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From the Chief's Desk: Wildfire Crisis Strategy announcement [VIDEO]

A picture of Forest Service Chief Randy Moore.
Chief Randy Moore

Editor's Note: The following is from the Tuesday, Jan. 18, announcement with Secretary Vilsack in Arizona.

I am excited to announce this strategy that will focus the Forest Service and our partners on protecting at-risk communities while improving forest resilience.

Overgrown forests, a warming climate, and a growing number of homes in the wildland-urban interface, following more than a century of rigorous fire suppression, have all contributed to what is now a full-blown wildfire and forest health crisis.

On Tuesday, we launched the 10-year strategy to squarely address this wildfire epidemic in the places where it poses the most immediate threats. The strategy, called “Combating the Wildfire Crisis: A New Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” combines a historic investment of Congressional funding with years of scientific research and planning into a national effort that will dramatically increase the scale of forest health treatments over the next decade.

This strategy aligns with the historic, once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity to work with partners to focus fuels and forest health treatments more strategically and at the right scale.

Currently, we treat about 2 million acres each year. The wildfire crisis strategy is designed to:

  • Treat up to an additional 20 million acres on the National Forest System in the West.  
  • Treat up to an additional 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal and private lands in the West. 
  • Develop a plan for long-term maintenance beyond 10 years. 

We will use cutting-edge science and technology to map wildfire risk and identify key “firesheds”—large, forested landscapes, typically 250,000 acres in size, with a high likelihood that an ignition could place homes, communities, infrastructure, municipal watersheds, critical habitats and other values at risk.

We will treat the highest priority firesheds, which are those most capable of generating large wildfire disasters and with the highest probability of improving conditions in fire-prone parts of the West. The initial investment in this new strategy will begin in areas that our scientists have identified as high risk for community exposure based on historic fire behavior, including in the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada Range in California, the Front Range in Colorado and here in the Southwest.

We will focus fuels treatments strategically and at the scale that will make a difference on the landscape, using the best available science as a guide. We will prioritize treatments where communities and infrastructure are most at risk.

We have made advances in collaboration, increased funding for work to reduce wildfire risk and aligned actions with partners across landownership boundaries. We have created a collaborative structure that we will build on with our partners to match the scale of our work to the scale of wildfire risk.

We are ready to begin the work in a way that meets the urgency of the moment. By working with key partners and stakeholders, we will increase the pace and scale of forest health treatments across the shared landscapes.

The strategy emphasizes a dramatic increase in the scope and scale of forest health treatments, large-scale projects to thin, overgrown forests and restore the natural role of low intensity fire, with the goal of reducing the threat of catastrophic fire danger that increasingly impacts many areas of the country, but most notably the forested areas of the American West.

By working with key partners and stakeholders, we will carry out our wildfire crisis strategy by building a large coalition that increases and scale of fuels and forest health treatments across shared landscapes.

We have a comprehensive plan for engaging key partners and stakeholders at the right time and in the right way to help the Forest Service execute these important actions under the 10-year framework.

The strategy brings together tribes, partners, states and communities to work across all boundaries. Here in Arizona, you all are an example of the important collective efforts we’ve seen, from the governor's office to the National Wild Turkey Foundation, from the Nature Conservancy to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish to the Navajo Nation to the Arizona Corporation commission. We all must come together to achieve results.

Our goal is to build on and grow existing collaborative work and relationships. We are deeply grateful to the staunch coalition of partners who are supporting this work and look forward to expanding these coalitions to get this work done.