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U.S., Brazil focus on prescribed fire impacts

Firefighters gathered around an instructor while discussing controlled fire
Luke Jackson (center) interacts will Brazilian land managers on prescribed fire techniques to minimize smoke impacts. USDA Forest Service photo by Deana Wall.

BRAZIL – During the first week of June, the International Programs office convened a Prescribed Fire Exchange in Brazil to train 30 interagency land managers in understanding and addressing the impacts of prescribed fire. During the exchange, two USDA Forest Service fire personnel joined colleagues from Brazil and Portugal to share research, modeling and field experience with prescribed fire. Luke Jackson, engine captain from the Ochoco National Forest, led classroom and field interactions on smoke management and fire effects monitoring. Deana Wall, budget, administrative and planning staff officer for Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland, shared strategies for communicating and collaborating with the public.

Prescribed fire can prevent catastrophic wildfire by creating firebreaks and reducing fuels loads or provide ecosystem benefits in fire dependent systems such as Brazil’s grassy Cerrado. However, for transitional tropical landscapes, forest managers and local communities still have many questions about impacts of prescribed fire. Will smoke and charred landscapes take away from visitor experience and negatively affect tourism? How will plant and animal species respond? How often and under what conditions do results vary?

Of the exchange program, Luke Jackson said, “It has been especially interesting to use common fire terminology and tactics to breakdown the language barrier and meet objectives.” In her presentations, Deana Wall referenced the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project as an example of diverse stakeholders understanding context and embracing impacts of prescribed fire. For Wall, this was the second international trip on the topic and the highlight of this exchange was, “more time working together and discussing effective ways to apply more prescribed fire to the landscape and building understanding with the public which will ultimately result in a longer-term solution for fire management.”

The exchange was held at Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park in Mato Grosso, Brazil with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, through the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity. Through this partnership, the U.S. Forest Service and Brazil’s Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity have worked together to build capacity to manage fire with sensitivity to the social and ecological implications of both wildfire and prescribed fire.

Man in firefighting gear stands in a field, line of prescribed fire bruns behind him
The International Prescribed Fire Exchange included field operations to understand and monitor prescribed fire. Photo courtesy of ICMBio.