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Collaborative Efforts To Improve The State Of Southwestern Forests

1085 words - 5 pages

Throughout history, fire has played a major role in shaping and maintaining ecosystems and changes in fire policies have has contributed to overall unhealthy forests with increased susceptibility to massive wildfires. Early fire policies were geared toward full fire suppression while policies of today recognize the importance of fire in an ecosystem. The U.S. government, along with regional and local agencies, pays billions of dollars annually to extinguish wildfires and on post wildfire cleanup. The amount of forest land burned over the decades has increased, and the intensity and frequency of wildfires are expected to worsen due to many factors, including climate change and urban ...view middle of the document...

These forests were once shaped by periodic fires with fire return intervals ranging from 5 to 50 years in low elevation dry forests and from 10 to 100 years in mixed conifer forests (Graham, 2003). These fires helped to maintain species composition and stand densities in an area, and release mobilized nutrients. Dry, low-elevation ponderosa pine forests maintained an open canopy with periodic drought cycles and light severity surface fires replacing understory grasses and shrubs every few years (Schoennagel et al., 2004). In contrast, mixed conifer forests defined by mixed severity fire regimes, were comprised of even aged stands created by stand replacing fires and uneven-aged stands created by low intensity fire (Schoennagel et al., 2004). In some instances, fire suppression has played a major role on fuel accumulations in forests leading to large wildfires. In other cases forests have maintained fuel conditions within a historical range and weather conditions are the prevailing factors leading to wildfires.
Proposed solutions
Considerations for implementing fuel reduction treatments require site specific analysis, and “the most appropriate fuel treatment methods vary with forest type and spatial context – there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ fuel treatment design” (Reinhardt et al., 2008). Therefore, a more integrated collaboration between federal, state, and local agencies needs to be taken with a ‘bottom-up’ approach. This approach would include updating or changing existing environmental laws which are no longer effective and allocating money accordingly to evaluate the needs of a forest and adequately address those needs.
The bottom-up approach would begin at the local level assessing the needs of forests managed by each agency within a state. Because areas of adjacent forested land are often managed by different agencies (i.e. federal, state, tribal), these agencies would need to come together frequently to discuss the needs of the forest and collaborate to come up with an integrated management plan, despite who manages the land. This would allow for more communication between the agencies, and it would help to ensure no one agency was implementing a management plan that would affect surrounding lands managed by other agencies.
Meeting and collaborating would then allow forest managers, scientists, and policy makers to identify the needs of forests within a state or...

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