Latest news: May 1, 2020
In an early response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Forest Service in California recently issued a region-wide ban on prescribed fire on National Forest lands, causing widespread concern and prompting our coalition to take action. Read the letter we sent to Region 5 Director Randy Moore on April 27, regarding the decision, and the agency's announcement on May 1 that the prescribed burning program would continue. We are grateful for the Region's response.
By contrast, Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen sent a letter to all of the Forest Service regional foresters and station directors in June directing them to establish a policy of full fire suppression for the 2020 wildfire season in response to COVID-19. This means that all unplanned ignitions on national forests, even those in remote roadless areas, will be suppressed this year regardless of whether they might achieve beneficial fire effects.
About Prescribed Fire
Please explore all the pages in the "In this section" menu to your left. Managing fire and prescribed fire are the theme of this section of our website, and each page has additional information and links to science literature, policy documents, etc. relating to prescribed fire and its vital role in the health and ecology of the forests of the Sierra Nevada--and its role in preventing tragic and unneccesary losses of life and property from uncontrollable fire.
"Prescribed" burning is defined as “fire applied in a knowledgeable manner to forest fuels on a specific land area under selected weather conditions to accomplish predetermined, well-defined management objectives” (from A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests). Fire managers may choose to closely monitor naturally started fires, ignited by lightning, to meet specific resource objectives. This type of fire management is called wildland fire use, or managed fire, and is also considered prescribed fire even though naturally caused. In the National Parks of California many lightning-caused fires are allowed to burn and die naturally each year, regenerating the forest and reducing future risks.
On public lands, prescribed fires are used to manage vegetation to reduce hazardous fuels (needles, brush, downed woody material, etc.) so that future fires do not become large, uncontrolled events that devastate the forest and threaten air quality for extended periods. At the same time, ecological objectives for maintaining species diversity and evolutionary processes can only be met through the use of fire, either through managed wildland fire use or prescribed fire. In the Sierra Nevada, research has shown that national forest lands will not be resilient to climate change and adverse effects from projected future fire increases unless significant changes are made to increase the use of managed fire.
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 prescribed 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. Today the number of partners has grown to 32. Read more about the Fire MOU Partnership here.
Download this presentation, Increasing Pace and Scale of Fuels Reduction and Forest Restoration in the Sierra Nevada, by Malcolm North, April Brough, Jonathan Long, Brandon Collins and Marc Meyer (USFS PSW, USFS Region 5, and UC Berkeley).
Watch the video Catching Fire: Prescribed Burning in Northern California, produced by the Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative and the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council. Also check out the other fire-related links here on our website, and be sure to visit the California Fire Science Consortium website as well.
Training Exchanges (TREX)
The Forest Service and the California Department of Fire and Forestry (CAL FIRE) seek to increase the pace and scale of restoration to return forest and woodlands to a fire resilient condition. In order to increase the pace and scale of treatments, we must also develop the capacity to use fire safely and effectively. As training exchanges are becoming more popular in the western United States, it is clear that increasing cooperation and coordination is essential in creating robust fire programs. Training exchanges provide high quality training opportunities that support partnership development among diverse fire practitioners and increased capacity through cooperation.
The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council hosted two prescribed fire-training events in 2014. In 2013, the trainees participated in a total of 17 prescribed burns and treated more than 450 acres in the Region. For more information on training exchanges contact Lenya Quinn-Davidson.Also see "Prescribed Fire Councils" here on our website. Visit the Fire Learning Network for current information about upcoming TREX events.
Current SFL Supported Large Fire Restoration Projects
Inyo National Forest January 6, 2020
The Inyo National Forest is proposing to undertake the Eastern Sierra Fire Restoration and Maintenance project. The project area encompasses the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range from Lundy Canyon in the north to the Kem Plateau and Kennedy Meadows in the south. The eastern extent ofthe project encompasses the Mono Craters, Glass Mountains, and portions of the Benton Mountain Range. Read Sierra Forest Legacy and Friends of the Inyo comments on the project submitted January 6, 2020.
Eldorado National Forest
Visit the News and Event page for more information and to subscribe to updates http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/eldorado/home/?cid=STELPRDB5437610
Caples Creek Watershed Fuels Reduction and Meadow Restoration Project -- 8800 acres
Placerville Ranger District, Eldorado National Forest
For more information and project description, you can download the detailed proposal here. Scoping for the project was announced on March 19, 2015. You can also download our support letter here. Check in with our webpage for the project here; we will update this with news about the project as it progresses.
Sierra National Forest June, 2018
The Sierra National Forest is proposing the first ever forest-wide prescribed burning program. The agency is currently preparing the environmental NEPA analysis for burning to restore natural ecosystem processes and the natural resilience to fire that our forests evolved with. Read more about the project here, and read our coalition support letter and comments here.
Visit the News and Event page for more information and to subscribe to updates
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)
Ryan, K.C., Knapp, E.E., and J. Morgan. 2013. Prescribed fire in North American forests and woodlands: history, current practice, and challenges. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: e15–e24. (1.3 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.
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.