Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) announced today a memorandum of understanding creating a partnership to enhance cooperation between private working forest owners and public land managers during wildfires.
Federal, state and private forest owners and managers have a shared stewardship responsibility to protect natural resources and the communities that depend on them. Increasingly intensive wildfire years severely impact local communities, the environment, local and regional economies, and public health. They can also cause significant resource damage on private working forest lands, which annually provide 80% of the net forest carbon sequestration and 90% of the timber harvest for products in the United States. Wildfire impacts on forests are pervasive throughout the country and especially acute in western states experiencing historic drought and weather conditions. Worsening conditions are making stewardship objectives more difficult to achieve.
“To protect communities, critical infrastructure, and natural resources from the threat of wildfires, we must work alongside partners at all levels,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “The highest risk firesheds are often spread across multiple jurisdictions. Working more closely with private forest owners to suppress wildfires on adjoining lands is one more way we can achieve the goals of the Wildfire Crisis Strategy.”
Federal, state and local fire managers often face tough choices on how to best deploy limited personnel and equipment during the height of the fire year. The USDA Forest Service and NAFO members—with significant holdings in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington—are partnering to allow private resources to fight fire in areas of adjacent ownership with National Forest System lands. Private personnel resources will be required to attend training and hold specific qualifications at the same level as federal firefighting resources. This partnership will give field officers and incident commanders more personnel, equipment and tools to manage fires effectively and safely. It will also provide them with local knowledge and experience to identify and evaluate risks better, as well as opportunities to achieve outcomes that protect communities and resources in their shared stewardship areas.
“This new agreement will streamline our cooperation with the Forest Service so we can efficiently and effectively manage wildfire on working forests next to national forests,” said Dave Tenny, president and chief executive officer of NAFO. “This collaboration is crucial not only for protecting people, property, livelihoods and critical infrastructure in rural communities, but also for sustaining healthy and resilient forests that provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration.”
The Forest Service and NAFO will continue to explore new and innovative partnerships and approaches to reduce wildfire risk and protect communities and forests. Together, they remain committed to sustainable forestland management and the protection of communities, critical infrastructure and natural and cultural resources for future generations.