Photo Credit: Rural communities throughout the West are often times nestled in picturesque valleys and canyons, surrounded by forested landscapes. These attributes, although beautiful, result in the need for prudent and collaborative fire adaptation strategies. Photo by Fett via Flickr

Two weeks ago, nearly 100 western conservation leaders came together in Troutdale, Oregon for Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition’s (RVCC) 13th annual meeting. And we all know that when landscape conservation in the West is the focus of the conversation, living with wildland fire is a burning topic. Several western FAC Net members were in attendance to feed those conversations, and to learn from their colleagues about how to put federal programs and authorities to work across public and private lands.

This year, the meeting agenda focused on opportunities and challenges related to managing land across public and private ownerships. It explored the regulations, incentives, authorities and partnerships that have been catalyzing “all lands, all hands” management during the last eight years. Acknowledging that wildfire, water and wildlife don’t recognize property boundaries, FAC Net members Jonathan Bruno from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and Zander Evans from the Forest Stewards Guild led sessions on leveraging federal programs such as the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. Prominent in both of their talks was a theme familiar to community fire managers nationwide: the challenges of building and maintaining both wildfire mitigation and management workforces. Both CUSP and the Forest Stewards Guild are implementing innovative strategies that are employing local workers and engaging local businesses to implement their FAC initiatives.Two images of FAC work underway. On the left, a restoration worker planting pine saplings after a fire. On the right, a community removing excess fuels from the forest. Text below images reads: At the meeting, FAC Net members emphasized the challenges associated with building and maintaining local FAC workforces. Credits from left to right: Beverly Moseley, Natural Resources Conservation Service via Flickr; Suzanne Wade, Kittitas County Conservation District.Other sessions focused on understanding and using new federal authorities such as the Good Neighbor Authority, which is being tested in different ways across the country. We also discussed empowering leadership inside the federal agencies and with their partner organizations to engage in new ways of doing business together. We heard examples from Idaho and Oregon where state forestry and natural resource agencies are providing staffing for shared priorities regarding landscape-scale fire hazard reduction. Ryan Anderson of the South Central Washington Resource Conservation and Development Council and George McKinley from the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative participated in several of these sessions, infusing their partnership-based approaches to fire adaptation into several rounds of dialogue with practitioners from across the West. Featured speakers throughout the event included:

  • Jim Lions and Mark Rey (undersecretaries for natural resources and the environment under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively);
  • Vicki Christiansen (deputy director for State and Private Forestry at the USDA Forest Service);
  • Paul Larmer (High Country News publisher); and
  • Mark Haggerty (Headwaters Economics).

There was one major theme that emerged throughout the meeting, which was the need to find ways to increase the capacity in communities across the region to implement the Cohesive Strategy and all lands management objectives. Tony Cheng of Colorado State University summed it up well when he stated:

We’ve done an amazing job over the last decade or more in “scaling up” [i.e. landscape restoration, fire adaptation, etc.] in specific places where we have a lot of capacity and where we’ve been able to build and harness social will, but we have a lot of work to do in “scaling out” to all of the more isolated communities and lower-profile landscapes.

Zander Evans presenting his closing remarks.

Zander Evans from the Forest Stewards Guild offering reflections and closing remarks. Credit: Karen Hardigg, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition.

The FAC Net is working on strategies to “scale out” the most effective fire adaptation practices. Through statewide networks, affiliate membership, webinars, publications and events, we’re reaching more communities and connecting more leaders from across the map.

You can read Ashley Rood’s blog to learn more about the event, and look for more published portions of the proceedings on RVCC’s website in the weeks to come. Participating in RVCC and other similar coalitions is just one of the ways that the FAC Net is feeding the FAC and all lands movements.

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