Here is the key conclusion in an article published by the Ecological Society of America (the article specifically addresses “dry forests”):
One of the most important and fundamental challenges to revising forest fire policy is the fact that agency organizations and decision making processes are not structured in ways to ensure that fire management is thoroughly considered in management decisions. There are insufficient bureaucratic or political incentives for agency leaders to manage for long-term forest resilience; thus, fire suppression continues to be the main management paradigm. Current resource-specific policies and procedures are so focused on individual concerns that they may be missing the fact that there are “endangered landscapes” that are threatened by changing climate and fire…. Without forest resilience, all other ecosystem components and values are not sustainable, at least over the long-term. It is therefore necessary to create incentives and agency structures that facilitate restoration of wildland fire and ecologically based fuel treatment to forest landscapes.
The authors have recognized the problem that fire planning is not well-integrated with planning for other resources on national forest lands. A key recommendation is to, “Make forest resilience a stand-alone, top land management priority and connect it to managing long-term for endangered species.” It criticizes the continued emphasis on fire suppression, including the strategy of suppressing fires to protect at-risk species. The article strangely omits any specific references to the 2012 Planning Rule’s ecological sustainability requirements, which I think has incorporated resilience, and its relationship to species diversity, as a policy about as well as we could expect. The question is what will forest plans actually do to avoid the alleged “tunnel vision.” The authors credit the southern Sierra revision forests as “pioneering some of these efforts.”
The authors do offer one recommendation that I think should receive more attention in the planning process: “analyze long-term impacts of continued suppression.” I would expand the recommendation to more clearly recognize that forest plans are the place where overall fire management strategies will be adopted, including identification of resources and areas deemed in need of protection from fire. Desired ecological conditions based in these needs must then be a consideration in fire management decisions, which must by law be consistent with the forest plan. Decisions in a forest plan about or affecting fire management, including those that promote fire suppression, will have effects on ecosystems that must be evaluated and disclosed during the planning process.