Wildfires in the American West

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This EcoWest presentation examines the growing severity of wildfires in the American West. Learn more at EcoWest.org

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<ul><li> Wildfires in the West1/20/13</li></ul> <p> EcoWest missionInform and advance conservation in the AmericanWest by analyzing, visualizing, and sharing dataon environmental trends.1/20/13 EcoWest decksThis is one of six presentations that illustrate key environmental metrics. Libraries for each topic contain additional slides. IssueSample metrics WaterPer capita water consumption, price of water,trends in transfers Biodiversity Number of endangered species and candidates,biological diversity of ecoregions WildfiresSize and number of wildfires, suppression costs Land Area protected by land trusts, location ofproposed wilderness areas ClimateTemperature and precipitation projections Politics Conservation funding, public opinionDownload presentations and libraries atecowest.org1/20/13 Wildfires are . . . Natural in most Western forests and critical to maintaining ecological health Behaving differently today in some Western ecosystems due to the legacy effects of fire suppression and other human activities Growing larger, burning longer, and becoming more intense in many parts of the West; climate change will exacerbate these trends Posing increasing risk to homeowners in the wildland-urban interface; threatening some species in forests and woodlands; and leading to increased flooding and soil erosion Costing us more to suppress and consuming much of the Forest Services budget Prompting thinning projects to reduce fuels in overgrown forests, but not without controversy Compounded by other stresses on Western forests, such as a changing climate and insect outbreaks 1/20/13 Table of contents1. Wildfires 1012. Recent fire history3. Suppression4. Fuels5. Wildland-urban interface6. Climate change and wildfires7. Insects and forest health1/20/13 WILDFIRES 1011/20/13 The fire triangle: three ingredients neededHeat1/20/13 What explains fire behavior?FuelsWeatherTopography1/20/13 Wildland fire potential Source: USDA Forest Service/Fire Science Laboratory, Rocky Mountain Research Station 1/20/13 Smokey BearSource: SmokeyBear.com 1/20/13 Many Western forests filled with more fuel190919481989Source: US Forest Service1/20/13 RECENT FIRE HISTORY1/20/13 Wildfires in the West2001-2009 1,000+ acresSource: U.S. Geological Survey 1/20/2013 1/20/13 13 Wildfires in the West: 2001-2009 10,000+ acresSource: U.S. Geological Survey 1/20/2013 1/20/13 14 Wildfires in the West: 2001-2009100,000+ acresSource: U.S. Geological Survey 1/20/2013 1/20/13 15 Wildfires in the West: 2001-2009250,000+ acresSource: U.S. Geological Survey 1/20/2013 1/20/13 16 Number of U.S. wildfires: 1961-2011300,000250,000200,000Change inreporting 150,000100,000 50,0000 Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Number of U.S. wildfires: 1990-2011120,000100,00080,00060,00040,00020,000 0 Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Acres burned by U.S. wildfires: 1961-2011 12 108Millionsof acres64 10-year moving average20Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Average size of U.S. wildfires: 1961-201114012010080Acres6010-year40movingaverage20 0Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Average size of U.S. wildfires: 1990-2011 140 120 100 80Acres5-year moving60 average40200Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Number of fires larger than 100,000 acres16141210 8 6 4 2 0 1997 1998 1999 2000 2002 2003 2004200520062007 2008 2009 2010 2011Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Fires larger than 20,000 acres in AZ and NM18000001600000140000012000001000000Acres800000600000 Note: Each rectangle represents a fire larger than 20,000 acres Wallow400000Rodeo-Chediski2000000197319871993 200319701981 1984 19901995 2000 200520111975 1982 1986 1989 20081978 19831997 1998 200719711977 1980 1985 1996 199919741991 2001 2006 2009 201019761979 1994 2004 1988 1992 20021972Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Acres burned by region 10987Millions 6of acresEastern AreaNorthern California5Rocky MountainsSouthern California4Northern RockiesNorthwest3Southwest2 Western Great BasinEastern Great Basin 1Southern AreaAlaska0 Source: National Interagency Fire Center1/20/13 Acres burned by region1995-2010100% Eastern AreaNorthern California Rocky Mountains 90%Southern California Northern Rockies 80%Northwest 70%Southwest 60%Western Great Basin 50%Eastern Great Basin 40%Southern Area 30% 20%Alaska 10% 0%Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Western