Fire MOU Partnership

In 2015, twelve organizations comprised of state and federal land and resource management agencies, environmental groups, and regional prescribed fire councils came together to pledge their commitment to advancing the use of fire for ecological benefit and improved fire management. They included the U.S. Forest Service, Sierra Forest Legacy, Cal Fire, The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, National Park Service, Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, and the Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council.

Since then, an additional 23 partners have signed on to the MOU (35 total today). The following agencies and partners are currently members of the MOU Partnership:

American Forests
American Rivers
Audubon Canyon Ranch
Butte County Air Quality Management District
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
California Air Resources Board
California Forestry Association
California Indian Water Commission
California Native Plant Society
California Department of Parks and Recreation
California Tahoe Conservancy
California Wildlife Foundation /California Oaks
Center for Fire Research and Outreach /UC Berkeley
Central Sierra Nevada Environmental Resource Center
Defenders of Wildlife
El Dorado Air Quality Management District
Northern California Prescribed Fire Council
Pacific Forest Trust
Pepperwood Preserve
Placer County Air Pollution Control District
Sagehen Creek Field Station, UC Berkeley
Save the Redwoods League
Sierra Club, Mother Lode Chapter
Sierra Forest Legacy
Southern California Edison
Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council
Sierra Nevada Conservancy, State of California
The Fire Restoration Group
The Nature Conservancy
The Wilderness Society
USDA Forest Service, Region 5
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
USDI Bureau of Land Management
USDI National Park Service, Pacific Region
Yuba Watershed Institute  

Click here to view and download a current poster of the Fire MOU Partnership membership (2021-2025).

Steps to joining the Partnership:

Step 1. Read the Fire MOU Partnership (2021-2025)

Step 2. Read the Meeting Notes (Kick-Off Meeting, Feb. 2-3, 2016). The structure of the working groups is detailed in these notes, so be sure to read this before filling out the application form.

Step 3. Request the Partnership Initiation Form here. Some web browsers no longer support the mailto function. You may have to copy and paste the email address.


Wildfire Awareness Week 2016

Image above: May 2, 2016 Wildfire Awareness Week press conference with Governor Brown, CalFire, U.S. Forest Service, Sierra Forest Legacy, and state Office of Emergency Services

Latest news...

March 30, 2022

Today Governor Gavin Newsom’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force issued the Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire. The plan will expand the use of prescribed fire and cultural burning to build forest and community resilience statewide, efforts that are critical to forest management and wildfire mitigation. By expanding the use of beneficial fire, the state can utilize smart burning tactics on brush and other fuels to help both prevent the start of fires and mitigate the spread of wildfires. Read the press release here.   

March 29, 2022

Insight:  Cap Radio State of California WildfiresCap Radio's Vicki Gonzalez is back with Scott Stephens, professor of Wildland Fire Science at UC Berkeley, Craig Thomas with the Fire Restoration Group, and Lenya Quinn-Davidson, fire advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension to discuss the state of California right now, relative to wildfires. The wildfire discussion segment begins at 11:49.  

April 28, 2021 

Insight: Cap Radio Wildfire Outlook--Prevention 

Listen to Scott Stephens, Lenya Davidson, and Craig Thomas discuss fire prevention and prescribed burning on Cap Radio's Insight program today. Slide to 23:07 minutes to begin this segment. 

April 23, 2021 

NBC: New Research on Smoke Health Risks as Climate Change Fuels Wildfires 

There are growing concerns about the health impacts of wildfire smoke as California faces larger and more devastating blazes. NBC News’ Steve Patterson goes inside Stanford’s Allergy & Asthma Lab, where researchers are testing firefighters for exposure and their gear for toxins.
MSNBC:  California Scientists are Fighting Fire with Fire 

NBC’s Jacob Ward reports from California where scientists are preparing for wildfire season by setting controlled fires.  

January 8, 2021

California's Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan 

The Governor’s Forest Management Taskforce has released a comprehensive action plan to reduce wildfire risk for vulnerable communities, improve the health of forests and wildlands and accelerate action to combat climate change. The Task Force and the state’s efforts going forward will be guided by this Action Plan with an overall goal to increase the pace and scale of forest management and wildfire resilience efforts by 2025 and beyond. Download the Action Plan here. 

