In 2009, I had the opportunity to be involved in an effort known as the Quadrennial Fire Review. Here is an excerpt from the final report explaining what the effort is about.
The Quadrennial Fire Review (QFR) is a strategic assessment process that is conducted every four years to evaluate current mission strategies and capabilities against best estimates of the future environment for fire management. This integrated review is a joint effort of the five federal natural resource management agencies and their state, local, and tribal partners that constitute the wildland fire community. The objective is to create an integrated strategic vision document for fire management.
The document provides a solid foundation for policy discussions within the federal agencies and, importantly, among the federal agencies and state, local, tribal, and other partners. While the QFR is not a formal policy or decision document, it sets the stage for a “strategic conversation” about future direction and change in fire management.
Several assumptions underlie the document’s analysis and conclusions:
The effects of climate change will continue to result in greater probability of longer and bigger fire seasons, in more regions in the nation.
Cumulative drought effects will further stress fuels accumulations.
There will be continued wildfire risk in the Wildland Urban Interface despite greater public awareness and broader involvement of communities.
Emergency response demands will escalate.
A lot of discussion in the document is devoted to “appropriate management response” sometimes miscategorized by the public as “let burn.”
The first QFR core strategy outlines a course forward that moves beyond appropriate management response to strategic management response that creates a framework for a multi-phased approach for incident management. Elements within strategic management response will include ensuring proactive wildland fire decisions with greater transparency and accountability, recalibrating fire planning, and establishing more robust fire outcome metrics.
Appropriate management response is often referred to as common sense fire management, but what may seem like common sense to one set of decision makers can easily run afoul of other stakeholders and decision makers with different missions, competing objectives, and conflicting perspectives on situation information. Moving to strategic management response is designed to ensure a higher level of transparency, accountability, and support for specific fire decisions and to better display the costs and benefits of suppression strategies. This approach would weigh factors such as suppression costs and value of resources lost against the value of ecosystems restored and improved and infrastructure protected.
Is there evidence that the Forest Service has embraced the concept of strategic management response?
What kind of public involvement/collaboration will be needed to implement such an approach?
Can those who have opposed appropriate management response find something to like in strategic management response?
Does the the new planning rule provide appropriate guidance regarding the relationship of forest plans to fire suppression strategies?
Colorado: Beetle-kill a catalyst for dramatic forest changes
Posted on March 15, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
Subalpine fir will replace lodgepole pines as the dominant species in many areas affected by mountain pine beetles. Lodgepoles dominating regrowth in harvested beetle-kill stands; subalpine fir replacing lodgepole in untreated areas
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the first solid studies on forest regeneration in beetle-stricken areas shows that there will be a dramatic change in the forest landscape. Subalpine fir will come to dominate huge areas previously covered by lodgepole pines, with as-yet uncertain consequences for the forest ecosystems.
Pine and aspen recruits are three times more abundant in harvested stands, while subalpine fir dominated in uncut stands. Based on their field measurements, Forest Service researchers said lodgepoles will once again become the dominant species in treated areas, with a more diverse mix of trees where there has been no logging.
Forest structure, including tree density, is projected to return to pre-outbreak levels in 80 to 120 years in both treated and untreated areas, with aspen becoming a significant part of the overstory for the next 50 years, before conifers once again dominate the canopy.
“It’s a system re-set,” said Forest Service researcher Chuck Rhoades, who worked in the field at the epicenter of the pine beetle epidemic around Gore Pass and in the forests near Walden and Granby to try and understand how the forests will heal. “There’s a lot of stuff going on underneath,” he said, explaining that additional studies will help pinpoint how different types of treatments may affect what comes next.
The four-page paper, “Signs of Recovery for Colorado Forests in the Wake of the Mountain Pine Beetle,” was published by Colorado State University’s Forest Restoration Institute, which partnered with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station to do the research.
Rhoades said regrowth is strongest in areas where there were already some young trees sprouting beneath the lodgepole canopy. Some of the areas where subalpine fir are set supplant lodgepoles as the primary species will be quite different from the monoculture that has dominated the forest landscape for decades.
The firs are not susceptible to mountain pine beetles, but they can be killed easily by other insects and diseases. Rhoades said he would expect to see “more clumpiness,” with patches of different-aged trees rather than the common dog-hair stands of lodgepole.
From the report:
“The species (subalpine fir) is relatively short-lived and is susceptible to a number of insects and diseases, so it unlikely to form dense, evenpage stands, in spite of the high density of fir seedlings and saplings we measured. It is, however, reasonable to expect a shift from the uniform age and size conditions common in lodgepole pine-dominated forests to stands with more fir and greater size, age and overstory species diversity.”
But areas where the lodgepole was so thick that it prevented other species from taking hold — which includes big parts of the forests in Summit County — are more worrisome, he said. So far, there’s been little sign of new growth in those stands, whether they’ve been treated or not. Lodgepole may re-establish itself as the dominant species in those areas, but it may take a little longer.
The biggest change will be in the huge swaths of unharvested dead lodgepole stands, covering about 85 percent of the area affected by mountain pine beetles. Based on the field research subalpine fir will replace lodgepole pines as the dominant species in those areas, Rhoades said.
That holds true especially for the upper-elevation areas of the subalpine zone, where spruce and fir already had a foothold, said the Wilderness Society’s Grep Aplet.
“The real challenge is the lower elevation areas of Summit and Grand counties,” Aplet said. “Where mortality was less severe, the forests will recover quickly. In areas where it was most severe, the future is a little more uncertain,” he said.
There was no difference in seedling density colonizing clear cuts in live or in beetle-infested stands. But in harvested areas, lodgepole pines will once again become the dominant overstory species and grow back into stands similar to those that were attacked by pine beetles.
From the report:
“The implications of greater abundance of subalpine fir on High Country forests and communities remains uncertain. These findings represent the first stage in development of new forests following the beetle outbreak during a period of dramatic change that will have consequences for Colorado ecosystems and economies for many decades to come.”
All those on this blog share a deep and abiding love for this Earth and its creatures.
Today, let us hold those folks working at the power plant in Japan in our thoughts and/or prayers.
That they may have courage and strength,
That they may be creative,
That they may be inspired,
That they may find what they need,
That their work may be successful in protecting them, all people and other beings.