Published since 1946
Interior to Take "Aggressive Action" to Prevent Wildfires
On September 12, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke directed all department agencies and bureaus to aggressively prevent wildfires through fuels reduction and fire suppression. The action comes during one of the worst fire seasons on record where 49,000 fires have burned over 8.4 million acres so far this year. Zinke’s home state of Montana has been particularly hard hit with more than 500,000 acres of active fires. The memorandum outlines a goal of carrying out activities that address “vegetative composition and structure and also alters fuel loads to reduce hazards.”
“This Administration will take a serious turn from the past and will proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction management to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitat. It is well settled that the steady accumulation and thickening of vegetation in areas that have historically burned at frequent intervals exacerbates fuel conditions and often leads to larger and higher-intensity fires,” said Secretary Zinke. “These fires are more damaging, more costly, and threaten the safety and security of both the public and firefighters. In recent fire reviews, I have heard this described as ‘a new normal.’ It is unacceptable that we should be satisfied with the status quo. We must be innovative and where new authorities are needed, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to craft management solutions that will benefit our public lands for generations to come.”
Specifically, land managers are being encouraged to aggressively incorporate fuels management into resource and land management planning before fires start. In addition to thinning dead trees and burnable ground vegetation, agencies will be incorporating defensible space around structures and “fire-wise” standards in development of visitor and administrative facilities. The most recent memo references a June memorandum from both Secretary Zinke and Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that emphasizes interdepartmental collaboration to ensure firefighter and public safety in implementation of federal wildland fire policy. In spite of the challenging fire season, this cooperation has been evident in firefighting activities this year.