WILDFIRE THOUGHT LEADERS
Wildfire Resilience in Action
Sr. Director of Conservation Programs,
National Forest Foundation
Chartered by Congress, the National Forest Foundation was created with a simple mission: bring people together to restore and enhance our National Forests and Grasslands. As Sr. Director of Conservation Programs at National Forest Foundation, Emily Olsen is responsible for leading and supporting their conservation activities across U.S. Forest Service Regions 1 (Northern), 2 (Rocky Mountain), 4 (Intermountain), 5 (Pacific Southwest), and 8 (Southern). In Colorado, Emily helps oversee their strategic plan as well as their current projects and campaigns, including Wood for Life (WFL) and many forest health and wildfire resilience projects across the state (with the Wilder-Highlands Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project being one example).
Wood for Life (WFL) is a program aimed at increasing forest resiliency while providing firewood to Indigenous communities. Small-diameter and low-value logs (perfect for firewood) are being removed to promoting wildfire resilience over time. Wood for Life is a partnership between the NFF, U.S. Forest Service, NGOs such as the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, and many Indigenous communities across the Four Corners region and Idaho.
The Wilder-Highlands Mountain Pine Beetle (MBP) Response Project is an urgent, holistic forest management project on the National Forest System and private lands in the Colorado Rockies. This project set new standards for shared stewardship and it is an example of how effective collaboration leads to amazing results. The mountain pine beetle is a native bark beetle that impacted nearly 3.4 million acres of forests in Colorado from 1996 to 2014. It can infest and kill all pine species found in Colorado. The Wilder-Highlands Project is a proactive effort to slow the spread of an outbreak of the MPB on dead, dying, and susceptible lodgepole pine stands located in the wildland-urban interface. With swift and effective action, the outbreak can be prevented from becoming a catastrophic disturbance to the forest ecosystem and the essential functions that it provides.
Learn more about the NFF and Emily’s work at the National Forest Foundation website or connect with her on Linkedin.
Data-led Decision-Making for Wildfire Restoration
Director of Forest and Fire Program, The Nature Conservancy in Colorado
Rob Addington is the Director of the Forest and Fire Program with The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. He and his team are focused on increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration in Colorado to reduce hazardous fuels and promote landscape resilience to natural disturbances such as wildfire as well as climate change. Much of this work is completed in partnership with agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service, and other non-governmental organizations.
Over his 15+ year career, he has published dozens of data and science-backed papers on fire management and forest restoration.
Below are a few of the most recent articles he co-authored:
Reduced fire severity offers near-term buffer to climate-driven declines in conifer resilience across the western United States
Using observations from over 10,000 sites, this study compared the relative importance of differences in fire-caused tree mortality, which limits seeds available for tree regeneration, to the impacts of warm, dry climate conditions in determining postfire conifer regeneration. The work highlights the next few decades as a window of opportunity over which management could minimize the likelihood of fire-caused forest loss.
Read more here.
Identifying opportunities for the use of broadcast prescribed fire on Colorado’s Front Range.
The article discusses the use of broadcast prescribed fire as an effective and low-cost management tool for achieving fuel reduction at scale, especially in the Colorado Front Range, which has experienced numerous large, high-severity fires in recent decades. The authors present the results of a multi-criteria suitability analysis that identifies opportunities and constraints for the use of broadcast prescribed fire based on spatial factors, including wildfire hazard, vegetation and fuel types, historical fire regimes, and wildland-urban interface development. Within their analysis area, over 228,000 ha (approximately 13%) were classified as highly suitable for broadcast prescribed fire, with opportunities for large-scale projects distributed throughout the Front Range. The results of this analysis can be used to develop comprehensive fuels reduction and forest restoration strategies that incorporate the use of prescribed fire, including identifying where mechanical treatments could be applied to facilitate the use of broadcast prescribed fire over large extents, as well as where prescribed fire may be a viable option for long-term maintenance of treatments.
Read more here.
Prioritizing fuels reduction for water supply protection
This paper indicates that wildfire risk to water supplies can be substantially reduced by treating a small portion of the watersheds that have dense, fire-prone forests on steep slopes that drain to water supply infrastructure. Risk is quantified as the expected sediment impact costs to water supplies by combining measures of fire likelihood and behavior, erosion, sediment transport and water supply vulnerability. They demonstrate the model’s utility for prioritizing fuel treatments in two large watersheds in Colorado that are critical for municipal water supply.
Learn more here.
Catalyzing the community to keep Chaffee County special
Co-lead of Envision,
Cindy Williams, Co-lead of Envision, Chaffee County, currently facilitates and leads three community convener programs for Envision Chaffee County that address quality-of-life concerns identified by residents: the Next Generation Community Wildfire Protection Plan convened by Chaffee County government; the Keep Working Lands Working program that supports sustainable agriculture and rural landscapes; and Envision Recreation in Balance, a program that manages outdoor recreation growth impacts.
The Envision community planning initiative engaged more than 1,500 people and nearly 80 organizations to create a shared community vision that drives their work. In recent years 150-plus volunteers geotagged thousands of campfire rings, 14 miles of social trails and 100 football fields’ worth of impacted ground soil at 2,200+ dispersed campsites in Chaffee County. This monitoring data helps us take action by fixing problem areas and developing long-term solutions. Envision helps the community implement programs that address beautiful landscapes, clean water, recreation, friendly people, healthy forests and thriving wildlife.