July 23rd, 2012 by
Battling the High Park Fire in Colorado

Nebraska National Guard crewmembers of Company C 2nd-135th General Support Aviation Battalion dump water from a Bambi bucket onto flames of the High Park Fire, in Larimer County, Colorado, June 18, 2012. Credit: Staff Sgt. Tate Petersen, Company C, 2nd-135th General Support Aviation Support

This June, more land burned from wildfires than in any other June in the last decade — more than 1.3 million acres. At the same time, there were actually fewer fires than usual. This pattern of fewer fires resulting in greater levels of destruction is getting more common each year. Across the U.S., we are seeing more and more megafires like that in Colorado’s Waldo Canyon, which was the most destructive fire in the state’s history.

Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to minimize these incredibly destructive fires to protect homes, land and resources. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) Coalition today announced the success of a number of projects designed to do this very thing. For the second year in a row, reports show that this U.S. Forest Service program focused on pre-emptive thinning and controlled burns is a cost-effective solution in addressing wildfire.

For the same cost of fighting a single megafire (approximately $40 million), CFLRP funds restoration projects that bring together local forest workers, sawmill owners, conservationists, businesses, sportsmen and outdoor recreationists to collaboratively address forest-health concerns on Forest Service lands near their communities. In 2011, the combined efforts of these projects reduced the risk of fire across more than 120,000 acres, while creating more than 500 jobs and improving 192,000 acres of wildlife habitat, among other results.

Deschutes National Forest, Oregon

Deschutes National Forest, Oregon. Credit: American Forests

American Forests is a founding member and sits on the steering committee of the CFLRP Coalition, which is comprised of more than 140 local, regional, and national forest stakeholders. The coalition exists to ensure the success of all CFLRP projects, which range from accelerating longleaf pine restoration in Florida to collaborative work in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest to reduce fire risk to forest restoration in Arizona. The coalition also advocates for full and consistent funding of the program. As part of these efforts, we have been meeting with members of Congress across the country to gain support, and with Congress busy drastically cutting funding for conservation programs, we are heartened that CFLRP will continue to receive the full funding level next year, allowing its important work to continue.

A hallmark of CFLRP and the coalition is bringing diverse groups — including private businesses, communities, counties, tribes, water suppliers, associations, nonprofits and more — together to accomplish work that benefits all: the restoration of healthy forest ecosystems. We look forward to continuing to fight for the CFLRP and programs like it and to working with our partners across the country to continue our mission of protecting and restoring forests for the benefit of communities, families and individuals across the country.