Wildland Fire Leadership Council Meetings
Wildland Fire Leadership Council Meeting
May 18, 2004
Stakeholder Panel (P. Orbuch)
Phil Aune , California Forestry Association (CFA)
CA Blue Ribbon Report: The commission has done a good job in evaluation but there remains a need for the public and policy makers to put protection of property and life at the top of their agendas and to identify the issues that must be addressed. Funding that has been allocated for southern CA will go a long way to help private landowners, but what is missing is a long-term plan to address issues on Forest Service lands. The current pace/scale of fuels treatments on FS lands in southern California would take 49 years to reach all Condition Class II and III lands. The fuels program is split between prescribed burning and thinning - e.g., Lake Tahoe has the highest cost of fuels treatments (no return is generated from removal of biomass); lowest cost treatments are on those FS lands where there is a market for the removed biomass. There is a need to responsibly improve the economic efficiency of fuels treatments.
LANDFIRE: It is important to consider already existing assessment & modeling programs, such as that which exists in California .
Bruce Turbeville , California Fire Safe Council (CFSC)
Community Protection Plans : Long-term funding for community fire protection plans is uncertain. Cost share with insurance companies is an important consideration. 10% of CA communities are members of the CA Fire Safe Council; many partnership opportunities exist.
Jay Watson, The Wilderness Society (TWS)
National Fire Plan (NFP) : There is widespread agreement that the NFP has been successful with the suppression and preparedness key points, but there is room for improvement in community assistance and ecological restoration. Additional funding to community based organizations can exponentially increase the amount of fuels treated.
Collaboration: Community involvement and stakeholder involvement is critical, but not enough progress has been made or direction provided on how to incorporate collaboration at the project or the state level. No protocols or models for collaboration in planning projects exist; need to breakdown barriers, share funding, build partnerships, etc.
Federal Wildfire Management Policy : Recognizes importance of fire, but years later, suppression acres exceed wildfire use acres. Reintroducing fire to the landscape requires public acceptance and community protection.
Pat Frost, Trinity County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD)
Trinity County Resource Conservation District: Collaboration has been highly successful among Trinity County stakeholders; the top priorities in the county are fuels reduction and forest health projects. Monitoring is a limitation; schools are adopting forest restoration project sites as a step towards generating long-term community interest and involvement.
Jay Watson (TWS): Markets for small-diameter biomass utilization need to be identified and expanded. Economy of scale is important - smaller, more dedicated plants are more desirable than large plants, which would eventually use up available materials and will need to look elsewhere for more biomass. We cannot pay for the hazardous fuels program with the removal of large trees.
Ron Christensen (NACO): In regard to biomass, there has been an overall perspective that only a certain diameter class would be removed from the forest. There needs to be both small operators and larger operators that can handle the volume. We need to find the balance to create the diversification of large/small diameter classes.
Jay Watson (TWS): We agree that balance is important, but the definition of "balance" varies. Goal of PNW plan and HFRA is to retain and recruit large diameter trees.
Phil Aune (CFA): The question is a matter of scale. Mortality and growth rates are important considerations. The question is a matter of trust rather than diameter standards. Universal prescriptions don't work. Scope of industrial strength and small scale industry solutions - must be able to meet the scale of fuels. How do you rebuild/maintain that industry? Also requires public acceptance. Need an integrated solution.
Community Wildland Fire Protection Plans
Pat Frost (TCRDC): Public perception is that dense forests are healthy. We need to acclimate the public to more unfamiliar forest compositions, with fewer trees and fewer small trees. This will take time.
Jay Watson (TWS): There seems of be a lot of support for community wildfire protection plans.
Pat Frost (TCRDC): CA is considering additional WUI building code regulations - there will be reaction against building/living in WUI areas, there may be a backlash. We need to be careful when turning guidelines into regulations.
Phil Aune (CFA): Community wildfire protection plans may yet be too new a concept - the vast majority of communities at risk are unfamiliar with the idea of plans.
Alan Fitzsimmons (OWFC): There is no collaboration manual; instead, working through NASF, we recognized everyone will want to do it differently, so NASF provided guidance on how to do community plans. Plans all come from collaboration at some level. I am reasonably confident that everything results from some level of collaboration or another. The level will vary from state to state and community to community.
Bruce Tubeville (CFA): Insurance companies are certainly interested; they are providing funding at various levels, the network that they can provide is great. Insurance companies did not initially realize how much property they had at risk; they are recognizing that there is a value in their participation in the protection of these properties.
Summary of key discussion points:
- Funding security.
- Ecosystem restoration.
- Economic returns for forest restoration projects.
Implementation Plan Status Report (C. Newman)
Expectations have been exceeded, but we are lagging in a few areas. We will be bringing forth some proposals on how to address those task items in which we are lagging.
Collaborative Ecosystem Restoration Project Selection Process (G3C): We need to refine further the definition of the "Restoration Selection Process"
WGA will be completing a review of Implementation Plan progress-to-date and will present at a future WFLC meeting.
