Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Santa Fe National Forest Prepares to Manage Virgin Fire for Multiple Objectives

Baldy Lake, Santa Fe National Forest. Photo: USFS
There are so many great things about this press release!  First, the most obvious, the Santa Fe National Forest has decided to manage this lightning caused fire for resource benefit. Way to take advantage of an opportunity!  While Resilient Landscapes is one of the goals of the Cohesive Strategy, it has become clear that in addition to other methods of creating resiliency such as mechanical treatments and prescribed fires, the only way we are going to reach true landscape level resiliency is by also taking advantage of unplanned fires.  The Virgin Fire is providing just that opportunity.  Thank you, Mother Nature. 
Second, the Santa Fe National Forest is TALKING about this decision...in public! This continues to build trust between the agency and the community. The more the public understands, the more they are likely to engage in collaborative efforts and support restoration and resiliency projects on the landscape.    
Third, the opportunistic folks on the Santa Fe included some educational points in the press release.  They explained how lightning struck in the footprint of the Southwest Jemez Mountains Forest Restoration Project where treatments have already been designated. They also described how the low intensity fire is beneficial to the goals of reducing forest fuels, enhancing wildlife habitat, improving watershed health and protecting nearby communities. Nicely done. They took it a step further and included how they arrive at these strategic and tactical decisions - through the Wildland Fire Decision Support System.  If you knew little or nothing about wildland fire in this area, the Santa Fe National Forest just provided you with a ton of great information! This type of engagement helps communities become more fire adapted!
Fourth, they didn't leave out the smoke issue.  Fires cause smoke. Smoke causes problems, no doubt about it.  But by acknowledging this fact and offering additional information to help people make decisions, they continue to inform and educate their communities.  A little smoke now prevents a whole lot of uncontrolled smoke later from a large, catastrophic wildfire.  
The Cohesive Strategy acknowledges that while the goals of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and a Safe & Effective Wildfire Response are extremely important, it's how we get there - through building relationships, trust and true collaboration - that will yield success!

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