The warming climate, a proliferation of uncleared vegetation, and development near wildlands all combine to fuel devastating fire seasons that begin earlier and earlier each year, especially across the American West. In 2020, 10.1 million acres burned nationwide. To address this crisis, in January of 2022, the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service (Forest Service) published “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in American Forests” (Wildfire Crisis Strategy) and announced more than $48 million in funding over 10 years allocated to “mitigate wildfire risk, protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat, restore forest ecosystems and ultimately contribute to USDA’s efforts to combat climate change.” This funding is part of the larger $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
The Wildfire Crisis Strategy’s goals include:
- Treating up to 20 million more acres of National Forest System Lands
- Treating up to 30 million more acres of other federal, state, tribal, and private lands
- Developing a plan for long-term maintenance, beyond the 10-year scope of the plan
The Forest Service will identify and prioritize projects in high-risk fire sheds (particularly near historically underserved communities) that are ready for implementation as soon as funding is available. These projects will be launched in the first two years of the program, building workforce and public support in subsequent years. Once the most critical work has been performed in the most at-risk communities, the Forest Service will address other fire sheds in the West.
Large-scale efforts by Forest Service will also be supplemented by more local community efforts to fortify homes and other infrastructure against wildfire. Through the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, the Forest Service is partnering to help communities write wildfire protection plans and help homeowners protect their properties by reducing fuels and clearing defensible space around their homes. Dudek Fire Protection Planning Practice Leader Michael Huff said, “It’s vital that communities, land developers, and property owners analyze potential risk and take actions to reduce hazards in order to mitigate that risk and create more resilient properties and communities.”
Utilizing a range of approaches, Dudek urban foresters and arborists plan, prioritize, document, and implement fire hazard reduction and forest health measures. Our experts help reduce the risk of devastating fire damage by:
- Assisting in obtaining grant funding for fire hazard reduction projects
- Assessing and monitoring public and private lands to determine wildfire risk
- Developing community wildfire protection plans
- Developing forest health plans to promote resiliency to pests and wildfire disturbance
- Planning fuel management projects to protect communities
- Implementing fire hazard reduction projects through our native habitat construction subsidiary, Habitat Restoration Sciences.