Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wyoming and South Dakota Cohesive Strategy Workshop a Great Success

Stakeholders participating in the Wyoming - South Dakota Cohesive Strategy Workshop last week. Photo: Kate Lighthall
Last week, the Western Region for the Cohesive Strategy and the State Foresters of Wyoming and South Dakota hosted over 100 stakeholders in Casper, Wyoming to hear from their peers about how the Cohesive Strategy is being implemented there and make recommendations for collaborative, cross-boundary actions for continued and increased efforts towards "living with wildland fire" through the goals of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and a Safe, Effective, Risk-Based Wildfire Response.  

In addition to the history, context and science behind the Cohesive Strategy, case studies from both states were highlighted to demonstrate the value of collaborative efforts towards the three goals and the vision of the Cohesive Strategy: 

  • the Vestal Project in South Dakota; 
  • the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition in Wyoming; 
  • the South Dakota Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group; 
  • the Pole Mountain Fuels Treatment Partnership; and 
  • the US Forest Service's Life First Initiative.

The attendees comprised a diverse group with representation from: Wyoming State Forestry Division, South Dakota Department of Agriculture Division of Resource Conservation and Forestry, South Dakota Wildland Fire Division, Wyoming and South Dakota Counties, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, National Parks Service, US Fish and Wildlife, local fire districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy and FEMA. From upper management to line personnel, the workshop was filled with interest, enthusiasm and participation!

Following robust breakout sessions to discuss barriers and opportunities, the outcomes of the workshop included a set of recommendations for actions that stakeholders in each state can take to help advance collaborative, cross-boundary efforts:

  • Improving and expanding communications efforts - especially around the notion of "good fire" and to encourage a cultural shift that fire is "ours" not "yours or mine".  Also to adjust suppression/management perceptions and expectations in mountain pine beetle mortality areas.
  • Implementation of a Good Neighbor Agreement between the individual states and the US Forest Service to allow for increased pace and scale of treatments on federal lands. 
  • Develop a clearinghouse for partner data to improve/increase access and use.
  • Expand AOP meeting to cover more topics for increased shared learning among stakeholders.
  • Create local coalitions to advance communications, learning, recruiting of ambassadors and work plans.
  • Develop local leadership and processes at the grass roots level to build broader support for activities.
  • Expand use of Farm Bill authorities - NEPA Categorical Exclusion, Good Neighbor, Insect/Disease Designation.
  • Consider shared state/federal multi-agency staff positions such as a WUI Coordinator.
  • Implement state-wide collaborative agreement to share non-suppression costs. 
  • Consider another Cohesive Strategy workshop for broader group of stakeholders including more NGO's, private landowners and Tribes.

The feedback from the workshop has been extremely positive with lots of enthusiasm for continuing the efforts in both states. The Western Region will continue to work with stakeholders in both states to assist in the implementation of the recommended actions.  

View workshop report here

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