Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fire Up Your Beef

Short version of video - 6 minutes. 

America's grasslands evolved with fire and grazing. Unfortunately, fire has been largely missing from rangelands for decades and in its absence, rangeland health has declined and red cedar encroachment is robbing producers of productive pastures. 

Watch the video above to hear first-hand from ranchers and cattle producers about their use of prescribed fire to reduce the woody encroachment, increase livestock production and create resilient landscapes.

Longer version of video - 22 minutes.

"Fires of Change" Still Traveling

Artwork by Bryan David Griffith.  Photo: 516arts.org

The Fires of Change traveling art exhibition was launched in 2015 to explore, through the eyes of artists, the increase in severity, size and number of wildfire in the Southwest and their impact on the landscape.
The successful display has traveled from the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona to the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson and is showing at 516 Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico this summer. It features sculpture, photography, video, mixed media and installations by ten artists from across Arizona and the country.  

The traveling project is a collaborative effort between the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, Landscape Conservation Initiative at Northern Arizona University and the Flagstaff Arts Council. 

This is still a terrific example of bringing stakeholders together to better educate communities about the realities of living with wildland fire.  

Read more here.  And our blog post when the project originally launched here

Washington Take Fire Adapted Communities Full Circle

Graphic courtesy of Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network

Stakeholders in Washington State are unfortunately a little too intimate with wildfire. With record setting wildfires in 2014 and 2015, they've had enough. Hungry for an alternative to the costly and reactionary model of fire management that has dominated the US for decades, stakeholders developed the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (WAFAC).  Funded by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), WAFAC facilitates learning and provides a means to invest resources in communities around Washington that are working to better live with wildfire.  

Recognizing that programs such as Firewise, Ready, Set, GO! and Community Wildfire Protection Plans on their own are not enough, WAFAC provides a long-term, integrated approach to an issue that cannot be solved. The vision of the Cohesive Strategy is to learn to "live with wildland fire" and that goal is at WAFAC's core.   

The Network provides member communities with resources to engage with other WAFAC participants, thereby increasing local capacity, and elevating the collective ability to adapt to communities' relationships to the complex fire issues we face. 

Stakeholders in Washington learned from back-to-back catastrophic fires that pre-fire mitigation is not enough to deal with the effects of wildfire. The complex issues also include what to do during and after a wildfire. The WAFAC has embraced this reality and encourages communities to look at the entire range of issues, as depicted in their new graphic (above). 

WAFAC suggests everyone has a role - "whether you are making sure your campfire is cold, supporting the use of prescribed fire, taking responsibility for your own home, evacuating calmly with your prepared 'go-kit,' or helping your community recover, you are making a difference. Everyone has a role in adapting to wildfire."

Lessons learned in Washington are helping inform progress towards Fire Adapted Communities nationwide. 

Learn more here

More Effective Firefighting with FiRE Tool

South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist Darren Clabo of the School of Mines and Technology is collaborating with NASA Develop, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, NOAA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to make firefighting more effective with the use of the Fire Risk Estimation (FiRE)Tool. 

The tool is designed to give land and fire managers a more detailed looks at fire potential across the Missouri River basin. The FiRE tool, expected to be ready by late summer this year, uses satellite and meteorological data to create a detailed understanding of fire danger.

The initial attack phase of any wildfire is the most important time to gain control. If fire managers know where the danger is increasing before a fire breaks out, they can position resources accordingly. Previous tools only assessed fire danger on a wider scale, such as across forest districts or a county. The FiRE tool can narrow the details onto a 10-kilometer grid scale.

Clabo says the FiRE tool combines satellite data and meteorological data for an output not available in current fire danger assessments. The tool analyzes drought conditions, high resolution fuel conditions and precipitation conditions to produce a fire danger assessment map that land managers and firefighters can monitor daily.

“One of the current problems across the Great Plains is we don’t have very many weather stations. So, those estimated conditions can be inaccurate and we might not know where the most critical fire weather conditions exist,” says Clabo.

Living (Dangerously!) in the Era of Megafires

Dr. Paul Hessburg with the Pacific Northwest Research Station (US Forest Service) has been traveling throughout the West over the past year to share "The Era of Megafires" - a 70-minute, multi-media presentation that informs, engages and inspires audiences to think about how they will live with wildfire. I attended one last fall and was delightfully surprised that it was not a presentation filled with fire-related acronyms and a fire person talking to local fire people. The audience was filled beyond capacity with everyday folks from the community looking to learn how our landscapes evolved into this situation and how we might reduce the risk of future megafires. Based on the audience questions and comments at the end of the presentation, Dr. Hessburg met his mission to increase understanding of the complex wildland fire issues we face.  

