In recent years, the wildfire season has been longer, more severe, and more costly than ever before. Unfortunately, this trend does not seem to be changing anytime soon. Members of Congress are increasingly looking for innovative solutions, and this lies in policies that address the root causes of wildfires - including climate change, forest management, and land use planning.
We expect the Farm Bill to pay unprecedented attention to fire policy on U.S. Forest Service and private lands. However, that’s not the only opportunity to engage on the issue. Committees overseeing other public lands agencies, as well as fire science and spending on fire, are looking at policy solutions that will address this ongoing crisis. For stakeholders who want to engage on wildfire policy, now is the time.
Here are a few issues that we expect to play a critical role in the wildfire discussions:
Fire Science. Understanding the behavior of wildfires and the factors that contribute to their spread is essential in developing effective strategies for prevention and management. This includes studying the impact of weather patterns, fuel types, and topography on the likelihood and intensity of wildfires. The more data that land managers have accessible to them, the better they can prepare for wildfire season.
Prescribed Fire. Also known as controlled burning, this technique is used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires by intentionally setting fires under controlled conditions. Use of prescribed fire can help reduce the buildup of fuels, such as dead vegetation and fallen trees, that can contribute to the spread of wildfires. Collaborative efforts between stakeholders, land managers, and fire experts can help develop policies that include prescribed fire and also balance the needs of different geographies.
Recreation. Many areas that are prone to wildfires are also popular recreational destinations. One way to balance recreation and fire policy is through collaborative efforts. Engaging with stakeholders - such as local communities, land managers, and recreationists - can help develop policies that consider the needs and concerns of all parties. This can lead to policies that promote responsible recreational use of public lands while reducing the risk of wildfires.
The policy decisions made by Congress can have a profound impact on the prevention and management of wildfires. The policies that are implemented can determine the level of funding and resources available to agencies tasked with preventing and managing wildfires. It’s critical that stakeholders get ahead of the policy discussion by offering ideas, sharing best practices, and putting together a priority list early in the legislative process.