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Wildfire management capacity assessment for Mongolia

WASHINGTON, D.C.—At the invitation of the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program for Mongolia, a two-person team of specialists from the Forest Service recently visited Mongolia to conduct a rapid assessment of forest fire control and prevention capacities. Morganne Lehr, Northern Region GIS specialist, contributed expertise on the use mapping and remote sensing data in fire management and restoration planning. Bobette Rowe, Region 10 fire operations specialist, shared expertise on the managing coordinated incident response, as well as other prevention and management techniques. 

The boreal forests of Mongolia cover approximately 13 million hectares (roughly 11 percent of the country); these forested lands are at increasing risk from wildfire. Local foresters and politicians are eager to enhance the capacity of the fire management capabilities in the country and are seeking international support on how to prioritize their efforts.

The Forest Service team learned about the current system of fire management in Mongolia through a series of presentations in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, provided by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the National Emergency Management Agency and multiple supporting agencies, centers, and bureaus. They visited the Disaster Research Institute and the Capital City Fire Station, as well as a forest research area and some district level fire management agencies.

The team presented a formal workshop May 1–2, with Lehr and Rowe sharing “An overview of Fire Management Practices in the United States.” Attendees included representatives of the various agencies that have responsibilities for wildfire management. The session fostered many questions and dialogue to further inform on capacity challenges in Mongolia. As a result of the visit, the Forest Service team has developed recommendations for technical collaboration between our agency and Mongolian counterparts over the upcoming years.

Photo: Group stands outside fence at automated weather station.
Representatives from the Forest Service and UN-REDD visited the Forestry Research and Training Center of the National University of Mongolia located in Udleg bagh, Batsumber soum, Tuv province. Automated weather stations such as this one are rare to find in Mongolia. The Forestry and Research Training Center is testing its capabilities for future use in fire management across Mongolia. Forest Service photo.