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 20 partners have signed on to the MOU (32 total today). The following agencies and partners are members of the MOU Partnership:

USDA, Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region
Sierra Forest Legacy
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
State of California Sierra Nevada Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy
USDI, National Park Service Pacific Region
The Wilderness Society
The Sierra Club
Center for Biological Diversity
Northern California Prescribed Fire Council
Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council
Pacific Forest Trust
Audubon Canyon Ranch
Pepperwood Preserve
Center for Fire Research and Outreach, UC Berkeley
Center for Forestry, UC Berkeley
USDI, Bureau of Land Management
The California Forestry Association
California State Parks and Recreation
Central Coast Prescribed Fire Council
Southern California Edison
Central SIerra Environmental Resource Center
Terra Fuego Resource Foundation
California Wildlife Foundation/California Oaks
El Dorado Air Quality Management District
Butte County Air Quality Management District
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
American Rivers
Placer County Air Pollution Control District
California Indian Water Commission
Yuba Watershed Institute
Defenders of Wildlife

Click here to view and download a current poster of the Fire MOU Partnership membership.

Steps to joining the Partnership:

Step 1. Read the Fire MOU*

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. Read the Welcome Letter

Step 4. 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.

Further information is in the Welcome Letter.

* Please note that the original 2015 MOU lists only the original signatories and does not include partners who have joined since then.

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...

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. https://youtu.be/VnzMdzmlYuo

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 (newsdeeply.com)
100 Million Dead Trees: A Danger That Persists Long After the Drought

November 28, 2016Water Deeply (newsdeeply.com)
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)