Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wildfire Tour of Homes

In an interesting twist on a common real estate event, Wildfire Partners in Boulder County, Colorado has planned a Tour of Homes to showcase homeowner wildfire mitigation work.  On Saturday, September 30th, the tour will allow people to visit participating properties in their community and check out practical wildfire mitigation measures firsthand. 

Sixteen homes will be featured on the tour. These homeowners have participated in an on-site assessment with a wildfire mitigation specialist and performed significant mitigation to receive their Wildfire Partners certificates.  

This is a fantastic outreach event by Wildfire Partners, Boulder County's wildfire mitigation organization.  

Read more about the event here

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Why I Burned My Property and How I Shot It"

Beautiful smokey haze from his own prescribed fire.  Photo: Joel Wolfson.

Joel Wolfson and his wife Barb live in northern Arizona where wildland fire is a frequent visitor. Following a too-close-to-home fire and evacuation experience, the Wolfsons knew they were ready to use prescribed fire on their property to reduce the risk of future high intensity fires. Mr. Wolfson is an accomplished photographer and teacher and also knew that he wanted to photograph the experience.  

More wildlife visit the burned area now to munch on the fresh grass.  Photo: Joel Wolfson.

Barb Wolfson is a fire ecologist and was in complete agreement of the exercise, knowing the blackened areas would regenerate naturally and improve the health and wildlife habitat of the forest around their home. 

The result is a beautiful juxtaposition of nature and controlled fire as well as the subsequent benefits to the landscape and protection of the Wolfson home. Take a look at Mr. Wolfson's blog post to see the great photography and read his story (complete with information about which lenses he used in his photographs of the experience).  

Read blog post here

Collaborative Solutions and Fuels Reduction Pays Off on Milli Fire

Thinning, mowing, and prescribed burning completed earlier this year has helped firefighters battle the Milli Fire and protect private properties near Sisters, Oregon.
The Milli Fire is still burning (60% containment) but the flanks of the fire nearest the community were easier to defend and hold thanks to the restoration efforts of the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP).  
One of the original awardees of funding under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act (2009), the DCFP has been successful at bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together to work through a variety of environmental and forest health issues to offer practical, beneficial solutions to the forest issues in Central Oregon. This has resulted in multiple forest restoration and hazardous fuels reduction projects carried out by the Deschutes National Forest.
In this case, projects were implemented close to the homes and structures just west of Sisters, Oregon on federal land. And now, less than a year later when threatened by wildfire, the landscape did not provide the thick vegetation needed to sustain and further a high intensity fire. A carefully planned and carried out fuels reduction project adjacent to private property allowed firefighters to stop the advancing fire and protect the homes nearby.
The Cohesive Strategy strongly encourages these types of collaborative efforts that lead to smart, on-the-ground projects on landscapes and around communities that have to live with wildfire. 
Click on the video above for the story and here for more information on the DCFP

Monday, September 11, 2017

Teaching Fire with Fire - A Unique Approach to Community Outreach

Teaching 6th graders about fire ecology and forest health.  Photo: Talking Talons Youth Leadership 

Over the past few months, educators from Talking Talons Youth Leadership have been delivering a forest and fire program to middle and elementary school students across the Grants, Zuni and Gallup school districts in western New Mexico.
The program was created with funding from a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) grant awarded to the Cibola National Forest and in partnership with the Forest Stewards Guild.  
Talking Talons Youth Leadership works with two retired science teachers who are well-versed in the delivery of a science-based curriculum. They designed the program to teach local youth about fire adapted ecosystems and fire adapted communities, while fostering interest and understanding of the Zuni CFLRP. The program also discusses land management strategies in the Zuni Mountains, as well as the structure of Cibola National Forest and other agencies involved in the Zuni CFLRP.
The Cohesive Strategy encourages these creative approaches  to community outreach that build a greater understanding of our forests and how they can be managed.
Read more here

Network Analysis of Wildfire Transmission and Implications for Risk Governance

A recent study by Alan Agar, Cody Evers, Michelle Day, Haiganoush Preisler, Ana Barros and Max Nielsen-Pincus 
looks at wildfire transmission from an "all lands, cross boundary" perspective. The study was motivated by the current federal wildfire management policy that emphasizes an "all lands" approach to management as a means to build fire resilient landscapes and fire adapted communities, and improve the safety and effectiveness of wildland fire response.  (Sounds like...?) 

The study offers quantitative methods to assess cross-boundary wildfire exposure on landscapes of varied ownerships, wildland fuels and community boundaries to advance the Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy goals above into practical application. The findings have implications for Community Wildfire Protection Planning (CWPPs) as well as other land and fire management planning.

