UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
http://www.blm.gov
 
July 21, 2008
 
In Reply Refer to:
9211 (WO-400/FA-600) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 07/30/2008
Instruction Memorandum No. 2008-160
Expires: 09/30/2009
 
To:                   Assistant Directors, State Directors, and Center Directors
 
From:               Director
 
Subject:           2008 Pilot Areas to Test Proposed Modifications to the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2003)
 
Purpose:   The purpose of this instruction memorandum (IM) is to transmit authorization for identified offices to test the implementation of modifications to the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2003) and to inform the remaining states of the pilot project.
 
Policy/Action:  The Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) approved proposed modifications to the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2003) on March 24, 2008. The proposed modifications will be tested in a limited number of field units this summer. The results will be evaluated and alternatives for revision of Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy will be presented to WFLC for consideration and potential issuance in November of 2008.
 
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) units listed below are authorized to implement the policy changes described below in a “trial” starting from the date of this letter (see below authorized change for Item 3 for Wildland Fire Decision Support System [WFDSS] information). 
 
The existing Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy will continue to be applied this calendar year to units not selected to test the proposed modifications. Experience gained with the proposed Implementation Guide modifications will be used to draft effective guidance for national application in 2009.
 
Fire and Aviation Operations (FA-300) and Fire Planning and Fuels Management (FA-600) have worked with state fire management officers and interagency wildland fire management partners to select areas where the modifications can be tested this summer. The specific areas selected are described by geographic area and listed below:
 
Northwest
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region 6: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
 
Northern Rockies
USDA Forest Service, Northern Rockies Region 1: Bitterroot National Forest and Lolo National Forest
Department of Interior (DOI), National Park Service, Intermountain Region: Yellowstone National Park
DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northwest Region: Flathead Agency
 
Northern California
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region 5: Klamath National Forest
 
Southern California
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region 5: Sequoia National Forest
DOI National Park Service, Pacific West Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (WFDSS prototype)
 
Eastern Great Basin
USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Region 4: Payette National Forest (WFDSS prototype)
DOI National Park Service, Intermountain Region: Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway
 
Rocky Mountain
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region 2: Upper Colorado River Fire Management Zone (includes White River National Forest and Grand Valley Ranger District of the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forest [WFDSS prototype])
DOI Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Office: Grand Junction Field Office and Glenwood Springs Field Office (WFDSS prototype), Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit (Craig)
DOI United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Mountain-Prairie Region: Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge
DOI National Park Service, Intermountain Region: Colorado National Monument and Dinosaur National Monument (WFDSS prototype)
 
Southwest
USDA Forest Service, Southwest Region 3: Gila National Forest (WFDSS prototype), and Kaibab National Forest
DOI National Park Service, Intermountain Region: Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park
 
Southern
DOI National Park Service, Southeastern Region: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
 
Alaska
DOI Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service and Fairbanks District Office: Tanana Fire Management Zone (WFDSS prototype)
DOI US Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Regional Office: Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, and Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge
DOI National Park Service, Alaska Region: Denali National Park
DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs, Alaska Region, Tanana Chiefs Conference and Tozitna Corporation are included for native allotment land - not corporation land[1]
State of Alaska
 
Specific changes to the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2003) which are authorized for these areas are:
 
1.  Wildland fires can be managed for one or more objective(s) based on the Land/Resource Management Plan direction.
 
2. When two or more wildland fires burn together they will be handled as a single wildland fire and may be managed for one or more objectives based on the Land/Resource Management Plan direction as an event moves across the landscape and fuels and weather conditions change.
 
3.  Every wildland fire will be assessed using a decision support process that examines the full range of responses. The system currently being developed and prototyped is known as WFDSS.
 
The following “test areas” are authorized to use WFDSS in lieu of a Wildland Fire Situation Analysis (WFSA) or a Wildland Fire Implementation Plan (WFIP) when WFDSS becomes available:
  • Upper Colorado River Fire Management Zone: Grand Junction Field Office and Glenwood Springs Field Office
  • Alaska Fire Service and Fairbanks District Office; Tanana Fire Management Zone
The initial deployment of WFDSS may not include necessary components to complete all functions currently provided by the WFSA, WFIP, and/or Long Term Implementation Plans (LTIP). During this phase of testing, authorized units will implement the WFDSS portions available and complete the remaining functions through the use of a supplemental hard copy process. If WFDSS is unavailable (prior to deployment or due to technical problems later on) a WFSA or the appropriate stage of the WFIP will be completed to plan, document decisions and guide implementation actions on a given fire.
 
