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Fuel Treatment Effectiveness in Eastern Oregon

Title: Assessing Fuel Treatment Effectiveness in Mixed-Conifer Forest in the Blue Mountains, Oregon: Linking Landscape and Social Perspectives

Overview: Active forest management practices (e.g., mechanical thinning, prescribed fire) for reducing fire risk and enhancing forest integrity have become essential in many U.S. forests. The risks of inaction and escalating costs of continued fire suppression far outweigh the risks of implementation. Fuel treatments are well known to reduce the intensity and spread of wildfires at the stand level. Their effectiveness is, however, also reliant on the timing of future wildfires and the location of fuel treatments across a landscape. When developing fuel treatment plans, managers must consider treatment placement and maintenance frequency. Fuel treatment prescriptions (e.g., mechanical thinning, prescribed fire) and characteristics (e.g., size of fuels removed, re-application interval) vary greatly, although their implementation is determined by the current and desired state of the forest, location, topography, and implementation costs. Quantifying treatment effectiveness requires an understanding of its contribution to reducing landscape-scale wildfire risk and other management objectives. However, the influence of both anthropogenic and climate drivers of future wildfire add uncertainty to the treatment placement decision-making framework.

In order to attempt to reduce this uncertainty, we will simulate landscape-scale fuel treatments across the southern portions of the Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. This intensively-managed landscape is associated with the federal Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), as are the two other landscapes (Osceola National Forest and Sierra National Forest)
focused on by our collaborators. Our simulations will focus on identifying highest-priority areas under extreme fire weather conditions, and developing an array of adaptable strategies for future management in a changing world. We will identify both landscape-specific and general determinants of high-priority fuel treatment areas, including spatial configurations, biotic factors (e.g., overstory composition), abiotic factors (e.g., slope, aspect), and infrastructure components (e.g., distance to roads and structures). This combined information is critical for creating resilient landscapes through a collaborative process.

Joint Fire Science Program 2015-2017
Status: Ongoing

Presentations and Workshops:
Management Options for Reducing Wildfire Risk Under Extreme Fire Weather Conditions - Workshop with Forest Managers, February 12, 2016, USDA Forest Service Malheur National Forest Supervisor's Office, John Day, OR. Brooke Cassell & Rob Scheller.

Association for Fire Ecology - 6th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress, November 16 - 20, 2015, San Antonio, TX - Poster Presentation - Brooke Cassell

Brooke Cassell,
Nov 23, 2015, 1:59 PM
Brooke Cassell,
Feb 10, 2016, 3:14 PM