Wildland Fire Management: Update on Federal Agency Efforts to Develop a Cohesive Strategy to Address Wildland Fire Threats

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The wildland fire problems facing our nation continue to grow. The number of acres burned by wildland fires annually from 2000 to 2005 was 70 percent greater than the average burned annually during the 1990s, while appropriations for the federal government's wildland fire management activities tripled from about $1 billion in fiscal year 1999 to nearly $3 billion in fiscal year 2005. Experts believe that catastrophic damage from wildland fire probably will continue to increase until an adequate long-term federal response, coordinated with others, is implemented and has ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. May 1, 2006.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The wildland fire problems facing our nation continue to grow. The number of acres burned by wildland fires annually from 2000 to 2005 was 70 percent greater than the average burned annually during the 1990s, while appropriations for the federal government's wildland fire management activities tripled from about $1 billion in fiscal year 1999 to nearly $3 billion in fiscal year 2005. Experts believe that catastrophic damage from wildland fire probably will continue to increase until an adequate long-term federal response, coordinated with others, is implemented and has had time to take effect. In the past 7 years, the federal government has made important progress in putting into place basic components of a framework for managing and responding to the nation's wildland fire problems. Many challenges lie ahead, however, if the federal agencies having primary responsibility for managing wildland fire issues--the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS) within the Department of the Interior--are to address the problems in a timely and effective manner. Most notably, as we reported in January 2005, the agencies need to develop a cohesive strategy that identifies the available long-term options and related funding requirements for reducing excess vegetation that could fuel wildland fires and for responding to wildland fires when they occur. The agencies and the Congress need such a strategy in order to make informed decisions about an effective and affordable long-term approach for addressing problems that have been decades in the making and will take decades more to resolve. In our January 2005 report, recognizing that the development of a cohesive strategy that includes long-term options and funding was itself a long-term effort, we recommended that the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior provide the Congress with a joint tactical plan outlining the critical steps the agencies planned to take, together with related time frames, to complete such a cohesive strategy. In responding to that report, officials from Agriculture and Interior said they would produce an initial tactical plan by August 2005. Our prior work also identified several tasks, each with its own challenges, that the agencies must complete prior to implementing such a strategy, including finishing data systems needed to identify the extent, severity, and location of wildland fire threats to the nation's communities and ecosystems; updating local fire management plans to better specify the actions needed to effectively address these threats; and assessing the cost-effectiveness and affordability of options for reducing fuels. In this context, Congress asked us to provide information on (1) the progress that the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior have made over the past year in developing a tactical plan outlining the steps and time frames needed to complete a cohesive strategy for addressing wildland fire threats, as we recommended; and (2) the agencies' efforts to address the challenges GAO believes they are likely to face as they develop this cohesive strategy."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • May 1, 2006

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Wildland Fire Management: Update on Federal Agency Efforts to Develop a Cohesive Strategy to Address Wildland Fire Threats, text, May 1, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296286/: accessed November 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.