DENVER – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today announced above average fire activity projections for the upcoming 2015 wildfire season. To view the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) forecast, visit this website.
Joined by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the three highlighted the growing threat of catastrophic wildfires in drought-stricken areas of the West this year and called for reforms in the way the federal government funds wildfire suppression efforts. Additionally, Secretary Jewell announced a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the veteran-based organization Team Rubicon to provide training to assist in wildland firefighting efforts this season.
“Climate change, drought, fuel buildup, insects and disease are increasing the severity of catastrophic wildfire in America's forests,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Together we are working to ensure that we have the workforce, equipment, and interagency coordination necessary to respond safely and effectively to increasingly severe wildfire seasons. This year the Forest Service will be able to mobilize 10,000 firefighters and 21 next generation and legacy air tankers, along with additional aviation assets that play a crucial role in stopping the spread of wildfires.” Vilsack said the Forest Service (a USDA agency), Interior and other partners continue to suppress approximately 98 percent of fires on initial attack.
“Partnerships and collaborative planning to respond to wildfire are the foundation for effective firefighting,” said Secretary Jewell. “As we approach what could be a tough fire season across the West, we’re doing all we can to ensure that communities are stepping up to be fire-wise and that we have the resources in place to mobilize quickly when fires start.”
The Department of the Interior recently released a strategy to address the increasing threat of wildfires that damage vital sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands in the West, especially in the Great Basin states of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. The report, An Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy: Final Report to the Secretary of the Interior, May 2015, outlines a comprehensive, science-based approach for addressing the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species that exacerbate the threat of fire and recommends increased training for rural firefighters and local volunteers as well as positioning fire management resources for more effective rangeland fire response. The report also focuses on the need to aggressively restore fire-impacted landscapes using native seed and local vegetation.
See more here: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/agriculture-secretary-vilsack-and-interior-secretary-jewell-outline-wildfire-threat-during-upcoming-fire-season.cfm
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