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The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission released their report to Congress this week, urging “swift action to advance the holistic solutions needed to reduce the risk of wildfire to the nation.”
The Commission, which included Coconino County Deputy Manager and Flood Control District Administrator Lucinda Andreani and a bipartisan group of 52 other leaders from governmental, tribal, scientific, private industry and nonprofit backgrounds, spent the last year conducting a “sweeping review” of the wildfire system in the United States. The fruits of this review have now been released in a report that includes 148 recommendations for Congressional action.
“The wildfire crisis in the United States is urgent, severe, and far reaching,” the Commission reports, noting that current estimates of the nationwide cost of wildfire are on the order of “tens to hundreds of billions of dollars per year.” The suite of recommendations in the report are meant to outline a new approach to wildfire in the United States, “one that is proactive in nature, better matched to the immense scale and scope of the crisis.”
Of the themes that emerge throughout these recommendations, one is a call for greater coordination and collaboration across agencies and industries positioned to address wildfire. No single entity has the capacity to solve this crisis alone, the Commission reports, “the whole of society must be involved.”
“Wildfire and post-wildfire flooding impacts do not stop at the forest boundary, as we have experienced after six major wildfires in the Flagstaff, Arizona area,” Andreani said of this theme. “It is vital that all levels of government recognize the importance of partnership and continued investment in forest restoration and its supporting industries. The Coconino County Flood Control District has taken a leadership role working with the Forest Service to pursue several projects, such as the treatment of Bill Williams Mountain and now moving to the Upper Rio de Flag Watershed, where partnerships between the District, National Forest Foundation, Forest Service, State and industry have been groundbreaking and successful.”
The specific recommendations of the policy report are as far reaching as the crisis itself, ranging from advocacy that Congress modify federal agency policies regarding disaster declarations involving post-wildfire flooding, to increasing incentives for forest restoration industry to national investments in smoke monitoring, ecological recovery research, and wildfire and forest restoration workforce development.
“The Coconino County Board of Supervisors recently took a position to support the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act introduced by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema,” Andreani noted. “Acts like these are one example of policies that are in line with the Commission’s recommendations.”
“This Commission has compiled a thorough and thoughtful set of actions that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs designed to provide wildfire prevention, response, and recovery,” Andreani added. “We are fortunate in Arizona to have legislators like Senator Kelly and Senator Sinema that have demonstrated leadership in this arena for many years. The Commission hopes to further bipartisan support for these recommendations across all corners of Congress.”
The full Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Report can be accessed at wfmmc-final-report-09-2023.pdf (usda.gov)