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July 26, 2006
In Reply Refer To:
1610 (WO-210)/9210 (FA-620) P
Instruction Memorandum 2006-204
Expires: 09/30/2006
To:                   All Field Officials
From:               Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject:           Consideration of Large Fire Suppression Costs at All Planning Levels
Program Areas: All program areas with the potential for affecting wildland fire suppression costs, including Fire, Planning, Forestry, Range, Wildlife, Realty, Recreation, Solid Minerals and Fluid Minerals.
Purpose: The purpose of this instruction memorandum (IM) is to ensure that anticipated large fire suppression costs are considered on a relative basis across alternatives in conjunction with land/resource management plans, fire management plans and project-level plans that contain actions that affect such costs.
Policy/Action: Direction on fire suppression costs has been given in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1), Appendix C. It states, “Fire management strategies must result in minimum suppression costs, considering firefighter and public safety, benefits, and values to be protected; consistent with resource objectives”. Direction was also given from the Department of the Interior in a memorandum dated September 1, 2005 (see Background for more details). 
In addition to this current direction, the following should be considered if planning efforts identify actions that will lead to increased suppression costs:
  • The anticipated, relative wildland fire suppression costs for all alternatives proposed should be evaluated.  A relative comparison of wildland fire suppression costs per alternative does not require calculation of exact monetary figures. Instead the purpose is to determine how one alternative compares with another in general terms. The intent is to determine how the actions in one alternative may lead to increased suppression costs versus the actions of another alternative. For instance, do certain levels or types of treatments and/or management decisions in one alternative lead to potentially higher suppression costs than a different suite of treatments and/or management decisions proposed in a different alternative?
  • Not all planning action should necessitate analysis of large fire suppression costs since not all lands managed by BLM have potential for large fire events. Examples of actions that may increase large fire suppression costs include:
    • Establishment of vegetation management objectives or treatments that leave land and/or resources at greater risk of damage from wildfire and therefore increase fire size/suppression costs,
    • Unnecessary restrictions on the application of wildland fire use,
    • Restrictions on suppression activities to meet other resource objectives,
    • Actions which promote the expansion of invasive plants that alter fire regimes, or
    • Actions that may limit suppression access, such as road decommissioning to meet other resource objectives.
This direction is required pending its incorporation into manuals and handbooks such as the Land Use Planning Handbook and Fire Management Planning Handbook or other program-level handbooks being developed, such as the Integrated Vegetation Management Handbook.
Time Frame: Field offices should incorporate wildland fire cost management consideration that will affect fire suppression costs into land use plans and activity or project level plans that start after July 30, 2006. 
Background: In 2004, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) chartered the Strategic Issues Panel on Fire Suppression Costs in response to concerns by Congress, agencies and the public that fire suppression costs have escalated to an unreasonable level. Their report, Large Fire Suppression Costs, Strategies for Cost Management, found at http://www.fireplan.gov/resources/2004.html, provided several recommendations that WFLC agreed to implement. The focus of this IM is the recommendations to set policy and direction on agency land/resource management planning to incorporate cost management on large wildfires and to incorporate cost management considerations at the project level.
According to the panel recommendations, land use/resource management planning should provide a transparent, broad foundation that guides appropriate management responses to large fires, with suppression costs considered in the decision making. The overall goal is the establishment of an effective linkage between land/resource management planning, fire management planning, project planning and preparation of Wildland Fire Situation Analysis (WFSA) for alternative management responses to large fires. This IM is the first step in implementing these recommendations.
Treating vegetation to improve resource conditions is an interdisciplinary issue that affects all program areas. This interdisciplinary approach can accomplish the needs of non-fire programs and more effectively address and incorporate the goals of the fire management program. This approach focuses all programs on taking action and restoring vegetation to a condition that reduces the occurrence of uncharacteristic wildland fire, damage and catastrophic suppression and rehabilitation costs.
Budget Impact: There will be a slight increase in the amount of time required to conduct land use and project-level planning activities.
Manual/Handbooks Affected: None at this time. As the Land Use Planning and Fire Management Planning Handbooks are updated, this guidance will be incorporated.
Coordination:  This IM was coordinated between the Office of Fire and Aviation and the Washington Office Renewable Resources and Planning Staffs.
Contact: Any questions can be directed to Linda Mazzu, Fire Planning Specialist, Office of Fire and Aviation at 208-387-5168 or Chuck Otto, Deputy Division Chief, Planning and Science Policy at 202-785-6592. 
Signed by:                                                                   
Authenticated by:
Carolyn McClellan                                                       
Robert M. Williams
Acting, Deputy Assistant Director                                
Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

Last updated: 10-21-2009