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The Healthy Forests Initiative and Healthy Forests Restoration Act
Interim Field Guide

Developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans

Communities may, at their option, develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans. The HFRA encourages the development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans and outlines their contents (see above). A Community Wildfire Protection Plan identifying WUIs need not be limited to the default definitions. It is under such plans that at-risk communities will recommend the WUIs within which HFRA-authorized projects may take place on NFS and BLM land. For at-risk communities that have not yet designated their WUIs as part of Community Wildfire Protection Plans, the default definition of WUI (described above) establishes the maximum distance a WUI can extend from the boundary of an at-risk community (figure 20).

Photograph of an urban area surrounded by heavily forested land.
Figure 20—This complex wildland-urban interface illustrates the need for a
Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Protecting such homes scattered
throughout the forest can be a serious challenge for wildland firefighters.

Under Section 103(d)(1)(C) projects that are already well into the NEPA planning process can use existing definitions of WUI for up to 1 year from the date of the act’s passage (the project’s decision notice must be issued by December 3, 2004).

Federal agencies should be partners in the preparation of Community Wildfire Protection Plans to the extent that a community desires, within budgetary constraints. In the WUI, these plans will provide a seamless guide for fuel reduction across ownerships, identifying those treatments to be completed by public agencies and those to be completed by private landowners. Implementing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan will fulfill the requirements for a collaboration in the Implementation Plan.

On February 27, 2003, the DOI BLM directed field offices to work with communities to complete Community Assessment and Mitigation Plans (OFA IM-2003-020). These plans are intended to meet the same requirements as the HFRA Community Wildfire Protection Plans. Communities meeting the DOI BLM guidance should not have to revise their plans unless the plans are missing a component of the HFRA requirements. To avoid any confusion in maintaining two names for plans that are intended to serve the same purpose, DOI BLM field offices should recommend that communities refer to their assessment and mitigation plans as Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

The National Association of State Foresters is working with the Western Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, and the Society of American Foresters to develop a user-friendly guide to help communities get started in developing, or finalizing, their Community Wildfire Protection Plans (see http://www.fireplan.gov/content/reports). Regional, State, local, Tribal, or area administrators, or other Federal officials, Tribal leaders, and governors will collaborate on setting priorities and coordinating planning across jurisdictions to facilitate accomplishments at the local level. Ongoing communication should facilitate the exchange of technical information for fully informed decisions.

Setting Priorities Collaboratively

At the local level, successful implementation of fuel treatments must include decisionmakers collaborating with Federal, State, and local governments, Tribes, community-based groups, landowners, and other interested persons. Collaboration will be used to establish priorities, cooperate on activities, and increase public awareness and participation to reduce the risks to communities and surrounding lands. While land-management agencies make the decisions on matters affecting public lands, these collaborative efforts will produce programs that can be supported broadly and implemented successfully.

Direction for collaborating and setting annual fuel-treatment funding priorities for projects on Federal land is documented in a memorandum from the Chief of the USDA Forest Service and the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget, DOI (fuel collaboration letter, http://www.fireplan.gov/).

The Development of a Collaborative Fuels Treatment Program memorandum of understanding signed in January 2003 provides a general framework of collaboration for hazardous-fuel treatments (http://www.fireplan.gov/content/reports). The memorandum provides that, working in partnership, the Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Tribes will ensure that projects are strategically located and implemented across the landscape and ownerships. Five Federal agencies (the DOI BLM, USDA FS, BIA, NPS, and USFWS), the National Association of State Foresters, the National Association of Counties, and the Intertribal Timber Council signed this memorandum.

Providing Financial Assistance for Projects on Non-Federal Lands

Federal financial assistance for hazardous-fuel-reduction projects on non-Federal lands is available through State foresters. Other cooperative assistance programs that provide funds for addressing hazardous-fuel conditions on non-Federal land include State Fire Assistance, a USDA Forest Service program, and Community Assistance, a wildland-urban interface DOI BLM program.

New Mexico has established the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program based on the Community Forest Restoration Act of 2000 (Title VI, P.L. 106-393). This program provides grants for collaborative forest-restoration and small-diameter tree utilization projects on Federal, State, Tribal, county, and municipal lands. In 2005, the USDA Forest Service will report to Congress on how well the program has met its objectives and on the potential that such programs could be expanded to other States in the Intermountain West (figures 21 and 22).

Photograph of a forested area with high fuel loadings.
Figure 21—The Rio Grande bosque in New Mexico had high
fuel loadings before fuel-reduction treatments.

Photograph of a similar forested area with the fuel loading significantly reduced.
Figure 22—Fuel loading was significantly reduced by a combination of
thinning and prescribed-fire treatments in the Rio Grande bosque. Wildland fire
is less of a threat when stands are in this condition than when they
are in the condition shown in figure 21 (the same stand before treatment).

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