June 22, 2020

Meteorology, Predictive Services and Fire Weather Forecasting: MOU Partnership Virtual Meeting, Monday June 22, 3:30 to 4:30 PM. Link to agenda and presentations here.

April 26, 2019

Don't miss reading "Planned burns can reduce wildfire risks, but expanding use of 'good fire' isn't easy" by a team of research scientists in The Conversation, an online journal publishing factual news stories written by leading scholars and academics. The conclusion? There are many obstacles to achieving the use of fire to achieve fuels reduction at the level necessary to make a significant difference, but the lack of trained personnel and the funding needed to accomplish the work on the ground is number one.

California Senate Bill 462 aims to address this problem by creating a new training program within California's publicly funded community college system. SB 462 (Sen. Stern) the Forestland Restoration Workforce Program, establishes a model curriculum for a forest restoration workforce. The bill has seen tremendous support from a broad number of sectors, and is moving rapidly through the legislature. Read our support letter here.

March 5, 2019

CAL FIRE has released the 45-day report as requested by Gov. Gavin Newsom in January (see last post, below). Download the report here.

January 8, 2019

On his first day of office, newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order explicitly referencing the fire related issues facing California in the face of climate change--"persistent drought, warmer temperatures, and more severe winds"; the beneficial impact of Native American burning on the landscape in historical times, and pledging additional investments in the 2019-2020 budget to improve fire prevention and management in addition to the $1 billion that will be available starting this year for the purpose of active forest management. The Governor has requested, within 45 days, a report from CAL FIRE with recommendations of the most impactful changes that are necessary to "prevent and mitigate wildfires to the greatest extent possible, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and protection of public health." Read more and link to the EO here.

December 20, 2018

"Scientists and land managers agree on the importance of reducing flammable fuel in California's vast conifer forests. And they say that fire is the best tool for the job." Read more from science reporter Julia Rosen in the LA Times today in this excellent piece.

November 30, 2018

Today is Craig Thomas' last day on the staff of Sierra Forest Legacy. Craig has been a co-founder of SFL, the executive director, conservation director, and life-long advocate for sound conservation policy for the forests of the Sierra Nevada and his retirement is well earned. His conservation focus in recent years has always been fire policy, including his leadership with the Forest Service in creation of the Fire MOU Partnership. Craig will continue in his role as a steering committee member and through a newly formed non-profit organization, the Fire Restoration Group. Contact Craig by email at:

September 28, 2018

Forest Service Research and Development Newsletter: the Fire Issue. Read it here.

September 27, 2008

NPR: Fire ecologists say more fires should be left to burn. So why aren't they?

September 5, 2018

Jane Braxton Little has written an excellent article published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Environment360. Read Fighting Fire with Fire: California Turns to Prescribed Burning.

August 27, 2018

The Forest Service has released a new report, Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes: An Outcome Based Investment Strategy (FS-118), that summarizes the current vision, programs and status of efforts nationally to reduce unsustainable fuels levels and improve forest resilience in our national forests. The good news: the agency reports that it can treat as much as 35 million acres through prescribed fires. You can download the report here, and read an article about the report in Greenwire news here.

August 18, 2018

Craig Thomas recently attended the summer meeting of the Northern/Southern Society of American Foresters at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The meeting was focused on Giant Sequoias and fire resilience. Below is a presentation by fire ecologist Tony Caprio, National Park Service.

Caprio, Anthony C. and Kings Canyon National Parks. Did Prescribed FIre Treatments Moderate Effects of the 2015 Rough Fire on Giant Sequoias in Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park?

We also attended the monthly meeting of the Dinkey Collaborative on August 17. Below is a presentation by ecologist Amarina Wuenschel, U.S. Forest Service. The talk was focused on the 2017 Railroad Fire and its impacts on the Nelder Giant Sequoia groves in the Sierra National Forest.

Wuenschel, Amarina, Ecologist, U.S. Forest Service: The Shadow of the Giants Sequoia Grove a Year Post the 2017 Railroad Fire.