wildfires: acres burned by state 6 5WY 4WAUTMillionsof acresOR 3NVNMMTCO 2CAAZ 1 0 2002 2003 2004 200520062007 2008 2009 2010Source: National Interagency Fire Center1/20/13 Breakdown of acres burned by land manager100%Bureau of IndianAffairs90% National ParkServiceFish and Wildlife80% ServiceForest Service70%Bureau of Land60% ManagementState/Other50%40%30%20% 10% 0%2000 2001 2002 2003 20042005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Source: National Interagency Fire Center1/20/13 Cause of U.S. wildfires100% 90%% fires 80%human-caused 70% 60% 50% 40%% burnedacreagehuman- 30%caused 20% 10% 0% 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005200620072008 2009 2010 Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Percent of fires human-caused2001-2010100%90%80% 70%60%50%40%30%20% 10% 0% Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 FIRE SUPPRESSION 1/20/13 Forest Service budget increasingly devoted to fire100%90%80%70%60%50% Non-FireFire40%30%20% 10% 0% 1991 2000 2008 Source: U.S. Forest Service1/20/13 Fires consume biggest share of Forest Service budget$10Supplemental/Emergency/Reserve Other Appropriations$9 Land Acquisition: LWCF State and Private Forestry$8 Forest and Rangeland Research Capital Improvement and $7Maintenance Mandatory Appropriations National Forest System$6 Wildland Fire ManagementBillions (2012 dollars)$5$4$3$2 $1$02002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Source: U.S. Forest Service1/20/13 How the Forest Service spends its wildfire budget Forest Service FY 2011 Wildfire BudgetTotal = $2.1 billionState and volunteer fire assistance 3%Hazardous fuels 16%Preparedness Forest health31%management2% R&amp;D, Joint FireScience Program 1%Rehabilitation and restoration 1%Suppression 46% Source: U.S. Forest Service1/20/13 Forest Service/Interior wildfire appropriations$4,000$3,500$3,000$2,500Millions$2,000$1,500$1,000$500 $01996 1997 1998 19992000 20012002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007Source: Government Accountability Office 1/20/13 Days at Preparedness Levels 4 and 5 100 90Level 5 80Level 470 60Days 50 40 30 20100 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 20082009 2010 Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Trends in mobilization of firefighting resources450400350300250200 Air tanker mobilizations150Tanker fleet Type 1 helicopter mobilizationsproblems100 Type 2 helicopter mobilizations 50Type 1 mobilizations 0 Source: National Interagency Fire Center1/20/13 U.S. wildland firefighters killed since 1910908070 Great Fire of 191060504030 Lack of20data100Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Most expensive wildfires in U.S. historyOakland and Berkeley Hills Fire, CA 1970 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, AZ 2002 Cerro Grande Fire, NM 2000Santa Barbara Fire, CA 1990 Orange County Fire, CA 1993 Los Angeles County Fire, CA 1993Old Fire, CA 2003 Cedar Fire, CA 2003 Witch Fire, CA 2007Oakland Fire, CA 1991 $0 $1$2 $3 Insured losses (in billions of 2008 dollars)Source: Insurance Information Institute 1/20/13 FUELS1/20/13 Condition of natural fire systemsSource: The Nature Conservancy 1/20/13 Condition of natural fire systemsSource: The Nature Conservancy 1/20/13 Fuels treatment on federal lands6 Inside and outside the wildland-urban interface (WUI)54Millions Non-WUI otherof acres Non-WUI mechanical3Non-WUI fire WUI other WUI mechanical WUI fire2 10 20012002 2003 2004200520062007 20082009Source: Departments of Agriculture and Interior1/20/13 Acres burned in prescribed fires43Millions of2 acres Bureau of Land Management 1 National Park Service Bureau of Indian Affairs US Fish and Wildlife Service State/Other US Forest Service0 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Acres burned in prescribed fires by region300,000250,000200,000Acres150,000Southwest Northwest Rocky Mountains100,000 Northern Rockies Northern California50,000 Eastern Great Basin Southern California Western Great Basin 02001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010Source: National Interagency Fire Center 1/20/13 Wildland-fire use: letting blazes burn naturally500,000400,000300,000Bureau of IndianAcres AffairsState/Other200,000National ParkServiceBureau of Land100,000 ManagementUS Fish andWildlife ServiceUS Forest Service 01998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Source: National Interagency Fire Center1/20/13 Timber produced by national forests 16Northern spotted owlSoldESA listing 14 Harvested 12 10Billions ofboard- 8feet 6 4 2 0Source: U.S. Forest Service1/20/13 Stewardship contracts in acres250200150100 Forest Service 50 Bureau of Land Management 02003 2004 2005 20062007 