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National Fire Plan fuels treatments target the wildland-urban interface in the western United States

Author(s): Allan Fitzsimmons
Year Published: 2009

The article 'Implementation of National Fire Plan treatments in the wildland-urban interface in the western United States' (1) is misleading because it is based on wildland-urban interface (WUI) designations not used by federal agencies or their state and local partners. Moreover, by omitting any examination of the allotment of program monies to WUI and non-WUI areas, it misses a significant opportunity to measure program priorities. As a result, its conclusions fail to provide any new insights to improve protection for the WUI. Methods matter. Federal agencies use collaboratively developed WUI designations consistent with congressional direction to work with state and local governments (2). Doing so permits inculcation of local and regional conditions flowing from the geographic diversity in vegetation, topography, settlement, and other factors influencing the interplay of fire and people. Community Wildfire Protection Plans and similar documents used by the agencies capture these variations [the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (P.L. 108-148) calls for the preparation of Community Wildfire Protection Plans]. Governments at all levels reaffirmed this approach to WUI identification in December 2006 (3). Thus defined, the WUI accounted for 45% of treated acreage in the western United States during the period 2004-2008 (calculated from annual state fuels treatment reports that show WUI acres accounted for 1.5 million of the 3.3 million treated hectares; see ref. 4). Schoennagel et al. (1) identify the WUI by employing a mechanistic approach that bypasses significant consideration of local conditions as well as input from knowledgeable on-the-ground sources. Only 3% of all acres treated were in the WUI as they see it. But is it their interpretation of the WUI that counts? Examination of a federal program should be done using its own parameters. Recasting terms may be a way for observers to suggest how a program should operate, but it is not appropriate when they are evaluating or describing how a program is operating.

Citation: Fitzsimmons, Allan. 2009. National Fire Plan fuels treatments target the wildland-urban interface in the western United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 106(33):E87-E87.
Topic(s): Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 8351
FRAMES RCS number: 13311
Record updated: Apr 19, 2018