The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy

One of the goals of the Grandfather Restoration Project prescribed fire program is to reduce wildfire risk. While this is a local goal, it is also being emphasized both regionally and nationally. The National Wildfire Management Cohesive Strategy, often simply referred to as Cohesive Strategy, is an effort on behalf of federal, state, local, and tribal governments and non-governmental organizations to collaboratively address growing wildfire problems in the U.S.  It is a strategic push to work collaboratively among all stakeholders and across all landscapes, using the best science, to make meaningful progress towards the three goals:

  1. Resilient Landscapes
  2. Fire Adapted Communities
  3. Safe & Effective Wildfire Response

The vision of Cohesive Strategy is “to safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and as a nation, to live with wildland fire.”

In the last few years, more than 1000 individuals have provided comments, participated in forums, meetings, or responded to online survey requests which have helped guide the Cohesive Strategy process in the Southeast. Direction for the implementation of Cohesive Strategy in the Southeast comes from the Regional Action Plan. The plan contains 23 actions with 124 separate implementation tasks, grouped around five values and a set of identified barriers to success.  A selection of the Regional Action Plan items which relate to the goals of the Grandfather Restoration Project’s focus on ecosystem restoration and the utilization of prescribed fire include:

  • Support the creation of tools to better inform decision making processes and localized trade-off analysis for all levels of fire and land managers as well as planners and policy makers (what specific data means to managers, not just regional analysis of these data).
  • Develop and sustain capability and capacity requirements to plan and carry out landscape treatments, including prescribed fire.
  • Increase public awareness to ensure public acceptance and active participation in achieving landscape objectives.
  • Encourage planning efforts across landscapes between practitioners and land managers to address wildland fire, landscape resiliency and community safety while balancing other concerns and emphasizing plan development in high risk areas.
  • Work with regulatory agencies and entities (i.e., air quality) to ensure that prescribed fire remains a viable management tool and maximize flexibility for its use (including liability issues).
  • Encourage greater public smoke awareness through outreach and understanding.
  • Control invasive species that alter fire regimes and ecosystem function.
  • Support efforts to increase prescribed burning for ecosystem restoration.
  • Promote and use fire to emulate natural disturbance patterns to maintain and improve ecological systems, balancing social, cultural, and economic needs, especially over large contiguous landscapes.
  • Remove policy barriers and process complexities which affect the ability to effectively and efficiently share resources, not only for wildfire, but for fuels and prescribed fire work

Achievement of the Regional Action Plan is a lofty endeavor that will no doubt take extraordinary collaboration, which is the primary intent behind Cohesive Strategy. To read more about regional Cohesive Strategy efforts click here.

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Shortleaf Restoration: Seedlings Planted at Rose’s Creek Project Sites

The shortleaf pine seedlings are in the ground at the Rose’s Creek Project sites! This is the culmination of years of efforts — from planning, to harvest, to site prep burns — the Rose’s Creek shortleaf pine restoration work is a great example of partners and Forest Service personnel from many resource areas working together to make a change on the landscape.

Newly-planted 2yr shortleaf pine seedling at Miller Mountain

Newly-planted 2yr shortleaf pine seedling at Miller Mountain

Bare root seedlings were planted at a 14ft by 14ft spacing at the Rose’s Creek units, and containerized seedlings were planted at a 20ft by 20ft spacing at the Miller Mountain units. The wider spacing at Miller Mountain is to encourage a higher component of oaks and mixed hardwoods in the stands. The planting crew finished both sites in a week, planting an amazing 40 acres a day!

Although the seedlings are in the ground, the work is not finished. Our silviculturalists installed monitoring plots (1 per acre) to check planting density. These plots will also be used for 1-year survival checks. At that point, we will determine if a herbicide release is needed, targeting non-native invasive species and any competing hardwood sprouts.

In addition to the silviculture plots, Tara Keyser, Research Forester with the Southern Research Station, will set up long-term regeneration plots to study competition at the shortleaf restoration sites. Tara will collect information about the planted seedlings, competing tree seedlings, white pine regeneration in relation to seed sources, herbaceous cover, and site-prep burn severity. We are excited to partner with the Southern Research Station to help inform next steps for the Rose’s Creek Project sites as well as future shortleaf pine restoration efforts.

 

Long Term Study on Prescribed Burning in Eastern Forests

A study was recently published in the journal of Forest Ecology and Management that looks at prescribed fire use over 60 years. Scientists monitored control, annual burn, and periodic burn plots in an Oak-Hickory stand in Missouri. Results showed that understory species richness was over three times greater in both burn treatments when compared to the control.

Results from this study support our hypothesis that long-term, repeated prescribed burning can be used to reach Knappseveral objectives related to woodland restoration and management in hardwood ecosystems, including creating a two-layered vertical structure and increasing the abundance, richness, diversity, and evenness of the understory plant community. Although previous studies demonstrated the effects of long-term burning on the structure of pine ecosystems, this study is the first to document similar effects in oak-hickory communities. Silvicultural prescriptions for reaching woodland objectives in hardwood ecosystems often include combinations of thinning and burning to reduce canopy density and increase the herbaceous vegetation response (Peterson et al., 2007; Kinkead et al., 2013; Brose, 2014). Our results suggest that, over long time periods, burning alone can reduce canopy density to create conditions associated with woodlands.

View the article here: Structure and composition of an oak-hickory forest after over 60 years of repeated prescribed burning in Missouri, U.S.A