The U.S. Forest Service will fund almost $45 million over five years for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to expand the organization’s prescribed fire projects and workforce.
In a recent statement, TNC said the funding will prioritize prescribed fire in the 21 landscapes and 250 high-risk firesheds in the Western U.S., and hiring to expand the workforce started in October. TNC also received permission to work on prescribed fires in any national forest within Idaho, according to Boise State Public Radio.
“For more than a century, policies suppressing wildfire and stamping out Indigenous Peoples’ burning practices largely kept healthy fire from hundreds of millions of acres of North American landscapes that needed it,” said Marek Smith, director of TNC’s North America Fire program.
The expansion is part of the FS Wildfire Crisis Strategy, specifically the program’s National Prescribed Fire Resource Mobilization.
Along with expanding its prescribed fire workforce, the strategy also calls for an expansion of both the Forest Service Fuels Academy and National Interagency Fire Training Center, which train new prescribed fire practitioners, managers, and entry-level fuels specialists. It also calls to address issues in resource availability, including overtime and hazard pay, contracts and agreements, and hiring more authorities.
A related strategy, the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy is reportedly in its “final stage” of developing a national cohesive wildland fire management system. The effort began in 2009, and the final phase has been in development since 2014.
“Implementation of the National Cohesive Strategy will be undertaken in the same manner it was created — with recognition of the differences among stakeholders across the country and a vision of how we can collectively achieve more together,” the plan says. “Together, we can learn from and replicate existing collaborative behaviors and successful practices to achieve even greater success.”