Policy ForumForest Management

Collaborations and capacities to transform fire management

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Science  04 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6461, pp. 38-40
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay3727

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Summary

Wildfires bring stark attention to interactions among climate change, fire, forests, and livelihoods, prompting urgent calls for change from policy-makers and the public. Management options vary, but in many fire-adapted forests, the message from the scientific community is clear: Adapt to living with fire, reduce fuels and homes in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), and strategically restore fire to ecosystems (14). Yet, changes to fire management outcomes have been elusive. For example, across the primarily public forestlands of the U.S. West, prescribed fires (intentionally lighted fires) constitute a small, inadequate fraction of forest treatments (5), and fire managers rapidly contain over 95% of ignitions (2). Meanwhile, the WUI is the fastest growing U.S. land-use type (6). Substantial land-use changes that remove people and infrastructure from fire-prone areas are unlikely, making forest management a critical piece of the puzzle. To inform the global challenge of living with fire, we discuss promising developments in U.S. federal fire management that rely on collaborative governance, which is essential for grappling with complex environmental management challenges to leverage diverse capacities, work across jurisdictions, and support collective action to plan for the long term in the face of pressures to focus on short-term risks and objectives.

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