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Confronting the Wildfire Crisis

Cover page of FS-1187g, Wildfire Crisis, February 2024 publication on top of a map of the Northwestern United States.

In January 2022, the Forest Service launched a robust, 10-year strategy to address the wildfire crisis in the places where it poses the most immediate threats to communities. The strategy, called “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” (leer en español) combines a historic investment of congressional funding with years of scientific research and planning into a national effort that will dramatically increase the scale and pace of forest health treatments over the next decade. Through the strategy, the agency will work with states, Tribes and other partners to addresses wildfire risks to critical infrastructure, protect communities, and make forests more resilient.

In early 2023, the USDA Forest Service added 11 additional landscapes. This announcement followed a year of progress in collaborating with partners across 10 initial landscapes to address wildfire risk to infrastructure and communities.

Year 3 – 2024 – nearly $500 million investment expands critical work to reduce wildfire risk.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on February 20, 2024 that the United States Department of Agriculture is investing nearly $500 million to expand work on the USDA Forest Service's Wildfire Crisis Strategy to reduce wildfire risk to communities, critical infrastructure and natural resources from the nation’s wildfire crisis.

Approximately $400 million of the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds will be allocated to ongoing efforts on the 21 priority landscapes across the West. This work is beginning to reduce wildfire risk for some 550 communities, 2,500 miles of power lines and 1,800 watersheds.

An additional $100 million will be allocated through a collaborative process with tribes, communities, and partners as part of new agency-established program – the Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program. Inspired by past examples and the success of programs such as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, the new Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program expands work in high-risk wildfire areas outside the 21 priority landscapes.

These landscapes and efforts to expand the work under the Wildfire Crisis Strategy are determined using scientific research and analysis that considers the likelihood that an ignition could expose homes, communities, infrastructure, and natural resources to wildfire.

In 2023, the Forest Service and a wide-range of partners, communities, and tribes treated more than 4.3 million acres of hazardous fuels, including nearly two million acres of prescribed burning, on National Forest System lands across the nation - both are record highs in the agency’s 119-year history and over a million acres more accomplished than the previous year.


Landscape Accomplishments for 2024 graphic

News and Announcements:

Implementing the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

From the Chief's Desk

Wildfires have been growing in size, duration, and destructivity. Growing wildfire risk is due to accumulating fuels, a warming climate, and expanding development in the wildland-urban interface. The risk has reached crisis proportions, calling for decisive action to protect people and communities while improving forest health and resilience. The Forest Service, together with tribes and partners, developed a Wildfire Crisis Strategy to focus on strategic fuels and forest health treatments at the scale of the problem, using the best available knowledge and science as the guide. This video series focuses on several aspects of how the Forest Service is confronting the wildfire crisis.

Coming Together to Address the Wildfire Crisis

A wildland firefighter using a drip-torch to start a controlled fire in a forest while smoke and fire obscure the background.

Though the Forest Service has been working to manage the health of millions of acres of national forests across the American West for decades, the scale, pace and methods of work on the ground have not matched the need. With the support of our partners, states, Tribes and local communities, the Forest Service is collaboratively implementing this new strategy across jurisdictions and landownerships to protect communities, critical infrastructure, watersheds, habitats, and recreational areas.

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. 

A wildland fire controlled burn fire starter held by a firefighter in one hand and the handle of a tool in the other. Text shows "WHAT'S NEW FOR YEAR TWO?", "11 NEW LANDSCAPES", "EMERGENCY AUTHORITIES", "EXPANDED FUNDING"

The Forest Service is working with partners to focus fuels and forest health treatments more strategically and at the scale of the problem, using the best available science as a guide. Through investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, wildfire risk reduction work will occur on 21 landscapes across 134 firesheds in the western U.S. where projects are ready to begin or to expand.

Wildfire Crisis Strategy Roundtables

To assist in developing the implementation plan, the Forest Service with the National Forest Foundation convened virtual roundtable events in the nine Forest Service regions, as well as nationally, to engage employees and partners. A Tribal roundtable was also hosted by the Intertribal Timber Council. The roundtables began in February 2022 and concluded in June 2022.
The National Forest Foundation Roundtables yielded over 3,000 recommendations related to implementing the 10-Year Wildfire Crisis Strategy, and the Forest Service has been taking these recommendations into consideration in how we move out on this work.

Ten common themes emerged from roundtables across the country:

  • Embrace changes to Forest Service business practices and shifts in agency culture.

  • Improve internal and external communication related to the crisis and what is necessary for success.

  • Recruit and maintain a workforce capable of meeting the necessary pace and scale of restoration.

  • Update partnership mechanisms and requirements for cross-boundary funding and implementation.

  • Honor Tribal sovereignty and history; leverage learning, priorities, and capacity; and incorporate indigenous traditional ecological knowledge.

  • Build equity and resilience into planning and implementation.

  • Expand markets and forest materials processing infrastructure.

  • Build shared understanding and support for the use of fire as an essential tool for ecosystem resilience.

  • Invest in open and transparent information sharing and use of shared data and models.

  • Help decision makers and publics understand tradeoffs and benefits of management for forest resiliency.

Visit the National Forest Foundation website to learn more.