August 10, 2018

Recent quote from Samir Sheikh, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District executive director: "Fires have always been a very important part of California's ecology and are necessary for the health of our wildlands. Due to the buildup of combustible materials through decades of forest mismanagement, and the mortality of millions of trees from drought and bark beetle infestation, the state is experiencing record-setting large wildfires that are directly impacting the Valley's air quality and the health of Valley residents."

Read more of this insightful conversation between Samir Sheikh and Fresno Bee's Tad Weber.

July 11, 2018

A team from University of Oregon, Colorado State University, and the U.S. Forest Service have released a report today that examines the policies limiting prescribed fire programs, as well as strategies and opportunities to increase prescribed fire use and improve policy or policy implementation, in 11 states in the West. Download and read it here.

June 21-22, 2018

Fire MOU Partnership meeting at Sagehen Field Station, June 21-22. Partners will have received email and phone invitations and agenda.

June 16, 2018

The Fresno Bee recently published an article written by Craig Thomas, conservation director, Sierra Forest Legacy; Jim Branham, executive officer, Sierra Nevada Conservancy; and Jim McDougal, Fresno Kings Unit Division Chief, Cal Fire. Read Living with fire in California: A little smoke now prevents a lot more later, here.

And while you're here: Did you know that less than 10 percent of firefighters are women? But they are hard working stand-outs. Don't miss this great video, Women in Fire, presented by REI.

June 14, 2018

The Sierra National Forest is preparing the environmental analysis necessary to implement a forest-wide prescribed burning program. The program would result in treating up to 10,000 acres per year over the next 15-20 years. This is the first forest-wide prescribed burning project in the region. We offer our support and congratulations to Supervisor Dean Gould and the Sierra National Forest staff for this important first step in getting the amount of burning done that is necessary to realign the forest with evolved adaptations to fire. Read the Sierra Forest Legacy coalition support letter here.

May 10, 2018

State Rolls Out Plan to Save our Forests

Governor Edmund G. Brown issued an executive order today that outlines an all-hands, all-lands approach to protecting our forests from the effects of climate change, devastating fire, and drought, and to maximize the ability of forests to absorb and store carbon--and prescribed fire plays a big role.

The EO coincides with the release of the California Forest Carbon Plan, which provides the scientific basis for the policy changes necessary to improve the health and resiliency of California's forests against the increased fire and disease threats driven by climate change; and the release of the Governor's May budget revision that includes $96 million to support implementation of the plan and executive order. This is in addition to the $160 million proposed in January's Cap and Trade expenditure plan to support forest improvements and fire protection.

Key elements of the executive order include:

  • Doubling the land actively managed through vegetation thinning, controlled fires and reforestation from 250,000 acres to 500,000 acres.
  • Launching new training and certification programs to help promote forest health through prescribed burning.
  • Boosting education and outreach to landowners on the most effective ways to reduce vegetation and other forest-fire fuel sources on private lands.
  • Streamlining permitting for landowner-initiated projects that improve forest health and reduce forest-fire fuels on their properties.
  • Supporting the innovative use of forest products by the building industry.
  • Expanding grants, training and other incentives to improve watersheds.

Read the full Executive Order here.

The Forest Carbon Plan includes this section referencing the Fire MOU Partnership under the chapter heading "Implementation:"

4.3.3 Seize Opportunities to Increase Use of Prescribed and Managed Fire

In fall 2015, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, National Park Service Pacific West Region, CAL FIRE, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, multiple environmental organizations, and two prescribed fire councils signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the Purpose of Increasing the Use of Fire to Meet Ecological and Other Management Objectives (MOU).173 The MOU recognizes that the state’s wildland ecosystems have evolved with fire, which provides resilience and renewal. The purpose of the MOU is to: “…document the cooperation between the parties to increase the use of fire to meet ecological and other management objectives in accordance with…” specified provisions. Modifications to the MOU are currently underway and a number of additional agencies and organizations have signed on to it. (California Forest Carbon Plan, 2018, p. 58).

