Fire Patterns in the Range of the Greater Sage-Grouse, 1984-2013

usgs-logoOAKHURST, Calif. -- Overall fire threats to greater sage-grouse habitat are much higher in the western part of the species’ range than in the eastern part, according to a U.S. Geological Survey fire threats assessment study published today. 

The USGS report provides a scientific assessment of a 30-year-period of comprehensive fire data (1984-2013) across sage-grouse management zones (see map) and vegetation types that include sagebrush as a major component. Researchers evaluated the implications of these findings for conservation and management of the greater sage-grouse in wildland areas across the species’ range.

Best of the West: Preparing for wildfire season; healthy snowpack supplies Colorado River; Nevada & New Mexico boost renewables

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As western states prepare for wildfire season, new tools are helping firefighters and land managers assess danger and respond rapidly. In the Pacific Northwest, The National Fire Danger Rating System is getting its first update in more than 40 years. The new system will generate readings from weather stations without requiring a person to be present to help forest managers determine levels of fire danger.

In California, a weather satellite taking photos every five minutes can show hotspots and could potentially alert residents of a blaze.

Committee Passes Bill to Improve the Health and Resiliency of Federal Forests

house nrWASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 2936, the “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017.” Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and dramatically improve the health of federal forests and rangelands. 

Forest Fires in Sierra Nevada Driven by Past Land Use

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Changes in human uses of the land have had a large impact on fire activity in California’s Sierra Nevada since 1600, according to new research

Forest fire activity in California's Sierra Nevada since 1600 has been influenced more by how humans used the land than by climate, according to new research led by University of Arizona and Penn State scientists.

For the years 1600 to 2015, the team found four periods, each lasting at least 55 years, where the frequency and extent of forest fires clearly differed from the time period before or after.

However, the shifts from one fire regime to another did not correspond to changes in temperature or moisture or other climate patterns until temperatures started rising in the 1980s.

Forest Service and Partners Gear Up for Significant 2016 Wildfire Season

usfs logoCurrent Outlook Underscores Need to Reform Wildfire Funding

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell met today with Forest Service Regional Foresters to discuss preparations for anticipated significant wildland fire potential in 2016. The briefing comes as the 2016 fire season has begun with five times more acres already burned than this time last year, following 2015's record-setting fire season.

"The 2016 wildfire season is off to a worrisome start. Southern California, the Great Basin in Nevada, portions of the southwest, and even Florida and Hawaii are particularly vulnerable this year. In California, more than 40 million trees have died, becoming dry fuel for wildfire," said Vilsack. "Congress must take action now to ensure that we, and, ultimately the firefighters we ask so much of, have the resources to do the restoration and wildfire prevention work necessary to keep our forests healthy."

Forest Service Report: Rising Firefighting Costs Raises Alarms

usfs-logoWASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2015 — For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation's wildfires. A new report released today by the Forest Service estimates that within a decade, the agency will spend more than two-thirds of its budget to battle ever-increasing fires, while mission-critical programs that can help prevent fires in the first place such as forest restoration and watershed and landscape management will continue to suffer. Meanwhile, the report notes, these catastrophic blazes are projected to burn twice as many acres by 2050.

Obama Administration’s Lack of Wildfire Strategy Keeps Communities At Risk

house nrWashington, D.C. – White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan and U.S. Forest Service (FS) leadership today hosted a national media call on wildfire activity in California and nationally. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement in response to the Administration’s flawed and lackluster priorities related to improving forest health and mitigating increasingly catastrophic wildfire:

Promoting Active Management of America's Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands To Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk

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By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect people, communities, and watersheds, and to promote healthy and resilient forests, rangelands, and other Federal lands by actively managing them through partnerships with States, tribes, communities, non-profit organizations, and the private sector. For decades, dense trees and undergrowth have amassed in these lands, fueling catastrophic wildfires. These conditions, along with insect infestation, invasive species, disease, and drought, have weakened our forests, rangelands, and other Federal lands, and have placed communities and homes at risk of damage from catastrophic wildfires.

Sierra Nevada forest health in rapid decline: drought adding fuel to the fire

A new report released this week shows that many Sierra Nevada forests are in critical condition and that natural benefits that these forests provide, such as clean air and water, are at risk from large, intense fire. Sierra watersheds are the origin of over 60% of the state’s developed water supply, and store significant amounts of carbon.  Unfortunately, the current drought and a changing climate are rapidly intensifying the situation in the Sierra.

Use of Fire in California to Increase

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Sierra Nevada Conservancy Announces New Partnership Focuses on Increased Use of Fire in California for Natural Resource and Public Benefits

May 10, 2018 - Sacramento, Calif. – Federal and State agency officials gathered today with conservation and community fire protection groups to kick off the inaugural workshop for a Memorandum of Understanding that will promote the careful and expanded use of fire for natural resource and other social benefits in California. Wildland fuels are continuing to build up and wildfires are growing larger and more difficult to control, especially in light of California’s extended drought experience and changing climate. These factors have helped bring this unique partnership together. Citing recent fire science and large, damaging wildfires like the Rim, King, Valley, and Butte fires, this new fire partnership is calling for an expanded response and a broader suite of tools to restore resilience and protect communities across California’s rural landscape.

Western Wildfire Update: See region’s latest burn damage

IMG 3942Wildfire season is raging across the West. Check here for the latest updates from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) on the total burn damage across the West and the major fires in the region.

NIFC's roots trace to 1965, when the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Weather Service agreed to collaborate on national fire planning and operations. The National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have since joined.

What They're Saying: Wildfire Crisis Edition

housenr scopeJune 30, 2017 | House Committee on Natural Resources  

Thanks to years of neglect, the nation’s once flourishing federal forests have morphed into dense, dead and burned out wastelands. These overgrown, fire-prone thickets are increasingly susceptible to catastrophic wildfire, threatening the lives and livelihoods of countless communities. What’s even more disturbing than the escalating toll placed upon private property, human safety and the environment: it’s all preventable.

Wildfire risk in California no longer coupled to winter precipitation

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Wet winters no longer predict possible relief from severe wildfires for California, according to a new study from an international team that includes a University of Arizona scientist.

From 1600 to 1903, the position of the North Pacific jet stream over California was linked to the amount of winter precipitation and the severity of the subsequent wildfire season, the team found. Wet winters brought by the jet stream were followed by low wildfire activity, and dry winters were generally followed by higher wildfire activity. After 1904, the connection between winter moisture brought by the jet stream from December through February and the severity of the wildfire season weakened. The weakened connection between precipitation and wildfires corresponds to the onset of a fire suppression policy on U.S. federal lands, the team reports in the March 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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