The National Association of State Foresters applauds USDA’s release of its new strategy for managing wildlife in close partnership with state forestry agencies.
WASHINGTON—The nation’s 59 state and territorial foresters salute Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for his leadership in developing Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes, a bold new strategy for meeting America’s wildfire challenges head-on.
“This new approach will have state forestry agencies and the USDA Forest Service working together as we should, shoulder-to-shoulder, to manage wildfire,” said George Geissler, president of the National Association of State Foresters and state forester of Washington. “With guidance from our state Forest Action Plans, hazardous fuels work initiated by the states and the federal government can now be implemented in the highest priority areas first, and our shared wildfire suppression efforts will be more focused and coordinated.”
State foresters have responsibility for wildfire suppression on over 1.5 billion acres. Each year, they train upwards of 62,000 men and women to fight the majority (80 percent) of all the wildfires started across the United States, regardless of land ownership. This enormous responsibility costs state forestry agencies a considerable amount of resources. In 2017, for instance, these agencies spent more than $1.4 billion to fight wildfires and protect communities nationwide.
One of the best ways to curb the severity and cost of wildfires is to perform proactive fuels management, namely fuel breaks and forest thinnings. Congress recently passed an expansion of Good Neighbor Authority that state foresters are confident will boost this critical hazardous fuels work on federal lands. The secretary’s new strategy reiterates Congress’ call for more active, cross-boundary forest and fuels management and requires a national approach to this work that goes beyond the traditional coordination between the states and the federal government.
In addition, the new strategy recommends that the Forest Service develop common operating approaches to suppression and initial attack with state and local partners during pre-season fire planning. It also directs the states and Forest Service to work together to utilize new and emerging technologies for preventing, detecting, and suppressing wildfires more quickly and safely.
“Firefighter tracking devices, enhanced satellite mapping, and the deployment of drones for early detection could greatly enhance the effectiveness and safety of our efforts,” said Jim Karels, chair of the NASF Wildfire Committee and state forester of Florida. “Especially now that we’re in the throes of another difficult wildfire year, it’s clear we owe America’s firefighters more, no matter what uniform they wear. We are appreciative of the secretary’s efforts to do just that and look forward to building our partnership with the Forest Service as laid out in this new and improved strategy.”
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