It's always wildfire season somewhere in the United States.
State Foresters are responsible for wildfire protection on two thirds of America’s forested lands. State forestry agencies and their partners provide critical resources and experience to wildland fire management and suppression as part of the coordinated national wildfire response. State forestry agencies also support prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce the threat of fire in the first place.
More people in fire-prone landscapes, high fuel loads, drought and unhealthy forest landscapes are among the factors that have led State Foresters to identify wildland fire as a significant priority issue in their Forest Action Plans.
Wildland fire must be managed across landscapes that are often fragmented into many land ownerships and political jurisdictions. More than a fire management, fire operations, wildland urban interface problem – wildfire is a larger land management and societal issue.
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Cohesive Strategy) is the roadmap for interagency wildland fire management across the country. The Cohesive Strategy will build on past efforts to direct wildland fire management in the United States, and emphasizes restoring resilient landscapes and promoting fire-adapted communities.
While no one strategy can solve all the problems faced by the nation’s fire community, the Cohesive Strategy will provide a common basis for thoughtfully approaching the complexities of wildland fire and determining the best course of action. Representatives from NASF played a key role in the crafting of the Cohesive Strategy.
State Fire Assistance (SFA) and Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) are the fundamental federal assistance programs that states and local fire departments use to develop preparedness and response capabilities for wildland fire management. They provide crucial financial and technical assistance to support state fire management activities, including preparedness, planning, training, hazardous fuels treatments, and the purchase and maintenance of equipment. In many states, funding cuts have crippled wildfire emergency response capacity. This federal assistance helps to ensure preparedness of local resources, and helps thousands of communities prepare for (and mitigate the risk of) wildland fire.
Today's fire seasons are on average 78 days longer than in the 1970s and are projected to grow hotter, more unpredictable, and more expensive in the coming years. Over the last few decades, the USDA Forest Service budget for fire suppression has grown from under 20 percent to more than 50 percent of the agency’s total budget.
As wildfire eats up a significantly larger share of the agency’s budget, critical funding that supports federal, state and private forests is also impacted. Those impacts include a decrease in the ability to thin forests to create more resilient conditions.
Public benefits including clean air and water, wildlife habitat, places to recreate and good jobs are all at risk if we don’t have healthy, resilient forests. We need more active forest management on all lands, public and private. Learn more about the fire funding issue.