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Fire Chronicle #26  Laura McCarthy, Forest Trust
 Jul 26, 2004 09:29 PDT 

FIRE CHRONICLE: Stories of the National Fire Plan
Number 26
July 26, 2004


Fuels reduction treatment receives more funding through the National
Fire Plan than any management activity other than fire suppression.
“Fuel reduction treatment” is a technical term to foresters and land
managers, yet increasingly federal, state and local officials and
policymakers are getting involved in discussions of fuels reduction
activities. A new publication of the Southwest Community Forestry
Research Center (SCFRC) aims to dispel confusion and build understanding
by showing how fuel reduction projects have been implemented – and what
their effects are – across the Southwestern U.S.

The SCFRC survey examines the range of treatments being used in
ponderosa pine forests in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona and provides
photographs showing the physical effects of treatments. The report is
useful as a tool for understanding what fuels reduction involves and how
the treatments affect forests.

The SCFRC study was designed around three questions: (1) what is the
range of ponderosa pine forest conditions prior to fuel reduction
treatments; (2) what are the prescriptions being used in fuel reduction
prescriptions; and (3) what is the range of forest conditions after fuel
reduction treatment? The study used the descriptive method (Issac and
Michael 1981) to capture the variability in treatments and
prescriptions. Because of its descriptive nature, the study compares
sites but does not seek to explain relationships or test hypotheses.
Vegetation measurements portray the characteristics of treated and
untreated forest areas, and photos of treated and untreated forests are
included for the twelve sites profiled in the publication.

The photographs capture the wide range of variability in forest
conditions and treatment effects. Following are summaries of three of
the fuel reduction prescriptions and treatments examined in the study.

- In the Colt Restoration Project on the San Juan National Forest in
Colorado, the removal of small diameter trees dramatically increased the
proportion of large trees and the average tree diameter, while at the
same time lowering the basal area and the volume of flammable wood. The
pre-treatment stand had many trees over 14” dbh and the prescription
called for removing small diameter trees. The prescription also called
for retaining the spatial diversity of the pre-treatment stand with
openings and clumps of trees. The end result was a forest with a mix of
attributes, but characterized by the dominance of larger ponderosa pine

- The site that was studied in the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
in New Mexico presents a strikingly different picture of treatment
effects. The initial condition of the LANL site was a dense forest of
trees that were all about the same size. Although the prescription
focused on removing small diameter trees, the small average diameter of
the trees (9.5” dbh), coupled with the lack of variation in tree size,
meant that the average tree diameter in the treated stand was only
slightly higher than the untreated stand. The prescription also aimed to
separate tree crowns to discourage wildfire spread, so the treatment
result was a uniformly spaced and sparse forest. Photographs of the
treated and untreated stands taken in winter show the shadows of the
trees crowns illustrating the wide spaces between trees.

- The Bruno Tank site on the Apache-Sitgraves National Forest in Arizona
shows how large overstory pine trees can in some cases inhibit
regeneration directly beneath them, while other times the large trees
are encroached upon by dense thickets of small trees. In this treatment,
the thickets of small, spindly trees were removed where they were
crowding large trees. In most cases, these big trees showed signs of
stress, such as mistletoe and die-back in their crowns, while the crowns
of trees that had space beneath them were comparatively healthy.

An ever-growing number of people are involved in planning or
implementing hazardous fuel treatments in Western forests, many without
forestry or fuel management training. The Southwest Community Forestry
Research Center’s new publication on fuel reduction treatments provides
a useful review of what these treatments can involve and what they look
like when implemented.    

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The full report “Fuel Reduction Projects in
Southwest Ponderosa Pine Forests” was written by Martha Schumann and
published as Working Paper #9 of the Southwest Community Forestry
Research Center. The report can be downloaded from
http://theforesttrust.org/swdownload.html. The 3.3 MB document has
several dozen color photographs and a high-speed connection is
recommended for downloading. The author can be reached at
mar-@theforesttrust.org or 505-983-8992 x23.

CITATION: Issac, S. and Michael, W.B. 1981. Handbook of research and
evaluation. EdiTS Publishers, San Diego, CA.

FIRE CHRONICLE is edited by the Forest Guild, formerly the Forest Trust.
Laura McCarthy, Policy Program Director, wrote this issue. The Forest
Guild welcomes your comments, stories, and observations about how the
national fire plan is being implemented (just send a reply message and
it will go to the list moderator). To subscribe to FIRE CHRONICLE go to
http://www.topica.com/lists/firechronicles/ or send an email message to

PAST ISSUES OF FIRE CHRONICLE can be downloaded from
1. 2002 Fire Plan Appropriations will Benefit from 2001 Experience
2. Wildland-Urban Interface Definition a Barrier to Accountability
3. Stewardship Blocks: Innovative Tool Brings Fire Plan Benefits into
4. Youth Training Needed for Fire Plan to Benefit Local Workforce
5. Grants Get National Fire Plan Money into Communities
6. Collaborative Forest Restoration Program Creates New Solution to
7. Permits Regulate Prescribed Burning on Private Land
8. Accountability Remains a Key Issue for National Fire Plan
9. National Partnership Advances Landscape-Scale Forest Restoration
10. Poor Communities Most Threatened By Wildfire
11. A New Model to Fire-Proof Forest Homes
12. Consensus Over Fuel Reduction Treatment Dissolves
13. Wildland Urban Interface Definition Needed for Effective Policy
14. Funding Gaps Prevent Completion of Hazardous Fuel Reduction
15. Agencies Propose to Streamline Environmental Review for Hazardous
Fuel Reduction Treatments
16. National Fire Plan Provides Economic Opportunity for Rural Residents
17. Bark Beetles Heighten Wildfire Concerns
18. Small And Local Businesses Cite Barriers To Reaching National Fire
Plan Goals
19. Federal Report Fuels Public Debate Over Healthy Forests Act
20. New Report Evaluates Efficacy Of Fuel Reduction Treatments
21. Slow Progress to Set Treatment Priorities for National Fire Plan
22. Better Accounting of Fuels Reduction is Needed
23. Scientists Tell Agencies: “Salvage of Dead Pinyon Pine may be
24. Policy Evaluation: The State of the National Fire Plan
25. Agencies Implement Promising New Science-Based Accounting System
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