Wildfire mitigation is a community-wide effort. That means we all need to understand how to build relationships and work together to improve resiliency in our communities. Lessons from wildfire social science can help us understand the human dynamics involved in improving the health of our forests and reducing the risk of wildfire.
The Colorado State Forest Service has produced a series of informative videos covering the challenges in our forests and what can be done and is being done to address these challenges.
Take a look at the Colorado’s Forests: Challenges and Opportunities video series:
The ‘After Wildfire: A Guide for New Mexico Communities’ website is a great resource for understanding what to do after a large wildfire. Although the guide is tailored for New Mexico communities, much of the information is relevant for communities grappling with post-fire impacts throughout the West. The guide is also useful for preparing for wildfires and post-fire flooding before disaster strikes.
The website includes information on:
- Immediate Safety
- Mobilizing Your Community
- Who Can Help?
- Post-Fire Treatments
- Financial Tips
- Flood Information
- Additional Resources
With support from Fire Adapted Communities, CUSP sponsored the Fire Ecology Institute in Florissant, CO last month. This weeklong program put on by Colorado’s Project Learning Tree allows educators to dive into forest and fire topics and understand how they can bring these concepts back to their students. Reflections from participants and lesson plans are now available to look through at http://coloradoplt.org/our-programs/fire-ecology-institute/
Some of the reflections from this great program –
“To sum the FEI up, I can honestly say I was tired from the very long days, I am full of new knowledge and have a new appreciation for the forests and the effort needed to keep our forests as they should be. I look forward to using my new knowledge to teach my students about fire ecology. I have been inspired to think about starting a fire ecology camp for middle school students.”
“No textbook or lecture can teach as much as the experience of actually walking, touching and seeing fire ecology.”
“Being a student at the Fire Ecology Institute will impact and enhance my life as a firefighter and as an educator, because I am able to integrate my knowledge and experience in order to teach others.”
“Experiencing these topics and issues have enhanced my love for the environment and have opened my eyes to another perspective of the world of fire.”
“I understand what the news is explaining to the community, and I know I can share that knowledge with kids who will be able to explain things to their own families.”
“There was one idea that hit me like a ton of bricks and has caused a dramatic shift in the way I view forests: our forests are not in their natural state right now. While this was reiterated time and again throughout the institute, every time I heard it, I was just baffled that I’ve grown up my entire life with this misconceived notion of what a forest should be. I have to everyone, since my return to Fort Collins, about this and that it is due to the fire suppression during the last century. Not one person that I’ve talked with knew about this before I told them.”
“The first day of class, the speakers were talking about mitigation; I wasn’t even exactly sure what this word meant. However, our first fieldtrip was to see the aftermath of the Black Forest fire. Seeing the homes that were mitigated and the ones that were not, I understood how imperative mitigation is. I thought this was the first lesson to bring back to my students. It didn’t matter if you lived in the forest or simply near the grasslands; people must protect their homes.”
“This weeklong experience opened my eyes to new opportunities to share with our youth as our well as our community members. It was motivating to hear how the other educators in our group were going to bring back what they learned into their classrooms. I believe fire ecology is an important issue to be taught to all ages. This five day class was fascinating and taught me that one does not have live close to the forest to appreciate the impact that the forest has on each and every one of us in Colorado.”
“This class has been the missing link I have needed to get reenergized about teaching and bring meaningful, relevant course work back into all my classes.”
“I now feel I can confidently teach, not only about fire ecology, but the mitigation practices and community outreach. Students in my area are very out of touch with their neighbors and community. This would be a great subject to breach and start up a conversation on the importance of team work and watching over our community as a whole not just single individuals.”
“I came away from this class with a head full of ideas, a reenergized sense of place and excitement to start the next school year. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in fire ecology or a need to refresh their teaching ideas with new natural resource concepts.”
“I found out about fuel suppression and home management practices for stronger community safety because in an area like Colorado, the residents must understand that fire season, like snow season is a natural occurrence we must be prepared to encounter and work with in our lives. Before coming to the FEI I thought that it was other’s responsibility to control and protect against all fire. Now I know it is my responsibility as a community member to maintain my home and the area around it so that fire has less of a chance to reach the crown of the trees and spread rapidly.”
