Wildfire presents a mix of challenges and opportunities for land management agencies in the United States. Many North American ecosystems evolved with fire as a natural part of their long-term ecological dynamics, and fire often plays a necessary role in regenerating vegetation and cycling nutrients. But wildfire also is a significant threat to life and property and is becoming increasingly destructive due to a mix of factors including climate change, expansion of developed areas, and a century of land management policies that attempted to exclude wildfire. The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, initiated in 2009, created a vision for how to meet these challenges of wildfire management. The Cohesive Strategy emphasized three primary goals: 1) restore and maintain resilient landscapes, 2) create fire adapted communities, and 3) promote safe and effective wildfire response.
In this presentation, I will discuss how wildfire research in the U.S. Forest Service is helping to address these goals. I will give some background about the U.S. Forest Service, and research programs at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab, where I have been a geospatial analyst for the past 15 years. I will discuss the critical importance of spatial data in helping us to better understand the potential for wildfire in different landscapes and under different scenarios. These data include weather, climate, topography, and vegetation datasets we use as inputs; and wildfire likelihood, intensity, hazard, and risk datasets we produce as outputs from wildfire modeling. Ultimately, all these datasets serve to inform strategic and tactical wildfire management decisions, moving federal, state, and local agencies closer to achieving the goals of the Cohesive Strategy.
Invited by Stephanie Thomas, Biogeography
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