A prescribed burn helps keep a longleaf ecosystem healthy.

A prescribed burn helps keep a longleaf ecosystem healthy. Credit: John Maxwell/USFWS

Forest ecosystems are dynamic and complex. A disturbance to any part of the network can alter the balance of relationships and affect the entire ecosystem either positively or negatively. Fire is unique in that it can be either a beneficial natural process or a devastating catastrophe. For species like lodgepole pine, fire is necessary to help reduce competition and help the species release its seeds. However, climate change, drought and other conditions have caused occurrences of intense wildfire to increase, which can damage forests so badly that it takes years for them to naturally recover. Wildfire is necessary for forests, but also a threat to them, so strong policies and management are imperative to make sure wildfire is working for our forests instead of against them.

Our Strategy

American Forests partners with other organizations to protect the surviving trees on burned lands and to restore forests, educating the public and key decision makers about the importance of these trees. Over the last 10 years, roughly 26 percent of our Global ReLeaf projects have restored forests damaged by fires.

In 2007, ConocoPhillips pledged $2.8 million to fund American Forests’ wildfire restoration project in this area, as part of a carbon offset settlement between the energy company and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The ongoing Cuyamaca project has laid the groundwork to encourage forest restoration throughout the region.

Credit: The National Guard/ Flickr

Fighting wildfire. Credit: The National Guard

At the federal level, American Forests has long advocated that decision makers in the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior and Congress should address wildfire threats and develop plans and policies for wildfire mitigation and prevention. This resulted in the establishment of the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act) Coalition, which supported the passage of the FLAME Act that would allow the federal government to enforce funding for larger emergency wildfires without taking away from other important projects.

Take Action

Visit American Forests’ Action Center to send pre-written letters to Congress and other representatives to support sound wildfire policy. Letters available now include:

donate_editto American Forests to support our work, like wildfire restoration projects and wildfire prevention policy action.


Forest Fire News from our Loose Leaf blog

The True Cost of Forest Fires

by American Forests
A firefighter combats a dangerous blaze in the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest

By Marcelene Sutter

As the world warms up, the struggle to raise the money to fight increasingly intense and more frequent forest fires continues. The rise in temperatures is causing trees to dry out, and fire-prone areas are already feeling the effects. Wildfires are burning stronger and longer, and the government is struggling to provide the funds to fight back. These fires have become a nightmare both for the o... (Read More)

Congress Increases Funding to Fight Wildfires in Legislation to Reopen the Federal Government

by Alison Share, Environmental Public Policy Associate, Crowell & Moring LLP
The Rim Fire at Yosemite National Park

We discussed the U.S. Forest Service’s severe shortfall in its emergency firefighting funding back in August, as the Yosemite National Park fire raged. At the time, the U.S. Forest Service was down to $50 million in its budget line item for wildfire suppression for the year. When sequestration kicked in earlier this year, $115 million was removed from the budget for fighting wildfire. But over $1 billion had been spent by August to fight... (Read More)

Fighting Fire with Fire

by American Forests
The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest

By Marcelene Sutter

In a recent paper published in Science, leading fire scientists in the West propose a solution to address the sweeping and highly destructive wildfires that have ravaged the region in recent years: more fire. The authors, including top scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Washington, Colorado State University and the University of Arizona, stated that “fir... (Read More)