Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Forests to Faucets Receives $33 Million

Jim Lochhead (Denver Water), Clint Evans (NRCS), Mike Lester (Colorado State Forester) and Brian Ferebee (US Forest Service Regional Forester) sign a memorandum of understanding in Denver Feb. 27th, to renew and expand the FORESTS TO FAUCETS PARTNERSHIP. Photo: Ryan Lockwood, Colorado State Forest Service. 

The Forests to Faucets partnership began in 2010 as a response to the 1996 Buffalo Creek and 2002 Hayman wildfires. Since its inception, the partnership’s goals have grown to not only reduce catastrophic wildfires, but to also restore forests impacted by reservoirs, erosion and beetle devastation. On February 27th, Forests to Faucets was granted a $33 million extension to continue its ongoing projects. 
The specific strategies will be identified in a five-year plan and will include tools such as thinning, prescribed fire, and decommissioning roads to restore and protect 40,000 acres of landscape. 
"The link between healthy forests and clean water is nowhere more evident than in Colorado, where we provide water for 19 states,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and Director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “That is why this partnership is so critical to providing both resilient forests and sustainable water supplies for residents of Metro Denver and the Front Range.”
The Cohesive Strategy strongly encourages these types of cross-boundary commitment and actions.  Congratulations all!

Communication Strategies for Fire and Fuels Managers

Field Tour at Western Klamath Regional Partnership 2016 Retreat. Photo: WKRP

Your agency needs to increase fuel treatments and prescribed fire, but how do you communicate this to the public? A recent brief by the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange highlights a study by Dr. Eric Toman and his colleagues who sought to answer that question in four different states: Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Oregon. These communications they say, can be important in shifting from a suppression-only view, to a more holistic view helping prescribed fire gain more public acceptance.

The researchers looked at the main principles of adult learning and framed their research by viewing adult learners as autonomous, self-directed learners. From past theory, they noted that adults wish to: know the reason the topic is relevant, participate and contribute to the learning process, know what the problem is and if it needs to be fixed, and understand whether the learning process will lead to an improved quality of life.  

The study focused on the effectiveness of typical communication methods, such as: uni-directional methods – Smokey Bear materials, public service messages, brochures, newspaper, newsletters, and internet web pages; and interactive methods – interpretive centers, conversations with agency employees, elementary school programs, guided field trips, and public meetings.

The findings showed interactive methods were more in line with effective adult learning methods overall, with guided field trips and interpretive centers rated as the most trustworthy and helpful methods of interactive communication, and public meetings the least. Most of the uni-directional methods were 90-95% trustworthy, but only 44-47% helpful.

What does this mean to you?

  • Understanding adult learning theory can help when communicating with the public about agency activities; and
  • Guided field trips and interpretive centers are generally more effective communication tools than newsletters and public meetings. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fire Starts and Longer Fire Seasons Our Fault

Firefighter on the Soberanes Fire, Sept 2016.  Photo: Monterey County Herald.

Humans are taking the blame for 84% of all wildfires, a tripling in the length of fire season and almost half of all the area burned.  In a report recently published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers daylight the fundamental role of human ignitions.  The team analyzed 1.5 million fires from federal, state and local wildfire records from 1992 through 2012 to find that the human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States. 

The authors demonstrate the remarkable influence that humans have on modern US wildfire. Although considerable fire research has rightly focused on increased fire activity (e.g., larger fires and more area burned) because of climate change, they demonstrate that the expanded fire niche as a result of human-related ignitions is equally profound.  They hope this research will spur action to not only raise awareness of the issue but increase management in regions more prone to human-caused wildfire; and that these should be a focus of United States policy to reduce fire risk and associated hazards.  

Read full article here

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Tao of Forest Management

Deans of Forestry at Oregon State Univeristy Thomas Maness, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford pose in their recent article, that when it comes to proper management of our public forests, some would like to take a page from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. He posed the concept of non-action as an approach to life. In our forests, if we do nothing and let nature take its course, this line of reasoning goes, these landscapes will return to a more “natural state” on their own.

The trouble is, the natural state of forests includes fire - a lot of fire. They will never return to a state that existed in the past, because the conditions that created them no longer exist. What actions should we take, they ask, to manage our forest for the multiple benefits we expect?  We need to recognize that fire has a role to play and that we can reduce the risk of catastrophic loss. 

Oregon State University research has shown that public forests will benefit from two proactive management techniques with a positive environmental impact: thinning and prescribed burning.  

The Cohesive Strategy promotes both of these methods to restore forested landscapes and increase forest health. There simply is not enough funding however, nor will there ever be, to mechanically treat the amount of landscape in need of treatment. Prescribed burning, as well as managed fires (from unplanned ignitions) will continue to become a more necessary tool in the land manager's toolbox.  

Oregon State is conducting additional research now that will help locate the best landscapes for using prescribed fire and where thinning is preferred, such as near communities. Stay tuned...

Read their full article here.  

BLM's Wildland Fire Community Assistance Program - Enhancing Critical Partnerships

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) released this great little vid about the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Wildland Fire Community Assistance Program. With a focus on prevention, education, mitigation and cooperator assistance, the BLM partners with communities to provide funding and technical expertise for hazardous fuels reduction on adjacent non-federal lands, completing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs), prevention efforts to reduce human-caused fires and wildland fire training for fire departments and rangeland fire protection associations (RFPAs).    

The BLM manages over 245 million acres of land in the West, mostly rangeland and mostly intermingled between state, federal and private lands. These partnerships are critical for the BLM.

To learn more about BLM's Community Assistance program, contact your local BLM office.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Record Year for Controlled Burns by The Nature Conservancy

Prescribed fire on Loup Farm in Oregon.  Photo: Jason Houston.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is celebrating a record year for controlled burns in 2016, helping to restore forests, protect water and safeguard communities. 

TNC led controlled burns on 154,577 acres in 2016, surpassing their yearly average of 118,000.  Completed in close coordination with fire departments, government agencies and neighbors, TNC achieves dual purposes with controlled burns - restoring forest health and enhancing community safety by reducing flammable fuels, thereby reducing the likelihood of devastating fires. 

A great partner in the Cohesive Strategy, The Nature Conservancy is proving that more private landowners and the public are receptive to controlled burning as a means to create resilient landscapes and protect communities and firefighters. Congratulations!! 


Cultural Burning on the Sierra Nevada for Everyone's Benefit

For thousands of years, California Indians used fire as a tool for managing natural resources. Throughout the state, Native peoples conducted cultural burns on a wide range of plants. Their fire regimes created diverse habitat mosaics that sustained meadows, coastal prairies, and grasslands. The careful application of fire increased fruit and seed production, caused new growth that was better suited for making baskets, and reduced the fuel load that could be burned by naturally occurring wildfires. 

But starting with the Spanish conquest and continuing today in the form of Forest Service and CalFire policies, fire suppression has drastically limited cultural burning. As a result, the forest has become incredibly dense and we are now facing a situation in the Sierra Nevada where drought is causing many trees to die. This massive tree mortality has brought the forest to a tipping point, where large scale wildfires threaten to alter the Sierra forests permanently. 

This video explores how cultural burning is being practiced today and what lessons it holds for the future of the forest.  The scene is an area just south of Yosemite National park where the North Fork Mono Tribe and the Cold Springs Rancheria Tribes are working to bring fire back to the land for everyone's benefit.  

Please take a moment and watch this video and share it with your networks, teachers and communities.