You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Assessing the Impacts of Federal Forest Planning on Wildfire Risk Mitigation in the Pacific Northwest

Photo of A mechanical fuels reduction treatment on a study site in the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest. Rhonda Mazza, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.A mechanical fuels reduction treatment on a study site in the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest. Rhonda Mazza, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : In the western U.S., a presumed factor contributing to the transmission of fire from national forests to the wildland urban interface (WUI) are designated conservation reserves where mechanical fuels treatments are either prohibited or highly restricted. To probe this assumption, Forest Service scientists mapped wildfire risk transmission from national forests to the WUI. Mapping risk transmission facilitates identification of conflicts and opportunities. Local application of the methods and results at the scale of individual national forests could help to improve the effectiveness of landscape planning efforts and address “all lands” federal policies regarding restoration, resiliency, and wildfire protection.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Ager, Alan 
Research Location : Washington, Oregon
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1072

Summary

Mapping of wildfire risk transmission from national forests to the wildland urban interface (WUI) revealed that, although a large proportion of the national forest lands (79 percent) can spawn fires that burn adjacent WUIs, most wildfires originated from ignitions outside of conservation reserves (e.g., wilderness). Wildfires most commonly ignited where mechanical fuel treatment is permitted, and are in the fire-adapted dry forest type that is the primary target for accelerated restoration efforts. More than half of this forest type was not available for restoration treatment, primarily because of forest plan restrictions; thus, these areas will continue to expose the WUI to wildfire risk. Results indicate that forest restoration with mechanical treatments is compatible with WUI protection and that more of these treatments probably need to be done to reduce wildfire risk in the WUI. In addition, most national forest lands that contribute wildfires to the WUI are not within the boundaries of community wildfire protection plans, which may undermine the effectiveness of these planning efforts.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Joint Fire Sciences Program
  • Pacific Northwest Region