Local FAC Leaders Convene Second Peer-Learning Session in Albuquerque, NM
Author: Matt Piccarello, Forest Guild
A version of this post originally appeared in www.fireadaptednewmexico.org
On March 19, 2015 fire adapted communities (FAC) leaders and partners from northern and central New Mexico gathered in Albuquerque for a peer-learning workshop. This was the second such workshop, which focused on sharing best practices to address the risk of wildfire, primarily in the Rio Grande watershed. The Albuquerque Fire Department hosted the workshop at their training center on Albuquerque’s west side.
Thirty-seven participants representing 30 different organizations attended, including Firewise community members, firefighters, state and federal officials, non-profit groups and local businesses.
Building off the success of the first peer-learning workshop last October in Taos, and learning and adapting from that effort, the Albuquerque edition featured presentations to help set the stage for small group discussions. Eytan Krasilovsky, southwest region program director for the Forest Guild, kicked things off with an overview of the 2013 and 2014 fire seasons and an outlook for 2015. Maps showing how recent fires (prescribed as well as wild) fit together in the landscape, and highlighted the importance of leveraging treatments and taking advantage of favorable conditions to return fire to the landscape. Pam Wilson, the executive director of Firewise of Southwest Colorado shared examples of successful strategies for engaging residents and building collaborative partnerships.
Eliza Kretzman from NM State Forestry and developer of the After the Wildfire web-resource presented on what she has learned in the past year of having that resource live. Web analytics have shown it’s used nationally, and there is a distinct correlation between website users (more intensive use than a “hit”) and FACLN hubs.
The first small group session “mapping the New Mexico FACLN” identified stakeholders, what resources they have available, and what resources they need. This session was designed to more completely understand the number and diversity of partners working towards fire adapted communities in New Mexico. One important partner that was identified is the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which has funding available for counties to use for wildfire mitigation efforts and planning. In order to access these funds however, counties and other municipal organizations must have an emergency management plan in place, which was identified as a resource need for county governments.
The second small group session focused on strategies for engaging residents in FAC. In the wildland-urban interface, defensible space is a shared responsibility because wildfire can easily travel from one yard to the next. A common question among FAC practitioners in New Mexico and elsewhere is “how can I encourage reluctant landowners to buy-in to FAC concepts” primarily in terms of creating defensible space. A recurrent theme carried over from the Taos workshop is to use a broad approach when talking about wildfire preparedness. For example, share the benefits of forest restoration in terms of wildlife and watershed benefits as well as reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Every community is unique and may respond differently to various benefits of forest restoration and defensible space. A diverse approach is also helpful for combatting a sense of “burnout” that communities may feel from a too heavy-handed approach to wildfire preparedness.
The final small group session “building adaptive capacity” sought to encourage proactive planning for responding to wildfire before, during and after wildfires. Adaptive capacity creates a “safe operating space” for dealing with disturbances such as wildfires. Participants worked together to identify challenges and tools and solutions for each phase of preparedness. The table below provides an example of some of the responses participants came up with.
New Mexico FAC practitioners will continue to identify opportunities for new projects and actionable next steps from both the Taos and Albuquerque peer-learning workshops Resources from the workshop, including notes and presentations, are available at fireadaptednewmexico.org. Thank you to everyone who participated to make the peer-learning workshops a success!