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Interagency Research Collaboration FInds That Tribal Fire Prevention Has Large Benefits

Photo of Wildfire Education Fun Day at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.Wildfire Education Fun Day at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.Snapshot : Humans cause more than 55 percent of wildfires on lands managed by the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior, contributing to both suppression expenditures and damages. Forest Service scientists and their partners quantified the efficacy of wildfire prevention programs on Native American tribal lands in the United States. Fire prevention and law enforcement efforts have led to reductions in expenditures on fire suppression that are 4.5 to more than 38 times than the total cost of the prevention program.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Abt, Karen Lee 
Research Location : Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; Boise, Idaho; Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 920


Fire prevention has the promise of reducing overall expenditures and damages from wildfires. Prevention program elements can include burn permits, public service programs or announcements, outreach efforts to schools, youth groups, equipment operators, and law enforcement. In this interagency collaboration, Forest Service scientists Karen Abt and Jeffrey Prestemon worked with tribal wildfire prevention specialists Samuel Scranton, the lead fire prevention officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and David Butry of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The scientists found that prevention activities on 17 tribal land units led to significant reductions in wildfires caused by escaped campfires, juveniles, fire use, and equipment. The results of the study indicate that the initiation of a program leads to suppression spending avoidance that exceeds the prevention program costs from between 5 and 38 fold. Results can therefore be used to support Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies' decisions about the important potential role of fire prevention in the suite of management actions to reduce overall negative impacts from wildfires.

Additional Resources


Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (Department of the Interior)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (Commerce Department)

Program Areas