Capabilities and Challenges of Wildfire Response FS Chief Testifies Before Senate Committee

U.S. Forest Service capabilities and challenges in the face of increasingly extreme wildfires were the focus of Chief Tom Tidwell’s recent statement before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“On average, wildfires burn twice as many acres each year as compared to 40 years ago. Last year, the fires were massive in size, coinciding with increased temperatures and early snow melt in the West,” said Tidwell. “The largest issue we now face is how to adapt our management to anticipate climate change impacts and to mitigate their potential effects.”

The Forest Service estimates a total of almost 400 million acres of all vegetated lands are at moderate to high risk from uncharacteristically large wildfires. (Credit:

Nearly 400 million acres are at moderate to high risk from uncharacteristically large wildfires. (Photo:

Tidwell highlighted the development of a National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which focuses on restoring fire-adapted ecosystems, building fire-adapted human communities, and responding appropriately to wildfire.

The Chief spoke about the impact of increased fire suppression costs, now nearly half of the entire Forest Service budget, as well as the Agency’s ability to protect life, property, and natural resources in the face of continuing budget challenges.

The Forest Service’s ecosystem restoration projects were also addressed, including the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program, which has contributed to the treatment of over 500,000 acres and removed and used nearly 5 million green tons of biomass at an average cost of just $66 per acre. The grant program is administered through FPL’s Technology Marketing Unit.

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