If you get the chance, attend the event, it's worth it. If you cannot make it to one of the shows, the video above provides a synopsis of the larger event.   

In April, Dr. Hessburg offered a TedX Talk in Bend, Oregon that provided a short but compelling message about living in the era of megafires. He tells a fast-paced story of western US forests, unintentionally yet massively changed by a century of management. These changes, coupled with a hotter climate, have set the stage for this modern era of megafires - those over 100,000 acres. Hessburg offers clear tools for changing course and a thought-provoking call to community action. 

Click here for tour dates of the Era of Megafires event.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Prescribed Fires Require a Balancing Act

Deschutes County Commissioners tour the sites of controlled burns in the Deschutes National Forest.   Photo: Deschutes County. 

Where there's smoke, there's fire - and a balancing act. The balance of fire in the woods - both as a friend to clear brush and improve forest health, and as an enemy the west battles every year - was the focus of a tour yesterday with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), the Oregon Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) and the Deschutes National Forest.  

The group, including the three Deschutes County Commissioners, toured several prescribed burn areas to help understand the need for and benefits from prescribed fires on the landscape.  

"This is a critical conversation for all Oregonians to have," said Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection for ODF.   

The group discussed the benefits to Ponderosa pine from fire as well as the resulting smoke that infiltrates nearby communities whether its a prescribed fire or a wildfire. Tom Kuhn from Deschutes County Public Health advised that smoke pollution from wildfire is more hazardous to our health than smoke from prescribed burns. People in Central Oregon are starting to understand that balancing act - a little smoke from prescribed fires is preferred over a lot of smoke from a devastating wildfire.  

Tours like these are a fantastic way to help educate stakeholders, especially our elected officials and community members, about the value of prescribed fire in our forests and around communities. The Cohesive Strategy suggests that as a nation, we will have to learn to live with wildland fire. The growing understanding and support for prescribed fire in the West is a good demonstration of stakeholders understanding their risk and being willing to accept some short-term risk for the longer term benefit.  

Read news story here

And check out pages 30-32 and pages 55-57 in the Cohesive Strategy about the management option of prescribed fire and the trade offs that must be accepted to see future results. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Western Governors Approve Five New Policy Resolutions

Left ot right: Governors Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Matt Mead (Wyoming), Butch Otter (Idaho), David Ige (Hawaii),
WGA Chair 
Steve Bullock (Montana), Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands), WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), and Brian Sandoval (Nevada).  
Western Governors are gathering this week for their annual meeting in Whitefish, Montana. In addition to the Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative released yesterday, Western Governors formally approved five policy resolutions on: Workforce Development; Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act; National Forest and Rangeland Management; Western Agriculture; and State Wildlife Science, Data and Analysis at the Western Governors’ Association 2017 Annual Meeting in Whitefish, Montana.
The five new policy resolutions formally approved include in summary:
Workforce Development: Western Governors are committed to identifying innovative approaches that connect western citizens in need of career advancement opportunities to western business sectors with employment vacancies. This resolution directs WGA to pursue a workforce development initiative that leverages the region's best thinking to help bridge the gap between prospective workers and western employers. 
Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act (ESA): The Governors believe that targeted, legislative, regulatory and funding refinements could improve operation of the ESA. The Governors also recognize that much can be accomplished by working collaboratively with federal partners and that ESA can only be reauthorized through legislation developed in a fashion that results in broad bipartisan support and maintains the intent of the ESA to protect and recover imperiled species. This is an amendment to the 2016 resolution, incorporating year-two Species Conservation and ESA initiative principles by reference. 
National Forest and Rangeland Management: The Governors support sound forest and rangeland management policies that maintain and promote environmental, economic and social balance and sustainability. They support programs intended to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health and resilience, and believe the federal landscape should be focused on environmentally sound practices that also provide sustainable economic opportunities for local communities. The Governors encourage collaboration as a tool to achieve community-supported and durable land management outcomes. 
Western Agriculture: Western Governors support a broad array of funding, education, research, and conservation programs that enable farms, forests, and rangelands to be important contributors to the economies and quality in western states. They encourage responsible management of federal lands in the West. They also encourage integrating these policies into legislative action as Congress considers the 2018 Farm Bill. 
    State Wildland Science, Data and Analysis: Western Governors direct the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to utilize state wildlife data, analysis and expertise as principal sources in development and analysis of science serving as the legal basis for federal regulatory action to manage species and habitat. 

Read the full announcement here.