Chief’s December Wildland Fire Direction Letter: Community Dialogues Around Wildland Fire Use

Chief Moore stresses the importance of prescribed and managed fire and asks R&D and S&PF to convene community dialogues around wildfire use.

In a December 20 letter to the Forest Service:

The 2021 fire year was especially challenging. With 99 days spent at National Preparedness Levels 4 or 5 our collective wildfire response capability was stretched for much of the summer. As a result of the exceptional response to ongoing wildfires at the time, I issued a letter on August 2, 2021, to modify our normal wildland fire practices to avoid further intensifying the demands on our employees and to commit our fire resources only in instances where they would have a high probability of success and they could operate safely and effectively. My letter gave
direction to limit prescribed fire and to refrain from managing wildfires for resource benefits. These were necessary steps to focus our collective attention on supporting wildfire response and
to limit further demands on our workforce, while anchored to our core values of safety, service, and interdependence.

On October 21, 2021, the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group reduced the National Preparedness Level to 1, indicating the national wildfire response workload had moved to a more manageable level and that weather and fuel conditions had changed for the better. As a result of these changes, we will resume using all the tools in our toolbox when and where appropriate. Only by significantly scaling up fuels treatments can we change the destructive impacts wildland fires are having. Our fire science has demonstrated we need to not only mechanically treat fuels, but we need to use fire to finish the treatment cycle and truly restore resilient, fire-adapted landscapes. As such, it is important we resume our work to mitigate future wildfire risks by taking proactive steps where and when opportunities present themselves to apply fire in the right place, at the right time, and for the right reasons. This includes using prescribed fire and taking a risk-based approach to managing natural ignitions for resource and fuel treatment benefits. We will do this based on science and where appropriate according to our Forest Management Plans.

In the meantime, it is also critically important we continue to engage with partners and others around the use of these tools. I recognize the use of fire as a management tool, especially wildland fire, can generate a lot of concern and is controversial in many communities. We need to engage in robust, open conversations with citizens and partners about the proper use of managed fire and the science supporting it. It is vital we all reach an understanding of what defines a managed fire and what difference it makes in protecting communities and creating resilient forests. We need to understand when and how we appropriately use this tool and under what conditions. As such, I have asked the Deputy Chiefs of Research and Development and State and Private Forestry to convene community-based dialogues. I am committed to an ongoing dialogue with our partners about the appropriate use of these tools to make sure we follow safe and effective risk management principles to protect people and keep our firefighters safe. Only together can we create resilient landscapes and communities.

Let us continue to honor our fallen by remaining committed to one another’s health and safety by allowing adequate time for rest and recovery as we resume our wildland fire management activities. Thank you again for all that you have done and continue to do on behalf of the American people.

My bold.

2 thoughts on “Chief’s December Wildland Fire Direction Letter: Community Dialogues Around Wildland Fire Use”

  1. “…convene community-based dialogues.” This sounds so good, but is difficult to do effectively without sufficient funding, trained personnel, perseverance, and using a variety of approaches including environmental education with K-12 students. It’s a big challenge to get communities to accept smoke purposefully put in the air, especially when managing fire for resource benefit. The USFS usual approaches tend to reach a minority of people. How many people read news releases? How many people attend public meetings? How many adults have already made up their minds regardless of what the USFS and partners tell them? A commitment to long-term environmental education should be part of the mix and would have a huge impact in assisting the USFS in attaining fire management goals. It’s the human equivalent of planting trees to grow a forest. Currently, the forest service is at best an inconsistent hobbyist when it comes to EE.

  2. “We will do this based on science and where appropriate according to our Forest Management Plans.”

    I love this. But what do our forest plans say about where it is appropriate? And shouldn’t identifying in forest plans where it is appropriate be the focus of the “community dialogues?” And if so, why would this be led by Research and Development and State and Private Forestry? This needs much more thought.


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