Also, the May budget revision includes an increase of $26.8 million to fund 79 positions for CAL FIRE to complete additional fuel reduction projects through the operation of six year-round prescribed fire crews, and implementation of a forest health research and monitoring program. The funding supports the Forest Carbon Plan recommendation to increase the rate of prescribed fire more than three fold, to 60,000 acres per year by 2030. Read more about the budget, and link to the summary and full budget, here.

November 1- 2, 2017

The first phase of prescribed burning in the Caples Creek Watershed Ecological Restoration Project took place on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2, 2017. Congratulations and a special thank you goes to our partners who put so much effort into making this first step in the project a reality: the Eldorado National Forest and especially retired district ranger Duane Nelson, USFS; El Dorado Irrigation District; and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Learn more about the project here, and on the Forest Service project webpage, here.

August 6, 2017

We are happy to be able to share this slide presentation by forest vegetation ecologist Malcolm North. It summarizes and expands the key findings from the paper listed below (North, Collins, and Stephens 2012). It's loaded with great graphics and data. Enjoy! Download here: North, Malcolm 2017. Presentation at National Cohesive Strategy, Reno, Nevada April 2017.

May 8, 2017

Wildfire Awareness Week. Listen to Capitol Public Radio interview with CALFIRE Director Ken Pimlott; Rob Griffith, U.S. Forest Service; and Craig Thomas, SIerra Forest Legacy (9 AM, 90.9 FM).

The following research supports the topics discussed in the interview.

Fire MOU Partnership presentation, May 2017.

North, M., Collins, M., and Stephens, S. 2012. Using fire to increase the scale, benefits, and future maintenance of fuels treatments. J. For. 110(7):392–401.

North, M., A. Brough, J. Long, B. Collins, P. Bowden, D. Yasuda, J. Miller, and N. Sugihara. 2015. Constraints on mechanized treatment significantly limit mechanical fuels reduction extent in the Sierra Nevada. J. For. 113(1):40-48.

Calkin, D.E., Thompson, M.P., and M.S. Finney. 2015. Negative consequences of positive feedbacks in US wildfire management. Ecosystems. 2(9): 1-10.

Taylor, A.H., Trouet, V., Skinner, C., and S. Stephens. 2016. Socioecological transitions trigger fire regime shifts and modulate fire–climate interactions in the Sierra Nevada, USA, 1600–2015 CE. PNAS. 113(48):13684-13689.

Boisramé, Gabrielle, et al. Managed wildfire effects on forest resilience and water in the Sierra Nevada. Ecosystems (2016): 1-16.

Long, J.W., Tarnay, L.W., and M.P.North. 2017, in press. Aligning Smoke Management with Ecological and Public Health Goals. J. Forestry 115:000-000. Published online January 19, 2017.

Schoennagel, T., Balch, J.K., Brenkert-Smith, H., Dennison, P.E., Harvey, B.J., Krawchuk, M.A., Mietkiewicz, N., Morgan, P., Mortiz, M.A., Rasker, R., Turner, M.G., and C. Whitlock. Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes. PNAS. Released for early edition. doi:10.1073/pnas. 16174641114.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for more literature on these topics; explore the links on the left side of this page, more in Fire Science; and in Community Protection.

April 27, 2017: Water Deeply (
100 Million Dead Trees: A Danger That Persists Long After the Drought

November 28, 2016Water Deeply (
New Study Finds Surprising Culprit Drives Forest Fire Behavior by Jane Braxton Little

July 1, 2016 From the Atlantic, CityLab
What California Can Learn From How the South Manages Wildfires -- As deadly wildfires blaze, experts are calling on the state to emulate the South’s long tradition of prescribed burning

May 23, 2016 U.S. Forest Service Plans to Let Blazes Burn Amid Predictions of Fiery Summer. Read all about it, here.

May 10, 2016 Listen to interview with Craig Thomas of Sierra Forest Legacy on "Soundings," with Alan Stahler at KVMR Radio, Nevada City. Download the MP3 file here.

May 5, 2016 Months after the Rough Fire, Millions of Giant Sequoia Seedlings Take Root. Click here to view photos and link to NPR story, or click here to listen to the audio.

