While U.S. administration wants to defund fire science, Canada ramps it up

Canada wildfire research blueprint

While the Joint Fire Science Program in the United States is slated to be defunded by the Administration in the current budget proposal for FY 2020, Canada intends to ramp up their program.

The Government of Canada has released the Blueprint for Wildland Fire Science in Canada (2019—2029).  Led by the Canadian Forest Service, the Blueprint provides a national consensus view of Canada’s key wildland fire research priorities over the next 10 years. It also makes 15 recommendations intended to guide science investments, attract new collaboration, and align national research efforts.  These recommendations are broadly focused on:

  • Increasing national capacity for wildland fire research through new investments into academic programs, public sector science, and postsecondary networks;
  • Recognizing Indigenous knowledge as an equal and complementary way of knowing wildland fire,  to inform future fire management policies and practices;
  • Creating new knowledge exchange mechanisms to improve the way science and technology is shared, understood, and implemented;
  • Creating new multidisciplinary, multi-partner, collaborative research opportunities; and
  • Improving national governance and coordination of science activities through development of a national research agenda and the creation of a national coordinating committee.

You can download the Canadian Forest Service blueprint document here (8 mb).

April 8 is the last day to sign on to a letter of support for the Joint Fire Science Program in the United States.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to LM. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

2 thoughts on “While U.S. administration wants to defund fire science, Canada ramps it up”

  1. This is common, unfortunately. Canada tends to be much more proactive in many areas including the fundamentally important area of biomass uses for lower value wood. The Joint Fire Science Program is first rate and incredibly cost-effective even though it is funded at a microscopic level. What an opportunity lost if this program is eliminated. How odd is it that we will spend $1 million an hour suppressing fires, without a blink? Yet, we howl about funds totaling a “shift of firefighting time” for science-based technology development and deployment that helps reduce costs, save lives and sustains communities. Our reactive, short-term nature must change.

    Clearly, part of the issue is us. We have yet to identify AND deploy a corporate strategy that addresses wildland fire and creating forests that are healthy, sustainable and more resilient to disturbances. We could, but for some reason the will has not yet emerged to do this.

    For example in 2014, the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (NCWFMS) was produced. This is a first class strategy. A key feature of this strategy is achieving “resilient landscapes.” The overall strategy contains several Guiding Principles and Core Values, including, “actively manage the land to make it more resilient to disturbance…” and “wildland fire, as an essential ecological process and natural change agent, may be incorporated into the planning process and wildfire response.”

    Unfortunately, the NCWFMS has become more of a plan gathering dust than a tactical strategy for change. To be fair, there are examples of good things happening. But it is like so many “thousand points of light” rather than a solid beam of corporate attainment. Simply put: the deployment of the NCWFMS lacks national focus. This is a major concern during times of executive level transition and the continued need to react to the “here and now” and not adequately look to the future.

    So we tend to “dabble.” And, in the scheme of wildfire and the resulting destruction, nothing really changes. What a shame. It does not have to be this way.

    Talk about “dabbling.” A 1999 General Accounting Office (GAO) report noted that “the most extensive and serious problem related to the health of forests in the interior West is the over-accumulation of vegetation, which has caused an increasing number of large, intense, uncontrollable, and catastrophically destructive wildfires” (Western National Forests: A Cohesive Strategy is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats, gao.gov/products/RCED-99-65). A year later, when the National Fire Plan, “Managing the Impacts of Wildfires on Communities and the Environment,” was written, it was thought that about $850 million would be required annually to more effectively address the issue of hazardous-fuels removal.

    More recently, a 2013 Congressional Research Service report noted that “If a comprehensive program were undertaken to reduce fuels on all high-risk and moderate-risk federal lands, using GAO’s treatment cost rate of $300 per acre, the total cost would come to $69 billion—$39 billion for FS lands and $30 billion for DOI [Department of the Interior] lands—for initial treatment. This would come to $4.3 billion annually over 16 years” (tinyurl.com/ya3kllfp).

    The current Forest Service budget is nowhere close to adequate for reducing fuels on all high risk and moderate-risk federal lands; it’s about one-half the level needed back on 2001! In 2001, there were an estimated 38 million acres on our national forests considered to be at high risk from destructive wildfires. Today, the estimate is 80 million acres. So, after spending about $5 billion on hazardous-fuels treatments since 2001, there are an additional 42 million acres at high risk. To overstate the obvious: You cannot address a problem of this magnitude with such excessively inadequate resources.

    Recently, the National Wildfire Institute drafted an Executive Order that included a call for “Convening a “Commission on the Stewardship of America’s Forests.” This Commission will be co-led by the Secretaries of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Interior (DOI). The makeup of the Commission will be at the discretion of both Secretaries, but shall include at least the Chief, USDA Forest Service; Director, Bureau of Land Management; Director, National Park Service; and, President, National Association of State Foresters. The Commission will fully utilize the collective insight and innovation of a wide range of partners so trees, forests and forest ecosystems across all landscapes can become healthy, sustainable and more resilient to disturbances such as insects and diseases and wildfire.”

    On December 18, 2018, an Executive Order [EO] was signed by the President entitled, “EO on Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk.” Unfortunately, this EO did not included any contemporary direction such as a National Commission and both the 2019 and the President’s Proposed 2020 budgets lack the resources to do anything but watch the text of the signed EO to fade away. Again, what a huge opportunity lost.

    What is astounding to me is that the United States knows what to do. But, with leadership voids and a Congress that seems stuck on constantly reacting to the short-term, a campaign on “aggressive forest management to ensure effective fire management” seems like a bridge too far. What an opportunity lost that could address the greatest landscape scape conservation issue of our time. Now, that’s an emergency.

    Very respectfully,

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