GAO interviewed officials from the five federal agencies responsible for wildland fire as well as several nonfederal stakeholders including state and local officials, homeowners, and representatives from non-governmental organizations. Through the interviews, multiple factors were identified as affecting federal - nonfederal collaboration around reducing wildland fire risk to communities. The Good Neighbor Authority and the Tribal Forest Protection Act were noted laws that enhance collaboration because they provide authorities to work on projects across boundaries. The interviews also highlighted the Cohesive Strategy as helpful because it strongly encourages coordination across multiple agencies and stakeholders as well as a comprehensive set of fire management goals.
In some cases, the GAO reports, collaboration is hindered by the difficulty in sharing project costs and resources between federal and nonfederal entities. Some officials interviewed pointed to the need for greater and more widespread implementation of the Cohesive Strategy. We definitely still have work to do.
The GAO also made a recommendation for the federal agencies work with the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) to develop measures to assess progress towards the goals of the Cohesive Strategy. The WFLC has taken on this charge in the past and its proven more of a challenge than originally anticipated. Stay tuned for an update from WFLC after the Department of the Interior and Agriculture address the recommendations in the report.
Click here for the highlights of the report and here for the full 74 page document.