a comprehensive national strategy to prepare for and protect against wildfires that threaten the safety of Americans is an important part of our efforts to build a culture of resiliency in communities across the country,” Secretary Napolitano declared.
“There are no easy solutions to the challenges of wildland fire,” Secretary Vilsack added. “But a cohesive wildfire management strategy will provide the best blueprint to ensure community safety and the restoration of ecosystems that will, in the long run, benefit all Americans, especially those who live in rural areas.”
The new strategy will analyze three key components: landscape restoration, fire-adapted communities, and response to wildfire and is scheduled to be completed this fall in accordance with a recent act of Congress.
The Fame Act of 2009 requires the Forest Service and Department of Interior to submit to Congress a report that contains a cohesive wildfire management strategy consistent with recommendations in recent General Accountability Office (GAO) reports regarding management strategies. Following its formal approval by the Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Interior by October 2010, the Cohesive Wildfire Management Strategy is to be revised at least once during each five year period to address any changes with respect to landscape, vegetation, climate, and weather conditions.
According to the legislation the Cohesive Strategy is required to provide for the identification of the most cost effective means for allocating fire management budget resources. This includes the reinvestment in non-fire programs by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, employing the appropriate management response to wildfire, assessing the level of risk to communities, allocation of hazardous fuels reduction funds based on the priority of hazardous fuels reduction projects, and assessing the impacts of climate change on the frequency and impact of wildfire.
In addition, the Congressional requirements hold that the strategy meet GAO standards for addressing cost effectiveness of suppression and mitigation, the efficiency of treatments for fuels and Fire Adapted Communities and establishment of meaningful performance measures.
As previously reported in HSToday.us the GAO last fall found that although federal agencies have taken important steps forward in making communities and resources less susceptible to damages from wildland fire, additional strategic action was needed to capitalize on those steps.
The report urged agencies to develop a cohesive strategy laying out various potential approaches for addressing the growing wildland fire threat, better estimating the costs associated with each approach, and the trade-offs involved.
Such information, the report said, would help the agencies and Congress make fundamental decisions about an effective and affordable approach to responding to fires. GAO also recommended the establishment of a cost-containment strategy clarifying financial responsibilities for fires that cross federal, state, and local jurisdictions.