May 1-7, 2016 Wildfire Awareness Week

Listen to Capitol Radio's Insight program interview with Craig Thomas of Sierra Forest Legacy and Jim Branham of Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

February 2, 2016 Fire MOU Partnership Kick-Off Meeting

On February 2, 2016, Federal and State agency officials met with conservation and community fire protection groups to kick off the inaugural workshop for a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the careful and expanded use of fire for natural resource and other social benefits in California. Wildland fuels are continuing to build up and wildfires are growing larger and more difficult to control, especially in light of California’s extended drought experience and changing climate. These factors have helped bring this unique partnership together. Citing recent fire science (see below) and large, damaging wildfires like the Rim, King, Valley, and Butte fires, this new fire partnership is calling for an expanded response and a broader suite of tools to restore resilience and protect communities across California’s rural landscape.

Download the MOU.
Read the Meeting Notes.

Read the press release here.

Follow these links for additional supporting information:

US Forest Service All Lands Approach to Ecological Restoration
Region 5 Ecological Restoration Initiative - Leadership Intent
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
Governor Brown's State of Emergency Proclamation and State of California Tree Mortality Task Force
State of California Strategic Fire Plan
Sierra Nevada Conservancy
Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program

Supporting Research

Download additional fire and air quality science research, below.

Fire and Air Policy

2016 group scientists' letter re: The fire challenge: Increasing fire use for natural resource benefits, carbon stability and protection of public health. Jan. 22, 2016. Sent to USDA, US EPA, USDI, and CEQ

North, M.P., S.L. Stephens, B.M. Collins, J.K. Agee, G. Aplet, J.F. Franklin, and P.Z. Fule. 2015. Reform forest fire management - Agency incentives undermine policy effectiveness. Science 349(6254):1280-81 (625 KB PDF)

North, M.P., A. Brough, J. Long, B. Collins, P. Bowden, D. Yasuda, J. Miller, and N. Sugihara. 2015. Constraints on mechanical treatment in the Sierra Nevada. J. of Forestry 113(1):40-48.(779 KB PDF)

Also see summary of the above paper in Research Brief for Research Managers, California Fire Science Consortium.

Air Quality Science

Cisneros, R., Schweizer, D., Preisler, H., Bennett, D.H., Shaw, G., Bytnerowicz, A.  2014. Spatial and seasonal patterns of particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Atmospheric Pollution Research 5 (2014) 581-590 (1.4 MB PDF)

Schweizer, D. and R. Cisneros. 2014. Wildland fire management and air quality in the Southern Sierra Nevada: Using the Lion Fire as a case study with a multi-year perspective on PM 2.5 impacts and fire policy. J. of Environ. Management. 144:265-278. (2.77 MB PDF)

Schweizer, D. et al. 2017. Using National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter to assess regional wildland fire smoke and air quallity management. J. Env. Mgmt. 201 (2017) 345-356.

Fire and Climate Science

Hurteau, M.D., A. L. Westerling, C. Wiedinmyer, and B.P. Bryant. 2014. Projected effects of climate and development on California wildfire emissions through 2100. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48:(2298-2304). (1.7 MB PDF)

Meyer, M.D. 2015. Resource objective wildfires benefit resource. Research Brief for Research Managers, California Fire Science Consortium. (627 KB PDF)

North, M., Collins, M., and Stephens, S. 2012. Using fire to increase the scale, benefits, and future maintenance of fuels treatments. J. For. 110(7):392–401 (302 KB PDF). 

Schoennagel, T., Balch, J.K., Brenkert-Smith, H., Dennison, P.E., Harvey, B.J., Krawchuk, M.A., Mietkiewicz, N., Morgan, P., Mortiz, M.A., Rasker, R., Turner, M.G., and C. Whitlock. Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes. PNAS. Released for early edition. doi:10.1073/pnas. 16174641114.

Stephens, S.L., R.E. Martin, and N.E. Clinton. 2007. Prehistoric Fire Area and Emissions from California’s Forests, Woodlands, Shrublands, and Grasslands. Forest Ecology and Management,2007 (363KB PDF).

Sheep Fire

Image left: Managed fire at Kings River, Sequoia National Forest, 2010 Photo credit: Brandon Dethlefs, National Park Service (Sheep Fire)