Monday, October 30, 2017

Forest Service and Arizona Nature Conservancy Partner for Future Forests - A New Approach to Reducing Risk

The Four Forest plan — or 4FRI — was intended to thin 1 million acres over 20 years within a 2.4 million-acre expanse stretching roughly from the Grand Canyon to New Mexico along the Mogollon Rim.

In Arizona, the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) was, and still is, a shining example of the Cohesive Strategy in action. Collaborative stakeholder agreements led to NEPA success and an ambitious plan to thin one million acres over 20 years across the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab, and Tonto National Forests. A variety of issues however, have plagued and severely stalled the implementation of the project.  

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the US Forest Service have launched a program called Future Forest to search for ways of thinning forests faster and more profitably. 

The program represents a new approach to an old problem. TNC will invest in the program and work with the Forest Service to thin thousands more acres each year. Increasing efficiency is part of the goal, even it means rewriting thinning and clearing contracts between the Forest Service and loggers. 

The Future Forest program will explore why the original 4FRI contractor has struggled under its contract and look for ways to draft future contracts differently. 

Their plan includes contracting with Campbell Global to thin 20,000 acres of forest in four years using an approach that leaves antiquated processes behind and focuses on what the public values now - a restored acre rather than an individual tree.  

The Future Forest program could increase efficiency by leaving timber on the forest floor for longer to dry it out and lighten truckloads, or by using tablet software to mark trees that loggers shouldn't cut. Patrick Graham, Director of the Arizona Nature Conservancy said he wants to see acres of thinning increase to over 50,000 per year.  

The Cohesive Strategy is supportive of efforts to identify issues and find collaborative solutions that increase the pace and scale of restoring forests and landscapes.  

To read more about the troubled 4FRI project and this new approach, click here 

New Study the First to Map Escape Routes for Firefighters from the Air

Mapped potential escape routes.  Photo: Michael Campbell

Before battling the flames, firefighters identify areas where they can retreat, and designate the best escape routes to get from the fire line to those safety zones. Currently firefighters make these decisions on the ground, using expert knowledge of fire behavior and assessing their ability to traverse a landscape. Recently, a University of Utah-led study has developed a mapping tool that coud one day help fire crews make crucial safety decisions with and eagle's eye view. 

The new study is the first attempt to map escape routes for wildland firefighters from an aerial perspective. The researchers used Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to analyze terrain slop, ground surface roughness and vegetation density in a fire-prone region of Utah. The study also addressed how each landscape condition impeded a person's ability to travel. 

The study used volunteers to time themselves walking along paths that the researchers designed to capture a variety of slopes, ground surface roughness, and vegetation densities. Photo: Michael Campbell.

"Firefighters have a great sense for interactions between fire and landscape conditions. We hope to offer them an extra tool using information collected on a broad scale," says lead author Michael Campbell, doctoral candidate in the University of Utah's Department of Geography. 

By plugging in the effect of slope, ground surface roughness and vegetation density on travel rates into a route-finding algorithm, Campbell successfully identified the most efficient routes for thousands of simulations.

Currently, firefighters base their decisions on ground-level information using fire safety protocols such as the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG). These guidelines recommend avoiding steep slopes, dense vegetation and rough ground when designating an escape route.  

"Using LiDAR information, we were able to turn it from these subjective judgement calls into something more robust and quantitative," adds Campbell. 

The Cohesive Strategy supports the use of emerging technology like this that can help make the firefighting effort safer, more efficient and more effective.  


Karuk Tribe Picks Up $100k PG&E Climate Change Grant to Fund Traditional, Prescribed-Burn Forest Management

PG&E representatives present the Karuk Tribe with a $100,000 grant.  Photo: Karuk Tribe.

The Karuk Tribe is one of two recipients of PG&E’s Better Together Resilient Communities grants – a program created to support local initiatives to build greater climate resilience throughout Northern and Central California. 

"We have used fire as a management tool since the beginning of time, but in recent decades, the Forest Service has suppressed nearly all fire activity with disastrous results. Now our traditional knowledge is informing a new approach to forest management that uses fire to reduce fuel loads, improve watershed health, and reduce the risk of catastrophic fire. We welcome PG&E as a partner in this effort," remarked long time member of Cohesive Strategy's Western Region and Karuk Ecocultural Revitalization Director Bill Tripp. 

The goals of the Karuk project include:  
  • Identifying areas for prescribed burns as part of the Tribe’s Climate Adaptation Plan.
  • Promoting community resilience to wildfires and climate change at both regional and community levels.
  • Strengthening the region’s capacity to respond to wildfires in support of local communities in the Mid-Klamath River Basin.
The Cohesive Strategy supports the use of traditional ecological knowledge in fire and land management. 

Find more information on the Karuk projects and PG&E's support here.  

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