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The Western landscape is extremely diverse, reaching from the plains of Kansas and Nebraska to the rangelands, forests, and mountains of Alaska and the Pacific Islands. With significant wildland fire risks from overstocked forests, insects and disease, climate change, and expanding development in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), the West faces multiple challenges in the implementation of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
Managing wildland fire in the West is an increasingly complex issue and consumes the majority of suppression dollars spent nationally. The vast majority (67 percent) of the landscape in the West is public land, managed primarily by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, along with other public agencies (e.g., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, states) and tribes. The remaining 33 percent is private land patchworked across the West. The ownership and responsibility situation in itself has created the need for a collaborative response to fire management, as fire knows no boundaries and often crosses multiple jurisdictions.
While significant interagency and interstate efforts have been made over the past decades to facilitate cross-boundary work, we are still losing firefighters and citizens, communities and infrastructure, natural resources and habitat, and spending billions of dollars. The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy provides a successful framework for reducing these losses through an holistic, collaborative approach that aims at changing attitudes, behaviors, and cultures to those that promote an understanding of risk, the prioritization of risk, and using our limited resources to address those risks. In the West, we embrace and foster enabling environments that support the goals and vision of the Cohesive Strategy to reduce the overall risk of tragic losses from wildland fire.