U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell testified before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding the agency’s 2011 wildfire capabilities. Tidwell testified that the Forest Service — along with state, local and tribal partners — is prepared for the 2011 wildland fire season and is staffed to provide appropriate, risk-informed and effective fire management consistent with the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
During the testimony, Tidwell told senators that the agency is meeting the wildfire management strategy’s first component regarding the restoration of landscapes to help promote ecosystem health and resiliency. He said in 2010, the Forest Service treated more than 2 million acres for hazardous fuels reduction, within the majority in the nation’s wildland-urban interface. This fiscal year, the agency already has treated more than 900,000 acres.
“By managing vegetation and restoring natural function and the resiliency of the land, we can positively influence fire behavior and minimize the negative impacts of fire,” Tidwell said.
The agency also collaborated with non-governmental organizations, as well as federal, state, local and tribal governments to strengthen fire-adapted human communities, as stated in the second component of the management strategy. Tidwell said the Forest Service has partnered with the International Association of Fire Chiefs on a forum to prioritize mitigation needs for private-sector partners, continued support for the Fire-Adapted Communities Project, and support of Ready, Set, Go! and Firewise projects.
“With our state, local and NGO partners, we are reaching out to increase the 600 Firewise communities that we have today to more than 1,000 communities by 2013,” he testified. “By combining Firewise with the Ready, Set, Go! principles, we are working together to make communities in fire-prone areas more resilient to catastrophic loss.”
In preparing for the 2011 fire season, Tidwell said they have plans set in place in partnership with tribes and states to ensure adequate firefighting resources are prepared and positioned. Specifically, Tidwell mentioned the National Interagency Coordination Center, located at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, that oversees coordinated wildland firefighting responses throughout the nation.
“When fire resources in one geographic area are in short supply, the NWCG helps to prioritize, allocate, and, if necessary, re-allocate the resources,” he said. “Prioritization ensures firefighting forces are positioned where they are needed most.”
Read the full testimony.