|May 24, 2006|
Contact: Steven Hall
BLM Wyoming to implement Wildland Fire Use program
The old adage where there’s smoke, there’s fire may also mean healthier range and forest lands. Wildland fire, properly managed, plays a critical role in maintaining the health of native vegetation and wildlife habitat in the West.
In 2006, the BLM of Wyoming has the option of implementing Wildland Fire Use (WFU) on approximately 1.5 million acres to manage naturally caused fires in order to have fire benefit resources through playing its natural role in the ecosystem. The implementation of this policy in Wyoming will allow fire to more closely resemble fire’s historical role in the ecosystem.
“Wildland Fire Use fires are actively managed for resource benefits, which include the restoration and maintenance of healthy forests, rangelands and wetlands, and supporting ecosystem diversity,” said Bob Means, BLM Wyoming assistant fire management officer. He added, “An important part of this management is to protect the values at risk from the fire, such as range improvements, structures and critical wildlife habitat.”
Current areas in Wyoming with WFU plans are in the Rock Springs, Kemmerer and Rawlins Field office areas. The Rock Springs and Kemmerer Field offices have approximately 415,000 acres, the Rawlins Field Office has 583,000 acres in the Great Divide area and 479,000 acres in the Kinney Rim/Adobe Town area. BLM Wyoming fire officials are currently working closely with Wyoming state officials and private land owners for agreements on how to handle wildland fires when they occur in the designated WFU areas but are on state or private land.
“The new response plan option to manage naturally-ignited fires reduces risks to firefighters, reduces expenses, and allows fire to play a natural role in the ecosystem,” said John Glenn, BLM Wyoming fire management officer. WFU will be decided on a case-by-case basis in accordance with fire management plans and land use management plans in the BLM-administered areas.
Most WFU fires are not large, with the majority at 10 acres or less. In areas with active WFU programs, most of the fires are still suppressed because they are not in the right place at the right time.
“Wildland fire use is a direct component of wildland fire management and is equal to wildfire suppression, which constitutes an emergency action. It receives consideration, management attention and management policies equal to wildfire suppression,” Means said.
WFU will occur only in areas where it is part of the land use policy and will benefit resources. Suppression of wildland fires is also part of the WFU plan, but the risk to firefighters is reduced, especially during the initial stages of the fire.