“I have already begun to spread the ideas I learned through my Facebook learning communities set up by the National Association for Environmental Education. I also am talking with family and friends. I just got asked by one of my supervisors to come up with a month long (four) series of outdoor education outlines of topics for fire ecology lessons that can be taught at the preschool level.”
“The need for fire has changed my perspective about the forests that our right outside our back door and this will directly impact how I plan to use my own learning to teach my class about fire ecology.”
“Throughout the week, I kept building a “To Do” list which included things like: eliminate all of the ladder fuels on my property, clean out the gutters (in the event of an ember storm, this is a tinder box!), clear out any flammable debris around the house (especially within a 5-foot radius), consider replacing parts of my wood fence that come up to my house with something less likely to catch on fire, and taking measures to make my address more viewable from the street. This was just on a personal level, and in made me think about all the work a “firewise” community has ahead of it.”
“The work we did in the field was eye-opening, and made me realize that so many people are involved in keeping communities safe and assets protected.”
“Our forests are one of our greatest resources and should be respected; I believe that knowledge passed on to our youth about this great resource is necessary if we as a nation are going to preserve them.”
“Understanding that fire is an essential part of forest ecology is imperative if we are to help our forests return to a healthier state and to understand how to best steward that action.”
“It is becoming apparent that people are beginning to understand fires and their essential nature to forest ecology, and I am happy to be able to eloquently speak about such things with people now in a way that feels educated and knowledgeable.”
Ecosystems change when disturbances like emerald ash borers come to town. Take a look at ‘After the Trees Disappear – Ash Forests After Emerald Ash Borers Destroy Them’ by the New York Times for an example of how large disturbances alter forests. The emerald ash borer will primarily affect the urban forest in Colorado, but other disturbances (mountain pine beetle, catastrophic fire, etc.) in large swaths of our mountain forests have already had the kind ecosystem altering effects discussed in the article.
Work in the forest is difficult and potentially dangerous, leading to a declining workforce in the logging business. The trend has many questioning who will harvest wood products in the future.
(Minneapolis, MN) – Forestinfo.org, an online environmental education resource hub, announces the release of a new Eco-Link publication, National Forests & Clean Water: Understanding the Relationship.
A strong correlation exists between National forest lands and major U.S. waterways. This isn’t merely a coincidence – politicians and forestry professionals began implementing legislation as far back as the mid nineteenth century in order to protect the quality of our nation’s natural water sources and prevent the spread of water born disease. These laws were the result of the devastating effects that mismanaged logging operations and deforestation were having on America’s watersheds at the time. As a result of these efforts, 155 National Forests were created, which continue to have a tremendous impact on American water supplies.
“It has been shown time and time again that healthy forested watersheds improve water quality and reduce water treatment costs,” states Kathryn Fernholz, Executive Director. “The link between clean water and forests is crystal clear and so important for students to understand because it directly affects us all.”
Currently, management practices such as wildfire mitigation are being implemented in National Forests to protect forest land and water quality. Strategically controlled burns are being conducted to reduce flammable fuels and protect water from wildfire related physical, chemical and biological changes. It is imperative to recognize the importance of National Forests and the relationship between clean water. As of 2012, 124 million Americans, or approximately 40% of the country’s population, relied on Natioanl Forests and grasslands for their clean water drinking supply.
Forestinfo.org’s Eco-Links are a great way to learn about forest ecosystems and explore related fields, issues and options. Eco-links are available as free PDF downloads on Forestinfo.org and may also be purchased in hard-copy.
To download a copy of the new National Forests & Clean Water Eco-Link, click here:http://www.forestinfo.org/sites/default/files/pdfReports/EcoLinkNatlForestsWater.pdf
To access the full library of more than 35 unique Eco-Link publications, please visit: http://www.forestinfo.org/eco-links
The National Forest Foundation is hosting a webinar for partnering organizations to provide an overview, updates, and examples of stewardship contracting. Stewardship contracting is an important mechanism for getting work done on Forest Service lands. The webinar will take place on Thursday, July 24th from 2:00-3:30pm EDT (12:00-1:30pm MDT). Register at www.nff.wildapricot.org/event-1709355 or watch the recording at www.nationalforests.org/conserve/peer/stewardship-authorities.
Check out a new app designed to help share information about Colorado wildfires at www.cofires.com/. The app is also available for download for the iPhone.
Take a look at this interesting publication on traditional ecological knowledge and agroforestry practices:
Agroforestry Notes – Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Agroforestry