4.  Once a prescribed fire is no longer meeting resource management objectives stated specifically in the prescribed fire plan or project level National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation, and is declared a wildfire, it receives the same reassessment and selection of response objectives as any other wildfire event, given the location, current conditions (fuels, weather, etc.), and identified management considerations.
 
The test of these elements is being conducted to determine policy and operational issues associated with the identified modifications of existing guidance. Fire and Aviation will work closely with the states and selected units to monitor and evaluate results.
 
All other elements of wildland fire management policy remain in effect for these test areas. 
 
Energetic and proactive engagement with the public and our local partners is a key element of the test. Our partners’ questions, concerns, and insights will contribute to development of effective wildland fire policy. The highest level of communications with our local and national partners will be necessary to successfully implement this test of modifications to Federal Wildland Fire Policy implementation strategy. It is essential that BLM fire management cooperates with our interagency partners to communicate with local and state air quality regulators on how to manage air quality issues as a result of this implementation.
 
Timeframe:   This IM is effective upon receipt and will continue through the life of the pilot project.

Budget Impact:  No significant impacts to the budget are expected. The management of wildland fire is funded under sub activity 2821 (suppression) and does not affect programmed funds.

Background: In November 2006, the USDA Office of the Inspector General found that the Forest Service could strengthen the cost-effectiveness of its fire fighting without sacrificing safety by increasing wildland fire use to reduce forest vegetation and underbrush that might fuel future fires. Current policies put in place by the Bureau Directors and the Forest Service Chief in 2003 may unnecessarily restrict the application of wildland fire use and the full spectrum of suppression response commensurate with risk, values to be protected, and land management objectives.

On March 24, 2008, WFLC agreed to modify the guidance for the Interagency Strategy for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2003), contingent upon favorable counsel review. The proposed modifications or “revised direction” will be tested in a limited number of field units this summer and then incorporated in revised Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy that will be issued November 2008. The existing Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy will continue to be applied this calendar year (2008) to units not selected to test the proposed modifications. Experience gained with the proposed Implementation Guide modifications will be used to draft effective guidance for national application in 2009.

A task group has been assigned by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) to develop recommendations and timeframes for a phased modification of the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy(2003). These recommendations are broken down into the following three phases:

Implementation Strategy:

Phase 1: (Time frame: June – November, 2008)

Implement training and communication for prototype areas to meet adaptive learning needs for adjusting and clarifying interim guidance for use this summer. Finalize guidance and issue Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy by November 2008.

Phase 2: (Time frame: 5 months after Phase 1 completion)

Consider and potentially adopt a modification to federal wildland fire policy which differentiates the planned or unplanned nature of the fire event and results in only two types of fire: wildfire and prescribed fire. Develop and implement a training and communication strategy. Begin examination of feasibility of allowing unauthorized human ignitions to achieve resource objectives.

Phase 3: (Time frame: 12-18 months after Phase 2 completion)

Implement the findings of the human-caused ignitions feasibility study.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  No immediate effect on Manual/Handbook; depending on the outcome of the pilot project, the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations may be affected in the coming year.
 
Coordination: The BLM Fire and Aviation Program has effectively coordinated with the     U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Association of State Foresters, Office of Wildland Fire Coordination, and
WO-200.
 
Contact:  Please direct your questions to David Mueller, Fuels Management Specialist,
208-387-5151; or Roy Johnson, (Acting) Chief, Division of Fire Planning and Fuels Management, 208-387-5163.
 
 
Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
James Caswell                                                             Robert M. Williams
Director                                                                       Division of IRM Governance,WO-560


[1]There are also 2 Regional Native Corporations and 9 Village Native Corporations (total land area larger than any of the federal partners). These are the entities that are the most misunderstood in terms of our roles and responsibilities. They are NOT Indian Trust lands and are in essence private land, which under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act are to, "...receive wildland fire protection services from the United States at no cost."   This is important to understand and speaks to the distinctive role of the Alaska Fire Service.