PERFACT – More than a Creative Acronym; A Project Advancing Integrated Fire Management
Authors: Nick Goulette
PERFACT stands for “Promoting Ecosystem Resilience and Fire Adapted Communities Together.” While it’s a long and perhaps obscure acronym, the partnership’s components will be familiar to many in the fire world. The Fire Learning Network (FLN), the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net), the Indigenous Peoples Burning Network and Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) are all housed under a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the USDA Forest Service and agencies of the Department of Interior. This partnership has had many different forms and names, the most current being a five-year agreement, PERFACT. The agreement supports advancing and networking dozens of community and landscape collaborations to overcome our national challenges related to living with wildland fire, as did its predecessors.
As a core PERFACT partner (through my work with The Watershed Research and Training Center and FAC Net), I had the privilege of joining the team in Salt Lake City last week for strategic planning, where we strategized on how to integrate the agreement’s various networks and initiatives. We’re always striving to be more efficient and effective in leveraging our work. At this meeting, the conversations tended toward not just how to optimize our PERFACT work, but to the state of fire management integration more generally.
The concept of “integrated fire management” was introduced to me when I joined the FLN in 2006 and read Ron Myers’ 2006 treatise, “Living with Fire – Sustaining Ecosystems and Livelihoods through Integrated Fire Management.” The concepts in that paper struck a chord with me, and they have always been at the center of TNC’s cooperative approach. As the PERFACT team has helped implement the goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Cohesive Strategy), the principles of integrated fire management have drawn us to break down the long-standing silos of fire response, fire adapted communities and resilient landscapes. We have sought out and optimized synergies in planning processes, funding, workforces, and developed implementation strategies related to all three of those areas.
Here are some examples of exciting integrated fire management strategies that we discussed in Salt Lake that we’ll be looking to advance with our PERFACT team and partners in the year ahead.
Collaborative Spatial Fire Management Planning
Federal land management agencies are using qualitative risk assessment data and fire-risk modeling to develop spatially explicit tools for managing natural ignitions for resource benefits. The Forest Service is even attempting to integrate these tools into Forest Plans! While seemingly focused on fire response, we believe that collaboratively developing and valuing at-risk assets will integrate community fire protection and landscape resilience values. It may also increase stakeholder understanding and support of a more widespread management of unplanned ignitions. Several FLN and FAC Network sites are engaging with this strategy.
Cooperative Prescribed Fire Training and Burning
Employing a cooperative approach to prescribed fire training and burning, where multiple agencies and organizations bring their own cultures and mandates to the table, allows fire managers to leverage available resources to enhance landscape resilience and/or community wildfire protection. It also makes each cooperative burn an opportunity to improve working relationships that influence fire response, when multiple agencies are meeting on the fireline, often in a disaster response environment. TREX events and cooperative burning projects led by FLN, FAC Net, and the Indigenous Peoples Burning Network participants are helping to realize this potential for integration.
Integrating Planning Processes and Data
We have Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) to help advance fire adaptation, fire management plans for fire response, and restoration plans for landscape resilience. While each type of plan has its place in focusing energy and efforts, there are key opportunities to help bring these approaches together to achieve integrated outcomes. For instance, integrating CWPP data into the Wildland Fire Decision Support System can ensure that local FAC planning tools and data are readily available to Incident Management Teams when they are managing fire response. Another example would be incorporating landscape resilience and spatial fire management plans into CWPPs to ensure that they effectively consider likely landscape and wildfire response strategies and tactics to optimize outcomes across all three Cohesive Strategy goals.
These examples represent just a sampling of the strategies that the PERFACT team and our partners across the country are advancing related to integrated fire management approaches and outcomes. We see the potential for new efficiencies and effectiveness by working across the traditional silos of fire management. Where do you see opportunities for integration in your work?