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Key wildland fire management strategy released

Some four years in the making, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council’s (WFLC) National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior.

This strategy marked the efforts of an expansive group from multiple agencies that are seeking to coordinate landscape restoration efforts and reducing wildland fire threats.

The strategy is a 101-page document that details a national plan for management of vegetation and fuels, human-caused incidents and response to wildfire incidents.

Addressed in the strategy is a myriad of issues relating to forest health, such as climate change, the increase of community sprawl and pests/diseases.

Amongst the means for promoting forest health in the strategy are fuels thinning, controlled burns, the development of effective county and state building and zoning codes and ordinances and keeping watersheds, transportation and utility corridors as part of future management plans.

The WFLC includes representatives of federal, state, tribal and local governmental agencies. Among those representatives on the council were the directors of the U.S. Forest Service and BLM and the directors of national parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).

Lake County Commissioner Dan Shoun served as the representative of counties as a member of the National Association of Counties (NACo). Shoun said that he believes the strategy will play a significant role in the future of lands management.  A multi-agency cooperative effort toward restoring forests to their historically healthy conditions will reduce the severity of forest fires and reduce costs associated with their suppression, he said.

The WFLC council must also develop a national action plan, which Shoun said is currently in the developmental stages.

“What I’m hoping is, as we have legislation that comes from Congress, it will at least be referenced, as a guide (for land restoration and forest management work),” Shoun said.

Shoun also noted that he brought forward the perspective that forest health issues are the priority, rather than solely a matter of fire prevention.  He said fire can be used as a management tool once forests have been brought to a condition of health in which fires can be prescribed and used in a manageable size.

“We got it pulled back around to (the strategy) being more than just a fire document,” he said.

NACo’s deputy legislative director, Paul Beddoe, noted that the strategy development illustrated the importance in federal agencies recognizing the role played by other intergovernmental parties, including states, counties and both tribal and land managers.

“That was a really importance piece,” he said.

Beddoe also noted the strategy’s recognition of fire’s differing behavior in different parts of the country. In the western states, especially, the need exists to bring forests and rangelands back to a point where fire can be utilized as a management tool without the end result being a catastrophic fire event.

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