Trump Administration reduces wildfire risk by record 5.4 million acres
Bureau of Land Management exceeds presidential goal, removes hazardous fuels on more than 782,000 acres in FY 2020
The Department of the Interior announced today that it has once again made substantial progress to reduce the risk of wildfire nationwide, treating 5.4 million acres of land since 2017 and a ten-year best, 1.5 million acres in Fiscal Year 2020. Under the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) significantly reduced hazardous fuel loads in fire-prone areas by treating more than 782,000 acres using a variety of active management vegetation treatments including mechanical, biological, and chemical tools as well as prescribed fire.
“President Trump set aggressive targets to more effectively and actively manage our rangelands and forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires. He took bold action on this issue, which had been missing in previous administrations,” said Secretary David L. Bernhardt. “Answering the call in hitting our significant milestones were our top-class wildland firefighter crews, who have been on the front lines working around the clock to conduct these preventative treatments and extinguish destructive blazes throughout the West this year. They deserve our unending appreciation.”
“President Trump has elevated the importance of fuels treatments to the national stage in a way no previous President has done before. The Department of the Interior has in turn taken this direction and led the way in treating its lands to reduce wildfire risk and protect lives, communities, and natural resources,” said Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
“Combating wildfire remains a high priority of the Trump Administration, the Department of the Interior, and the BLM. We are proud of our aggressive work to protect communities and public lands across the west this year, and we will continue to focus on these efforts. Every acre treated reduces future wildfire risk and contributes to this Administration’s goal of making our country safer and more resistant to wildfire,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs.
These efforts 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 BLM’s work aids the Department in exceeding the targets as established by Executive Order 13855, which sought treatment from all of the DOI’s agencies.
Over the last four years, the BLM has accomplished significant fuels management goals. In fiscal year 2017, the BLM fuels program accomplished more than 650,000 acres of fuels treatments; 480,000 of those treatment acres focused on the protection, conservation and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems. In fiscal year 2018, the BLM accomplished 667,000 acres of fuels treatment (53 percent) of the total 1,266,000 acres accomplished by all DOI Bureaus. In fiscal year 2019, the BLM accomplished more than 846,000 acres of fuels treatment (62 percent) of the total 1.3 million acres accomplished by all DOI Bureaus. The BLM is also moving forward with the historic Great Basin Fuel Breaks project, which when completed will encompass a system of up to 11,000 miles of strategically placed fuel breaks to control wildfires within a 223 million acre area that includes portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.
In addition, some BLM offices reached historic levels for fuels treatments this fiscal year. For example, the BLM-Wyoming had originally estimated treating 78,346 acres but ultimately completed 93,148 acres of treatments – a record-setting total upwards of 119 percent above the original target. BLM-Alaska treated more than 69,500 acres this year – another record representing 153 percent more than the previous fiscal year 2019. BLM-Nevada treated more than 159,000 acres this year – a 118 percent increase over its 134,200-acre treatments in 2019.
In serving local communities, the BLM Fire and Aviation Community Assistance program provided over $4 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 transferred 35 wildland fire engines to local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations. One engine presented last fall to De Beque, Colorado helped save three homes in nearby Palisades in August 2020. The BLM also invested $1 million to provide wildland fire training, establish and maintain wildland firefighting partnerships, and build relationships with local wildland fire cooperators who often work alongside federal wildland firefighters during wildland fire suppression efforts.
To improve firefighter safety and increase operational efficiency, the BLM installed over 700 Location Based Services units on its wildland fire equipment. The GPS-based units will ensure tracking of BLM fire suppression resources and meet fire suppression resource tracking provisions, as directed in Secretary’s Order 3374, Implementation of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019.
“The fire activity this year proves that we must continue to reduce wildfire risk throughout the country while keeping our firefighters safe. The BLM’s fuels treatment records and wildfire risk reduction efforts convey our commitment to reduce wildfire risk to communities and precious natural resources.” said Grant Beebe, BLM Assistant Director, Fire and Aviation.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.