Current risk assessment protocols do not identify cross-tenure and cross-tenure fire transmission that underlie the "all lands" planning objectives. Agar et al. also state that mapping fire risk alone is insufficient to inform mitigation strategies that must balance goals for improving fire resiliency in fire dependent forests versus protecting assets from fire. 

The area in community firesheds (i.e. wildlands that transmit fire to communities) covered more than 40% of the study area. Their fireshed mapping defined the scale of risk to communities, and provided a determination of risk exposure that is not considered in current CWPP guidelines where boundaries are based on ownership and administrative borders rather than the spatial and functional scale of wildfire risk.

These resulting scale mismatches between CWPP boundaries and the scale of risk can contribute to ineffective outcomes. In general, communities with high wildfire connectivity and large firesheds have a higher potential for scale mismatches in community planning stemming from poor perception of risk transmission. Scale mismatches manifest in a lack of coordination between local communities and surrounding landowners where governance institutions fail to recognize transmitted risk from neighboring land ownerships.

The study also provides a multi-scale characterization of wildfire networks within a large, mixed tenure and fire prone landscape, and illustrates the connectivity of risk between communities and the surrounding wildlands. They use the findings to discuss how scale mismatches in local wildfire governance result from disconnected planning systems and disparate fire management objectives among the large landowners (federal, state, private) and local communities. 

Local and regional risk planning processes can adopt these concepts and methods to better define and map the scale of wildfire risk from large fire events and incorporate wildfire network and connectivity concepts into risk assessments.
Incorporating this wildfire network analyses at the federal, state and community scales can help eliminate functional and scale mismatches in wildfire risk management that reduce the effectiveness of existing risk governance.  

Read the full report here

Friday, September 8, 2017

Increases in Wildfire-Caused Erosion Could Impact Water Supply and Quality in the West

Potential sediment erosion from a burned slope over the Los Padres reservoir, California.
Photo: USFS
A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study published online in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originate in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists analyzed a collection of climate, fire and erosion models for 471 large watersheds throughout the western U.S. They found that by 2050, the amount of sediment in more than one-third of watersheds could at least double. In nearly nine-tenths of the watersheds, sedimentation is projected to increase by more than 10 percent.
Sediment and ash saturating a stream in Las Conchas, NM.  Photo: USFS

“This is the first forward-looking study of the relationship between climate change, future wildfires and soil erosion, and their effects on ecosystems and watersheds throughout the West,” said Joel Sankey, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. “Findings could be used by communities to identify whether their water resources are especially at risk, and whether they have a suitable watershed management and protection plan in place.”

“At least 65 percent of the water supply in the West originates in watersheds with fire-prone vegetation,” said Sankey. “So, understanding how changing fire frequency, extent and location will affect watersheds, reservoirs and communities is of great societal importance.”

Wildfires can burn away ground cover and vegetation across the landscape, leaving soils exposed and easily erodible by precipitation. In other cases, fires can cause soil surfaces to harden. Instead of the rain soaking into the soil, rainwater and melted snow can rush across these hardened surfaces, gaining enough power to erode loose sediments.

See full article here

Tony Tooke Officially On the Job with a Focus on More Active Management

After a week officially on the job, Tony Tooke was sworn in as Forest Service chief today in a ceremony at the Department of Agriculture.
"We have literally reached out and chosen one of you," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Forest Service employees at USDA headquarters. Tooke was promoted from regional forester for the Southern Region.
"We're going to listen to everyone," Tooke said, adding that he'll emphasize improved forest management, greater recreational access and policies "anchored in science."
Tooke, who took the oath of office from Perdue last week at the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, already faces wildfire challenges in Oregon and other parts of the West. He is under pressure to pursue a more active approach to forest management that advocates say will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
With one of the nation's costliest wildfire seasons ongoing, Tooke plans to travel quickly to Oregon and the Northern Rockies to see firefighting efforts. "We're confronting a historic fire season," he said.
His agency received some relief this week when the Senate, in a hurricane disaster aid bill, agreed to avert "fire borrowing" in the budget this year. That means the Forest Service won't have to drain other accounts to cover the costs of fighting wildfires.
A long-term solution to fire budgeting continues to elude Congress, and Perdue said last week that it's frustrating to see 55 percent of the Forest Service's budget going to wildfire suppression. This year may the most expensive yet for wildfires, he said.
Perdue said he hopes Tooke joins him in pressing Congress to "fix the fire borrowing problem once and for all."
The USDA chief told reporters later that he believes a more active management approach can help reduce those costs over the long term. "We can prevent a lot of these forest fires going forward," Perdue said.
Lobbyists and former Forest Service officials say it's likely Tooke will make active forest management a top priority, given his background as a regional forester in the timber-heavy South.