Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Wildfire Crisis Strategy
The Yellowstone fires of 1988 are considered an early fire event signaling the rise of the wildfire crisis we are experiencing today. After building for decades, the crisis erupted in the 2000s as wildfires destroyed lives, homes, and communities on a rising scale. The national response, though initially swift, has not kept pace with the growing impact of catastrophic wildfires. In January 2022, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a 10-year strategy for confronting the wildfire crisis in the United States (Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests).
At the core of the strategy is ramping up fuel and forest health treatments across land ownerships to match the scale of wildfire risk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the wildland fire community have laid the foundation for collaboration across landscapes to reduce wildfire risk. Recent influxes in funding, including new funding authorities in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, are helping fuel and forest health projects hit the ground on priority landscapes and high risk “firesheds.”
For decades the Rocky Mountain Research Station has focused on fire science studying topics relevant to wildfire hazard, risk, behavior, and ecology, and providing knowledge support to land managers and a myriad of partners. The expertise and tools developed over decades by RMRS is now central to providing a scientific basis to addressing the Wildfire Crisis Strategy. This series of hour-long seminars took place January 12 – March 23, 2023, to share the individual contributions of RMRS scientists to the Wildfire Crisis Strategy.