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Reconsidering wildland fire use: Perspectives from the Northern RockiesAuthor(s): Carl Seielstad
Source: In: Keane, Robert E.; Jolly, Matt; Parsons, Russell; Riley, Karin. Proceedings of the large wildland fires conference; May 19-23, 2014; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-73. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 207-212.
Publication Series: Proceedings (P)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
PDF: Download Publication (337.12 KB)
DescriptionThe idea that more wildfires should be allowed to burn for resource benefit is widespread in federal fire management in the United States and the research community is heavily invested in strategies, tools, data, and information to provide decision-making support for these fires. In the context of the very large wildfires that are now occurring with frequency, it is generally believed that previous fires will confer benefit when large fires threaten. This paper examines whether federal fire management policies and practices in the United States are evolving to support more extensive use of fire. It argues that 2009 fire policy guidance, intended to increase decision flexibility by addressing all management options for every fire, may be inadvertently discouraging managers from preparing adequately for resource benefit fires. A consequence is the stagnation in strategic use of wildfire to improve forest health, treat fuels, and reduce costs, accompanied by deterioration in experience, energy, and enthusiasm for use of fire for resource benefit. Decades of Wildland Fire Use show that without extensive planning, managing wildfire for resource benefit will rarely be selected as the first option. Even when resource benefit fire is promoted in Fire Management Plans, it is seldom considered seriously beyond the few areas where it has significant historical legacy. Further, existing decision support systems are rarely invoked to support the first and most important decision on new starts. Instead, initial decisions are made quickly, often under duress, by the few individuals present when a fire is detected, which often favors aggressive initial attack. The energy and sense of purpose of the Wildland Fire Use community of a decade ago provided powerful motivation for change as well as vectors for distribution of new ideas and approaches. That community has largely dissolved, the influence of the Wildland Fire Implementation Plan (WFIP) has been removed, and it is uncertain whether new policies and practices are advancing resource benefit fire as intended. It is worth considering whether fire management removed the distinction between Fire Use and Suppression too soon and made it too easy to select the status quo.
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CitationSeielstad, Carl. 2015. Reconsidering wildland fire use: Perspectives from the Northern Rockies. In: Keane, Robert E.; Jolly, Matt; Parsons, Russell; Riley, Karin. Proceedings of the large wildland fires conference; May 19-23, 2014; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-73. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 207-212.
Keywordsfire ecology, fire behavior, smoke management, fire management, social and political consequences
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