Tribes, Agencies, Other Experts Collaborate on Wildfire Mitigation StrategiesOctober 6, 2023
From the deadly conflagration in Hawaii to the toxic smoke blanketing the East Coast, this year’s wildland fires have driven home the reality that wildfires are a huge and growing threat, no longer confined to remote Western forests and small rural communities. The drivers of this crisis are complex, as are the impacts that span from ecosystem degradation, to economic and cultural impacts, to direct and indirect threats to human health and safety.
In response to this national crisis, in 2021 President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the federal Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. The 50 members of the Commission range from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and several federal and state agency officials, to Tribal government representatives, to scientists, wildfire experts, firefighters, ranchers, and leaders of environmental and public health nonprofits. Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger partner Sara A. Clark served as a subject matter expert for the Commission over the last 12 months, particularly on the issues of Tribal sovereignty and cultural burning.
The Commission has just released their final report to Congress, giving a comprehensive review of the country’s wildfire system and detailing wide-reaching recommendations for federal agencies to improve how they manage wildfire. The report’s recommendations cover seven key themes:
- Urgent new approaches to address the wildfire crisis
- Supporting collaboration at every scale
- Shifting from reactive to proactive approach
- Enabling beneficial fire to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire
- Supporting and expanding the workforce
- Modernizing tools for informed decision making
- Investing in resilience
More information on the Commission and the full report are available online. For additional background around beneficial fire and the Tribal practice of cultural burning in California, see these previous posts:
- Sara Clark Leads Panel Discussion at Yosemite Environmental Law Conference About Beneficial Fire (links to a California-focused report) (November 2022)
- LA Times Op-Ed: Why Forest Managers Need to Team Up with Indigenous Fire Practitioners (Aug. 2022)
- How Public Agencies Can Support Beneficial Fire Use (March 2022)
- Tribes Look to Expand Cultural Burning to Restore Traditional Practices and Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats (September 2021)
- Karuk Tribe Releases “Good Fire” Report, Addressing Barriers and Solutions to Increasing Cultural Burning (July 2021)
For more information, please contact Sara Clark.