Cohesive Strategy (L. Scarlett): The Cohesive Strategy is not yet approved. There is a dichotomy between creating a national strategy and the need for strong collaborative efforts at the local level.
Western Governors Association will present a review of the status of the Implementation Plan at a future WFLC meeting in FY 2005.
Lead: Western Governors Association.
2004 Fire Season Briefing (T. Harbour, F. Cherry)
The presentation and handouts reviewed current wildland fire forecasts for the U.S.
Cost drivers for suppression are not correlated with burned acres as much as they are with location and forest conditions.
Additional assets will be brought on to cover the loss of the air tankers.
OMB request for transfer of funds into preparedness: Issue has been greater on FS side than on the DOI side. As of 5/17/04, FS has reached an accommodation with OMB. DOI is close to having issue resolved as well. Even though the Forest Service received Congressional approval to reprogram suppression funds for increased preparedness, OMB has directed that the Forest Service charge salary costs during the Base 8 period to the suppression account. For FY 04 this effectively changes the previous WFLC decision which aligned DOI and FS suppression cost accounting.
Fuels Program: FY 04 Accomplishments & FY 05 Program of Work (A. Fitzsimmons, T. Harbour)
The Fuels Program presentation and handouts reviewed the accomplishments-to-date and planned fuels treatments for FY 2004 and FY 2005.
Fuels reduction is a secondary effect of other program activities as well - (e.g., in 2003, an additional 1.3 million acres were treated through other land management programs). The agencies should develop protocols for monitoring and reporting these acres.
Fire Management Plan (FMP) updates must include considerations for Wildland Fire Use (WFU).
- Relationship between suppression and currency of FMP's and the degree to which they include WFU has been a key issue with the Strategic Panel on Fire Suppression Cost Panel.
- WFU is funded through suppression, not through hazardous fuels programs.
- It is unclear whether or not repeated/multiple acres treated are being reported consistently; monitoring should address this issue.
Even though prescribed fire treatments cost less, mechanical treatments have other benefits such as utilization of biomass and private sector contracting opportunities. Prescribed fire opportunities in the WUI are limited given the proximity to structures and the risk of fire spread beyond the containment lines.
Reporting change of condition class and acres treated that are in a Community Protection Plan is important for fuels discussions.
NFP State Fire Assistance acres treated are not yet included in the reported data. NFPORS can accommodate state reporting and some states are reporting but the results are inconsistent at this time.
Summary: How can reporting better reflect the following results?
- WFU, non-hazardous fuels project activities that advance on-the-ground hazardous fuels reduction goals, NFP SFA acres treated, and the degree to which these results reflect community protection goals.
Develop clear and consistent reporting protocols for WFU, other activities, HFI/HFRA, and report year to date accomplishments at the next WFLC meeting.
Leads: A. Fitzsimmons, Janet Anderson,
California Blue Ribbon Report (R. Snodgrass)
The California Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations have been presented to the Governor's resource management staffs. The Commission will present governor with specific tasks necessary to address the recommendations; Governor will assign these tasks to the appropriate state and local entities. The Governor will address every recommendation.
Fuels management, land management, zoning issues and construction are sensitive issues; the Commission is developing a strategy to collaborate with local, state and federal partners to address these issues.
The Commission has requested that WFLC address inconsistencies in the NFP, the Federal Wildland Fire Policy , the structure apportionment and Cost Apportionment processes.
Identify and present recommendations to WFLC for addressing those issues in the Commissions report that are most germane to the Council and its member agencies/organizations .
Leads: Larry Hamilton, Jerry Williams, Don Artley, Brad Powell, Scott Dalzell
Note: The Commission's Federal Recommendation #4 is currently being addressed by the FS and DOI.
LANDFIRE Update/Charter (S. Dalzell)
Charter language was adjusted to reflect two language changes suggested by NWCG regarding meeting NWCG project plan requirements.
LANDFIRE Charter was approved and signed with the two reviewed and amended language changes .
Strategic Panel on Fire Suppression Costs (A. Hyde for J. Caswell)
The panel's presentation previewed the major findings / key points of the review-to-date.
The panel will deliver the recommendations, along with their pros/cons and costs/savings to the WFLC at a special WFLC session in July, 2004, in Washington D.C.
The Strategic Panel on Fire Suppression Costs will complete their analysis/report to deliver to the WFLC no later than July, 31, 2004 . Findings will be shared with GAO and Congress to help inform FY 2006 appropriation preparations .
Leads: H. Croft.
Monitoring Framework (B. Powell)
Monitoring framework will be dealt with in segments, or modules.
Comments from the WFLC call were incorporated into the Monitoring Framework proposal.
The Monitoring Framework Modules were adopted with the understanding that the monitoring questions will be modified as needed.
There may be a need for Module 4, which would cover monitoring from a social science standpoint.
This module will incorporate comments received by WGA in response to their request for input on collaboration.
