Sierra National Forest to initiate an environmental analysis of a forest wide prescribed fire project

Release Date: May 25, 2018  

Contact(s): Christine Handler


Sierra National Forest to initiate an environmental analysis of a forest wide prescribed fire project

Clovis, CA. May 25, 2018 - Fire is a reality in the fire-prone and fire-adapted ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada, it is key to shaping the ecosystems composition, structure, and function. Over the last century fire suppression has led to a greatly reduced natural fire frequency in our forests. In addition, the Sierra National Forest (SNF) has experienced historic tree mortality in recent years. Fire is a powerful force and Living with Fire[1] requires education, preparedness, and precaution to gain the benefits of fire and prevent loss of life and property. Therefore, we are proposing to increase the pace and scale of prescribed burning to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic, severe wildfire on ecosystem health, public health, and safety.   

We are initiating an environmental analysis (EA) of the proposed prescribed fire project, referred to as the Sierra National Forest’s forest wide Prescribed Fire Project. The project proposes to apply prescribed fire to land within the SNF that is outside of wilderness. The prescribed burning would occur annually over the next 15 to 20 years, and would occur on up to 10,000 acres per year conducted within established guidelines, law, regulation and policy; and be consistent with the Forest Plan. This forest wide analysis would provide a range of prescribed fire opportunities that can be scheduled as necessary in any given year based on priority and need. 

The overarching purpose of the project is to restore a healthy, diverse, fire-resilient forest structure in the Sierra National Forest. The forest has identified the need to address ecosystem health issues by increasing the pace and scale of prescribed fire across the forest. The objectives of the project are to:

• Restore historic fire patterns and frequencies, 

• Minimize the potential for uncharacteristic wildfires by reducing surface and ladder fuels and breaking up contiguous vegetation, especially in areas of recent tree mortality, and

• Address public health and safety impacts from uncharacteristic wildfires, including reducing risk for fire-fighters, reducing major impacts to air quality, and reducing risk to communities and community assets. 

While burning could occur anywhere within 772,000 acres of National Forest System Land, we estimate that we would conduct approximately 10,000 acres of management-ignited prescribed burning per year. The project is being designed to provide a range of prescribed fire that can be prioritized and scheduled as necessary in any given year, allowing for flexibility. We would anticipate 2 to 3 management-ignited prescribed fire entries in a 15 to 20 year period per targeted area. The actual amount of burning is dependent on a variety of factors, including but not limited to funding, weather conditions, resource protection measures, and resources available to accomplish treatments. 

We are currently accepting public comments on our initial proposal.  Comments would be most useful if received by June 15, 2018, but will be accepted throughout the project planning process. To find out more about the project, or to find out how to submit a comment, visit the project website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53849  or contact Christine Handler Project Coordinator at 559-920-2188 or email cahandler@fs.fed.us    

[1] Living with Fire is fundamental to the vision of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) and the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (April 2014). The three National Cohesive Strategy goals are: Restore and Maintain Landscapes, Fire-adapted Communities, Wildfire Response, p.3.  

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