20082009 Source: National Interagency Fire Center1/20/13 WILDLAND-URBANINTERFACE 1/20/13 Wildland-urban interface (WUI) Source: U.S. Forest Service 1/20/13 Number of homes in wildland-urban interface (WUI) Source: Headwaters Economics 1/20/13 Purpose of thinning and distance from the WUI100%Controlling epidemicinsects or disease90%Protecting/enhancingT&amp;E species habitat80%Reducing invasive species70%Rangeland health60%Forest health50%Ecosystem restoration40%Municipal watershed or30%water supply protection20% WUI/defensible space 10% 0% 02.5 km 2.55 km 510 kmMore than 10 km All areas Distance from WUI Source: Schoennagel et al. (2009) 1/20/13 CLIMATE AND WILDFIRES1/20/13 Change in burned area projected from 1C warmingSource: National Research Council 1/20/13 Wildfires are arriving earlier and lasting longer Source: Westerling et al. (2006) 1/20/13 FOREST HEALTH1/20/13 Climate anomalies connected to tree mortality Source: Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, Conservation Biology Institute 1/20/13 Climate anomalies connected to tree mortality Source: Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, Conservation Biology Institute 1/20/13 Biotic agents connected to climate-related mortalitySource: Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, Conservation Biology Institute 1/20/13 Biotic agents connected to climate-related mortality Source: Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, Conservation Biology Institute 1/20/13 Insects are causing massive tree die-offs in the WestSource: Raffa et al. (2008) 1/20/13 Effect of wildfires and insects on Southwest forestsSource: Williams et al. (2010) 1/20/13 Tree mortality is especially prevalent in the West Source: U.S. Forest Service 1/20/13 Composite insect and disease riskSource: U.S. Forest Service 1/20/13 Major risk agents can be grouped into clusters Source: U.S. Forest Service 1/20/13 Watersheds most at risk from insects and diseaseSource: U.S. Forest Service 1/20/13 Half of high-risk areas are managed by Forest Service Source: U.S. Forest Service 1/20/13 Conclusion Wildfires are a natural part of Western forests and essential to maintaining ecosystem health, but decades of fire suppression have caused an unnatural build-up of fuels in some areas. Wildfire activity varies considerably from year to year, largely due to weather conditions, but blazes are generally getting bigger, burning longer, doing more damage, and costing more to suppress. An increasing number of acres are being treated with mechanical thinning and prescribed burns, but the backlog is tremendous and there is some disagreement about where to focus the work. Climate change is expected to increase wildfire activity in the West and scientists have found evidence that it has already increased the length and severity of the Wests fire season. Wildfires are bound up in the larger issue of forest health, with insects, disease, and climate anomalies causing numerous episodes of tree mortality in the West. 1/20/13 Download more slides and other librariesecowest.org Contact us by e-mailing mitch@ceaconsulting.com 1/20/13 EcoWest advisorsJon Christensen, Adjunct Assistant Professor and PritzkerFellow at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainabilityand Department of History at UCLA; former director of BillLane Center for the American West at Stanford.Bruce Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director for the SierraClub, where he has worked for more than 35 years; memberof the World Commission on Protected Areas; former FieldEditor for High Country News.Robert Glennon, Regents Professor and Morris K. UdallProfessor of Law and Public Policy, Rogers College of Law atthe University of Arizona; author of Water Follies andUnquenchable.1/20/13 EcoWest advisorsJonathan Hoekstra, head of WWFs Conservation ScienceProgram, lead author of The Atlas of GlobalConservation, and former Senior Scientist at The NatureConservancy.Timothy Male, Vice President of Conservation Policy forDefenders of Wildlife, where he directs the Habitat andHighways, Conservation Planning, Federal Lands, OregonBiodiversity Partnership, and Economics programs.Thomas Swetnam, Regents Professor ofDendrochronology, Director of the Laboratory of Tree-RingResearch at the University of Arizona, and a leading expert onwildfires and Western forests.1/20/13 Contributors at California Environmental AssociatesMitch TobinEditor of EcoWest.orgCommunications Director at CEAMicah DayAssociate at CEAMatthew Elliott Contact us by e-mailingPrincipal at CEA mitch@ceaconsulting.comMax LevineAssociate at CEACaroline OttResearch Associate at CEASarah WeldonAffiliated consultant at CEA1/20/13 </p>