New Priorities Set For Wildfire Reduction
Federal, state and local agencies have agreed to work together to prioritize the annual selection of projects aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires in forests across the country.
The memorandum of understanding between the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, State Foresters and National Association of Counties states that the agencies will focus their efforts on two high priority areas: the wildland-urban interface, where the greatest risk to property and life exist and; in areas that are at the highest risk of catastrophic fire.
Projects will be selected May 1, so that firefighting personnel can prepare fuels treatment projects before the beginning of the intense June through September fire season.
More than 7.1 million acres burned last year — more than twice the annual 10 year average. The fires caused the death of 21 firefighters, drove tens of thousands of people from their homes and destroyed more than 2,000 buildings.
The fires also destroyed sensitive wildlife habitat and damaged soils and watersheds that will take decades to recover. About 190 million acres of public land and surrounding communities are considered at increased risk of extreme fires.
Also announced is an agreement signed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Forest Service and State Foresters that will avoid duplication in fire related federal grant programs. The agreement will leverage funds to assist local fire departments efforts to improve firefighter safety, suppression response and risk mitigation.
Grant applications will be reviewed simultaneously by all federal agencies to avoid duplication.
The Interior Department has designated five pilot projects aimed at demonstrating the effectiveness of fire management techniques:
— At Weaver Mountain, Arizona, fire managers will work to reduce chaparral brush on about 14,000 acres, consisting of 8,950 Bureau of Land Management acres, 4,000 Arizona state acres and 1,100 acres of private ownership.
— The White River Power Line project, near Rio Blanco County, Colorado, involves mechanical thinning and prescribed burning of pinon, juniper and sagebrush stands adjacent to or near electric transmission lines.
— At the Horse Thief Subdivision in Montana, managers will thin the concentrated ponderosa pines and open the canopy to reduce the chance of crown fire. At the Bureau of Indian Affairs/Zuni Agency project in New Mexico, prescribed fire and mechanical treatments will be applied to 1,300 acres of pine, gambel oak, pinyon and grassland vegetation to restore the landscape.
— In Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, trees and brush will be thinned at seven sites, covering 83 acres of the park, to protect historical properties, private structures, National Park Service housing and a dam.
Provided by theEnvironmental News Service.