An Evaluation of the Forest Service Hazardous Fuels Treatment Program—Are We Treating Enough to Promote Resiliency or Reduce Hazard?

TitleAn Evaluation of the Forest Service Hazardous Fuels Treatment Program—Are We Treating Enough to Promote Resiliency or Reduce Hazard?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsVaillant, NM
Secondary AuthorsReinhardt, ED
JournalJournal of Forestry
Volume115
Keywordsfuels and fuel treatments, LANDFIRE; mechanical treatment; prescribed fire; resiliency; wildfire hazard, techncial reports and journal articles
Abstract

The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy recognizes that wildfire is a necessary natural process in many ecosystems and strives to reduce conflicts between fire-prone landscapes and people. In an effort to mitigate potential negative wildfire impacts proactively, the Forest Service fuels program reduces wildland fuels. As part of an internal program assessment, we evaluated the extent of fuel treatments and wildfire occurrence within lands managed by the National Forest System (NFS) between 2008 and 2012. We intersected fuel treatments with historic disturbance rates to assess the extent to which the program compensates for the disturbance deficit caused by fire suppression and with current wildfire hazard to evaluate whether fuel treatments strategically target high hazard locations. Annually, 45% of NFS lands that would have historically burned were disturbed by fuel treatments and characteristic wildfire, indicating that NFS lands remain in a “disturbance deficit.” The highest wildfire hazard class had the lowest percentage of area treated and the highest proportion of both wildfire of any severity and uncharacteristically high-severity wildfire, suggesting that an alternative distribution of fuel treatment locations will probably improve program effectiveness.

DOI10.5849/jof.16-067