USFS Fire Management Policy:
Shift in Policy, or Shifty Policy?
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has issued new policy direction for the 2013 fire season, and the direction is…vague. Last year, Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard’s memo restricted fire use and compelled fire managers to aggressively attack all wildfires, prompting concerns that the agency was resurrecting its infamous “10am Policy.” Now the USFS appears to have reversed course again and will allow wildfires to be managed for multiple objectives including both community protection and ecosystem restoration.
But appearances can be deceptive. FUSEE initially welcomed the fact that Hubbard’s 2012 policy decree was not simply reissued. Our press release resulted in dozens of print and broadcast stories across the country about the agency’s policy change. This provoked pro-logging and pro-suppression advocates to issue their own report calling for aggressive suppression on all wildfires—no matter what the cost.
Contradictory statements by the USFS’ Washington Office, a “wildland fire response protocol” that includes a slew of new planning requirements for fire use, and the Chief still boasting that over 98% of all wildfires are suppressed have left many people wondering: what actually is the agency’s policy direction? So far, fire managers have been left guessing about their leader’s vague intent. Guess for yourselves by reading all the relevant documents posted in our Fire Policy Reform section.