Thursday, October 25, 2018

All-Hands All-Lands Burn Team

Fall burning projects in New Mexico by the AHAL.  Photos: The Forest Stewards Guild

The USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy’s Rio Grande Water Fund and the Forest Stewards Guild are working together to increase the use of prescribed fire to protect water sources, wildlife, and forests while reducing wildfire risk. The All Hands All Lands Burn Team (Burn Team) is unique in that it is designed to stand-up a fully qualified team to lead prescribed burns or support others in burning across a variety of land jurisdictions. The practice of prescribed fire promotes ecological health in frequent fire forests, reduces hazardous fuels thereby protecting nearby communities, and reduces the intensity and size of future wildfires.

The Forest Stewards Guild will mobilize the Burn Team for prescribed burns this fall, winter, and in the spring of 2019.  

“This Burn Team is a culmination of work and partnerships that began over ten years ago to improve forest health, protect nearby communities from wildfire, and to protect watersheds.” says Forest Stewards Guild Southwest Director Eytan Krasilovsky. “We have excellent collaborative restoration partners that are once again coming together to learn and burn together.”

The goal of the Burn Team is to get ahead of prescribed fire backlogs on federal, state and tribal lands to support private landowners' use of prescribed fire. The Burn Team increases the capacity of existing efforts and serves as a stand-alone organization that can complete burns with insured and qualified burn bosses. 

Find out more about the Burn Team here.  

Planning and Implementing Cross-boundary, Landscape-scale Restoration and Wildfire Risk Reduction Projects

This guide describes the process the Klamath-Lake Forest Partnership (KLFHP) has used to plan and implement cross-boundary restoration projects to achieve improved forest health conditions at large landscapes scales. It is intended as a model other individuals and communities can modify to meet the needs of their local circumstances. The Cohesive Strategy says working collaboratively across boundaries and jurisdictions is necessary to achieve to make meaningful progress towards landscape resiliency. Take a look! 

Residents Reducing Wildfire Risk

Check out this recent video from Firewise USA showcasing residents choosing to reduce the risk of wildfire around their home. The Cohesive Strategy promotes wildfire risk reduction at all levels to become more adapted to living with fire - from around individual homes to treatments on broad landscapes - risk reduction is a large piece of the fire adapted communities pie.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Understanding Good Neighbor Authority

The Cohesive Strategy promotes the use of all the tools in the toolbox to make progress toward resilient landscapes. The Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) is one such tool. The GNA is intended to expand limited federal capacity to implement and plan forest, rangeland, and watershed restoration projects by facilitating partnerships with state agencies. The authority allows a state to perform authorized restoration services on federal land. Additionally, the authority allows a state agency to administer timber sales on federal land, and for a federal agency to use the value of wood products to purchase restoration services, including planning, from state agencies.

Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) recently released their review of the current status of GNA use in six western states to clarify how it's being used and to inform other states and National Forests about approaches that me be appropriate for their local conditions. The report also shares current policy and guidance on GNA and highlights early efforts in the six states.  

  • Federal and state agency staff embraced a vision of cross boundary cooperation, and viewed GNA as one ofmany pathways to develop interagency relationships.
  • Successful use of GNA required strong partnerships between state and federal agencies.
  • Project activities varied, but most projects were focused on vegetation management.
  • States learned from each other, decreasing the time required to start using the new authority.
  • Most states entered into projects with completed NEPA analysis.
  • Most states required up-front funding to start projects using GNA.
  • Some states anticipated the possibility of “self-sustaining” programs that use the value of timber to pay for future sale administration, contract planning, and restoration work. State and federal partners also developed agree- ment structures that can accommodate ongoing programs of work beyond a single project.
  • The role of collaboration with non-agency partners is not mandated by statute and remains uncertain. All states reported informing collaboratives of GNA projects to some extent.
  • Interviewees, including federal employees, reported some resistance to utilizing the new authority among federalagency staff.

  • It remains to be seen if GNA projects are additive to baseline accomplishments and outputs, with some interviewees stating that GNA will help federal agencies meet rising timber volume and restoration targets.
  • Use of GNA in each state context is still evolving and may necessarily look different across various states and ecosystems.
  • State agency staff capacity cannot increase immediately. State agencies seem to need certainty in the availability of work in order to hire new staff to accomplish GNA projects.
  • The role of forest collaboratives in GNA projects will be determined on a voluntary basis by individual states, as there is no requirement to collaborate in the statute. None of the states we examined have formalized a process for collaborative engagement.
  • Although interim federal directives state that use of program income must be determined up front in the agreement, in practice, state and federal agencies refined how they use program income over time and how partners provided input on these decisions.
  • Agreements can last ten years at most, which poses a problem for the long term use of program income and the development of sustained state involvement.
  • GNA is still a relatively new tool and will continue to evolve as different states find creative ways to make use of it in local contexts.

Wildfire and the Wildlife that Needs It

Ecologist Frank Lake describes the importance of fire on the landscape in northern California. Photo: Nick Fisher, OPB. Ecologists Paul Hessburg and Bill Gaines search for woodpeckers in the footprint of a previous fire on Freezeout Ridge in Washington State. Moose in a meadow. Photos: Kevin Freeny, OPB.  

Not all wildfire is a force of destruction. Many of our favorite plants and animals have evolved to depend on it. This short video from Oregon Public Broadcasting takes us from the forests of eastern Washington to those in northern California to highlight the benefit of wildland fire to plants, animals and indigenous peoples. 

Regular, low-intensity fires keep forest and meadow habitats diverse and thriving for multiple species. Smoke keeps streams cooler by reflecting the sun's heat which provides the perfect habitat for salmon. Local Tribes depend on the food and cultural resources provided by these fires. 

Take a moment to watch this video to see the positive impact fire has on our landscapes, wildlife and communities. See the full article here.  Click here to watch the video

Vicki Christiansen Named 19th Chief of USDA Forest Service.

Chief of the USDA Forest Service Vicki Christiansen. Photo: USDA Forest Service.  


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on October 10th that Vicki Christiansen will serve as the 19th Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service. Christiansen has been serving as Interim Chief since March of this year. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued the following statement:

“As a former wildland firefighter and fire manager, Chief Christiansen knows what’s needed to restore our forests and put them back to work for the taxpayers. With seven years at the Forest Service and 30 years with the states of Arizona and Washington, Vicki’s professional experience makes me confident that she will thrive in this role and hit the ground running.”  Read the full release here

Alaska's Team Rubicon - Mission Complete

Recently Alaska's Team Rubicon partnered with the Anchorage Fire Department to sharpen their sawyer skills and help prevent wildfires. About 30 civilian and veteran members of Team Rubicon came together to learn how to use chainsaws safely and effectively while removing trees that are potentially dangerous during a wildfire. The mitigation effort helped to protect the Eagle River neighborhood from a spreading future fire by removing the hazardous fuels near homes and thinning the overly dense stand of black spruce.

The Cohesive Strategy supports the efforts of Team Rubicon across the West to engage local citizens and veterans in increasing the capacity to address wildfire issues on the landscape.

For the full story, click here