Forest Service resumes prescribed fire program, but some fear new rules will delay projects
The U.S. Forest Service announced last month that, for the first time in seven years, it will implement a new management plan for prescribed fire that will allow for more targeted fire in national forests and grasslands. Forest Service acting Chief Mike Reynolds says the change is in response to changes in how wildfire impacts communities, wildlife, and recreation.
Reynolds says the new plan will allow the agency to target large areas of land that are typically burned on a more regular basis and also allow prescribed fire on some smaller, stand of timber for the first time.
Reynolds says the agency is still taking comments and suggestions on the new management plan. He says the agency is also revising a new “fire rule,” which will allow crews to burn more than they did in the past.
“We really want to get back to what actually works in the field in managing fire,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds says while there have been changes to the fire rules since the beginning of the administration, it’s not uncommon to find one more change during a new administration.
The new plan has several new requirements: the first, most important of which is to give the fire command staff the flexibility to adjust to changing conditions as they arise. The agency says the new plan will allow the agency to give more consideration to fire management issues on a national level.
Reynolds says the new management plan will be implemented for the next calendar year. He says the agency would like it to be in place by the time the new administration is sworn in, but that the new administration could make changes after the plan is fully implemented.
Reynolds says the new plan will change how the agency uses prescribed fire. He says in the past it was all about the number of acres burned. Now, he says, the focus will be on management of the specific location of the fire, not the amount of land burned. He says the amount of land burned by a fire is only part of it.
He says the fire staff will be better able to assess how the areas they are managing will affect the landscape and wildlife. Reynolds says the agency wants