Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

After Fire: Toolkit for the Southwest

Post-fire flooding causes road wash out after the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire, Gila National Forest. Forest Service photo.

FT.COLLINS, Colo. — The Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, University of Arizona, Bureau of Reclamation, and others hosted workshops focused on strategies for reducing post-fire effects and the long-term rehabilitation and restoration of newly burned landscapes.

Wildfire causes immediate impacts within ecosystems that change forest composition, cover, species diversity and, importantly, erosion risk. With potentially devastating impacts, post-fire events such as debris flows and flooding affect not only the area burned but also downstream watersheds and communities. For the past several years, scientists, resource managers, and planners have engaged in collaborative processes to identify relevant knowledge and strategies for effectively dealing with fire and post-fire effects in the southwestern U.S. These efforts have culminated in several workshops and the development of a collaborative vision for improving science, policy, and management practices for burned areas to enhance long-term resilience of ecological systems and the human populations depending upon them.

Together with workshop partners, as well as the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and FS Region 3’s Watershed Improvement Program, RMRS developed an online toolkit that addresses the needs identified by USFS managers and stakeholders during these workshops. This toolkit contributes to ongoing and future efforts to centralize fire management data in order to facilitate the development of interagency strategies and guidance.

This “After Fire: Tool Kit for the Southwest” is available on through the USDA Southwest Climate Hub website. The site serves as a resource for those interested in understanding the methods available to assess potential risks associated with post-fire events. Users can browse the site for information on the research, methods, and tools available for measuring and reducing risks associated with post-fire flooding, debris flows and sedimentation. Links to several other resources and tools provide insight to wildfire preparation actions that occur before and long after a burn.

RMRS research ecologist Megan Friggens, ecologist Katelyn Driscoll, research engineer Pete Robichaud, and research soil scientist Dan Neary all played key roles in this collaborative effort.