BLM Sets Record in Reducing Risk of Western Wildfires
WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today substantial progress by the BLM’s Fire and Aviation Program in reducing the risk of wildfire across western landscapes in fiscal year 2019. This includes significant work in reducing fuel loads in fire-prone areas, providing resources to local communities, and improving firefighter safety and efficiency.
“A priority for the Department of the Interior is decreasing wildfire risks, and we are committed to managing fire in the most effective and efficient ways possible,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Casey Hammond. “The BLM’s Fire and Aviation Program does so much to protect our communities, wildlife habitat, natural landscapes and recreational areas. The progress our leaders in wildland fire management have made in such a short period of time is impressive.”
“Combating wildfire remains a high priority of the BLM, and we are proud of what we’ve done in the last year to protect communities and public lands across the west,” said BLM’s Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “However, as the threat of wildfire never fully subsides, we don’t intend to let up and will keep building on these efforts in the year ahead.”
The proposed treatments are part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order 13855 – Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order 3372 – Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management.
The two orders direct Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Agriculture agencies to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.
The BLM Fuels Management program accomplished a record-breaking 846,000 acres of fuels treatments in FY 2019, using a variety of active management vegetation treatments including mechanical, biological, and chemical tools as well as prescribed fire. This total exceeds the targets as established by Executive Order 13855, which sought 600,000 total acres of treatment from all of the DOI’s agencies.
In serving local communities, the BLM Fire and Aviation Community Assistance program provided over $9.6 million to communities at risk near BLM-managed public land for on-the-ground treatments, education and planning efforts to reduce wildfire risk. In addition, through the Rural Fire Readiness program, the BLM is working to transfer 35 wildland fire engines to local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations. As of mid November, 32 of those transfers have taken place, with the remaining transfers expected to occur late this year or early in 2020.
To improve firefighter safety and increase operational efficiency, the BLM installed 240 Location Based Services units on wildland fire equipment in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Eastern States, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The GPS-based units will ensure tracking of BLM fire suppression resources and meet fire suppression resource tracking provisions, as directed in Secretarial Order 3374, Implementation of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019. Units will be placed on an additional 240 fire engines and other tactical vehicles in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington this fall, with a goal of 705 installations to be completed by the end of FY 2020.
In FY 2019, BLM also converted two of its eight veteran hand crews to Type 1 interagency hotshot crews: the Lakeview Veterans Interagency Hotshot Crew from Oregon and Aravaipa Interagency Hotshot Crew from Arizona. The crews achieved this certification through qualifications to become recognized as some of the most highly trained and experienced hand crews; they will continue to meet stringent requirements to maintain certification.
To provide improved aviation support for wildland firefighting operations across the country, Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) contracts were revised this year, with a total of 93 aircraft being awarded SEAT contracts on an on-call basis. BLM Fire and Aviation also conducted nine Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) training courses, which provided training for more than 100 UAS pilots and increased the Bureau’s UAS pilot number to more than 200.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.