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

Divided and Disappearing

by Susan Laszewski
Chiew Larn resevoir in Thailand

It’s well known that when habitat becomes fragmented, wildlife suffers. But now, a study more than two decades in the making has published its findings in Science demonstrating just how rapidly mammals species disappear in fragmented patches of forest.

The study found that mammal species whose habitat becomes fragmented can disappear in as little as 25 years.

Last year, biologist Dr. Luke Gibson of the National University ... (Read More)

H.R. 1526: Limiting Judicial Review of Forest Management

by Alison Share, Environmental Public Policy Associate, Crowell & Moring LLP
Logging truck in Rogue River National Forest.

H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, passed 244-173 with 17 Democrats voting to support the measure and only one Republican voting in opposition. Proponents of the bill argue that over the next decade, it will create more than 200,000 jobs and save nearly $400 million. Opponents, which include both the White House and environmental groups, criticize the bill’s limited environmental reviews and its delegat... (Read More)

Charred Forests, Melting Snow

by Susan Laszewski
Credit: fortherock/Flickr

A study, conducted by Oregon State University researchers, funded by the National Science Foundation and published in Geophysical Research Letters, found that snowpack melts faster in forests which have been charred by wildfire. The researchers explain that as the charred particles are shed from the tree throughout the winter, they darken the snow, reducing its reflectivity.

How much of a difference could a few burned bits make? The... (Read More)