Module 1: Monitoring questions 1.1 through 1.7 were ratified by the Council with the understanding that the questions may be refined or modified as needed. Monitoring Question 1.8 was approved with the agreement that the agencies would work together to determine the best methods of developing the information related to condition classes and vegetative types.
Module 2: Monitoring Question 2.1 was approved and ratified with the caveat that there is a need to explore how to create greater consistency among existing federal agencies' vegetative type and burn severity reporting and analyses.
Module 3: Monitoring Questions 3.1 and 3.2 were approved and ratified. Subtext language of the questions will be refined based upon several sources, including from the USGS Fact Finding efforts regarding how the questions may be answered on the national level in a meaningful way.
WGA will take lead in proposing a fourth module that will reflect social science monitoring needs .
Leads: P. Orbuch, B. Powell
NASF & WGA will develop recommendations for the next WFLC meeting regarding expanding the monitoring framework to incorporate monitoring at the state level .
Leads: J. Hubbard, P. Orbuch, B. Powell.
Prepare a review for WFLC that looks at required monitoring items in the HFRA and the 10-Year Implementation Plan to determine how each of the items is being monitored .
Lead : B. Powell
National Wildfire Enterprise Architecture Steering Group/Charter (B. Mathias)
Questions arose regarding how the National Wildfire Enterprise Architecture will relate to the current BIA trust/IT security issues as well as other current WFLC member agencies' EA efforts.
The NWEA Charter was approved and signed with the direction that the Enterprise Architect effort must be made compatible with and will take into account specific BIA Trust agency and IT security challenges .
NTSB Report (T. Harbour)
The decision to terminate the contracts and ground the aircraft has drawn a high level of interest; the matter has been discussed at two Congressional hearings (Senate and House) and the Senate is scheduling a third hearing on June 16, 2004 to discuss the issue and plans for a reconfigured fleet.
Two other questions have arisen: whether there is a portion of the fleet that may be made airworthy for the 2004 season under the guidance of the FAA and whether or not the FAA should be responsible for oversight of all firefighting aircraft. The FAA is willing to work with the FS and the DOI in the short-term on these questions.
Challenges with bringing a portion of fleet back into service:
- Availability of adequate data regarding the status of the aircraft and the stress of the firefighting environment on the airframes.
- Availability of aircrafts' maintenance histories, which is required for FAA oversight.
The fleet will be reconfigured no later than the first week of June. M. Rey and L. Scarlett have sent a letter to the Western Governors and State Foresters regarding this reconfiguration.
The states are unsure as to the role that state aircraft will have in the 2004 fire season on federal lands.
Need to proactively address the airworthiness of other aircraft that might be used in the reconfigured fleet.
Develop and implement communication products available for fire public affairs personnel and others that will be asked to speak regarding the efficacy of firefighting efforts utilizing the reconfigured aircraft fleet.
Leads: Agency heads and fire directors.
Incorporation of partners in WFLC meetings (P. Orbuch)
Pursue means in which to incorporate meaningful stakeholder input / involvement in each WFLC session. Field trips seem to provide the best interaction but some sessions will require other forms of involvement.
Leads: B. Powell, C. Newman, S. Dalzell, P. Orbuch
Rural Fire Report to Congress (J. Hubbard)
Update on any continuing actions on the Rural Fire Report tasks at future WFLC meetings as needed .
Lead: J. Hubbard
Biomass Policy: Implementing Items from the Biomass Conference (R. Watson)
Moving forward with a Cooperative Agreement with the National Association of Conservation Districts, along with USDA Forest Service. The Coop Agreement will be for regional workshops and other communication tools on woody biomass utilization in support of National Fire Plan goals
DOI service contracts, as well as timber contracts, will include a provision for biomass utilization. The Forest Service does not see a need for a Federal Register Notice regarding a new policy at USDA, as their current policy addresses the use of biomass in contracts.
Smallwood Conference Overview (S. LeVan)
- The international conference addresses harvesting, utilization, economics, industry, etc. and is has a peer-to-peer learning focus.
- A range of interests is represented at the conference.
- Conference partners include local, state and federal agencies, industry & academia.
Biomass Field Trip (S. Dalzell)
- Defensible Fuel Profile Zone along a major highway, also meets wildlife habitat objectives (Bidwell DFPZ)
- Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest (2002 Cone Fire)
- Lassen Volcanic National Park (high fuel loads, forest health issues)
- Wheelabrator (largest woody biomass utilization electric plant)
- Western Shasta Conservation District (fuel breaks)
Future Meetings (M. Rey)
- The Chair of the WFLC was rotated from Lynn Scarlett, DOI to Mark Rey , USDA.
- The next WFLC meeting will be held in late July in Washington , D.C. to review the Strategic Panel on Fire Suppression Costs findings.
NEXT MEETING AGENDA ITEMS
State participation in the monitoring framework (P. Orbuch, J. Hubbard, B. Powell)
NEXT WFLC CALL
The next call will be held in June, at which time the date will be set for the Washington , D.C. meeting.