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Healthy Forests : An Initiative for Wildfire Prevention and Stronger Communities

PDF Version of Healthy Forests :
An Initiative for Wildfire Prevention and Stronger Communities
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Table of Contents:

Executive Summary

The Healthy Forests Initiative

The Need for Healthier Forests

  • Federal lands are increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic fires.
  • This fire season is among the worst in modern history.
  • Catastrophic wildfires harm people, property, and the environment.

Photo Essay - Changes in Forest Condition

The 1895 photo shows natural forest stand conditions that evolved from regularly occurring, low-intensity, surface burning. The forest was open and dominated by fire-tolerant, fire-adapted ponderosa pine. The 1980 photo (from the same place) shows how the forest has changed dramatically since 1895. Over the years small trees have established into dense thickets. These fire-intolerant tree species now crowd the forest, pre-disposing the area to insect infestations, disease outbreaks, and catastrophic wildfires. In this 2001 photo (again, from same place) no "forest" and only a few trees survived the severe fire. Note the beginning of erosion in the stream channel. (The house had been moved prior to the fire however, this is seldom an option for residents.)

Overview: Current Efforts to Control Wildfires and Restore Forest Health

  • Firefighters are effective in part because of additional federal resources provided for both firefighting and forest health programs.
  • A comprehensive 10-year strategy to make communities safer from wildfires.
  • The Administration is working to prevent future large, catastrophic fires by carrying out fuel treatment programs such as thinning and prescribed burning.
  • Fuel treatment projects have prevented or stopped fires.
  • Fuel Reduction in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • The Administration is working to make its fuels treatment and forest health programs even more effective.
  • The Administration is restoring record amounts of burned forests and rangelands.
  • The Administration is
  • The Administration is providing more thatn $428 million in fire prevention, prepardness, and suppression assistance this year to thousands of communities.
  • Student Conservation Association volunteers have enlisted in the fight against wildfires.

The Need for Improved and Accelerated Forest Management

  • Procedural delays are stalling critical forest and rangeland management projects.
  • The appeals process is complex, time consuming, and burdensome.
  • Delays caused by appeals can be disasterous when fires strike.
  • Court injunctions can have broad impacts on management activities.
  • Congress has recognized the effects of regulatory and administrative delays this fire season.

The Squires Fire: A Case Study in Fire and Forest Management Obstacles and Effects

  • The value of fuels reduction projects.
  • Legal and regulatory obstacles to timely implementation of fuels projects.

Photo Essay - Aftermath of the Squires Fire The Healthy Forest Area Survives

Fire behavior in a small area that was thinned: Fire burns low and on the ground Trees in thinned forest survive fires unharmed and renewed Fire behavior in unthinned forests: Fires burn at high temperatures and reaches tops of trees These severe fires destroy forests, killing trees, sterilizing soils and accelerating erosion

Fulfilling the Promise of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan