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Forest Service team proposes strategies to restore forest health with fire while protecting air quality in nearby communities

Photo of Smoke from the 2013 American Fire in Tahoe National Forest, California. Smoke from the 2013 American Fire in Tahoe National Forest, California. Snapshot : A team of Forest Service scientists delivered research that demonstrates using fire under favorable weather and fuel conditions, large areas of forest can be treated while keeping daily emissions below levels that are likely to cause harm to people in downwind communities in the Sierra Nevada of California.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Long, Jonathan W. 
Research Location : California
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1371

Summary

National forests in the western United States are increasingly using large prescribed fires and unplanned wildfires under favorable conditions to increase ecological resilience and achieve other resource objectives. Such efforts create a challenge for land managers and air regulators charged with minimizing impacts to air quality in downwind communities. A team of Forest Service scientists delivered research that demonstrates using fire under favorable weather and fuel conditions, large areas of forest can be treated while keeping daily emissions below levels that are likely to cause harm to people in downwind communities. With a framework for evaluating smoke impacts and a case study from the Central Sierra Nevada, they showed that an extreme wildfire impacted millions of people in California and Nevada, and that its smoke impact per unit area burned was several times greater than fires used to achieve resource objectives in the same area. These findings have been presented at several forums, including the "Little Hoover" Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy. The Washoe County Health District also considered these findings in revising its policies on assessing fees for restorative burning.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Pacific Southwest Region