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Federal commission calls for ‘comprehensive policy change’ to deal with wildfire crisis

Dark smoke rises above a line of trees with mountains visible on the right side of the picture.
Brad Washa
Boise National Forest
The 2022 Four Corners Fire in Idaho

A federal commission tasked with rethinking wildfire policy has just released a major report with nearly 150 consensus recommendations.

The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission has 50 members, a mix of academics, government officials, tribal leaders and others. Over the past year, it charted a new wildfire policy course.

“We as a culture must fundamentally rethink wildfire and what it means to coexist with increasing risk,” said commission member Kimiko Barrett, of Montana-based Headwaters Economics.

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On Wednesday, the commission released the nearly 330-page report with their recommendations, touching on everything from increasing the use of prescribed fire to adequately paying wildfire personnel.

“One of the biggest themes of this report is that in most fire adapted landscapes, there is a need for more beneficial fire,” Barrett said. “At the same time, commensurate with this, we need to ensure that people and homes and communities are prepared for that increasing fire.”

Among the report’s recommendations, she highlighted the proposal to create what they call a community wildfire risk reduction program.

“This is very important because to date there is no dedicated funding for communities and structures to be built more resilient to wildfire,” she said. “There is a significant amount of funding available for forest treatments and fuels reduction on the wildlands and very little funding and resources available for built environment mitigation measures.”

As laid out in the report, such a program would incentivize fire-resistant home improvements, enhance building codes and support research into lowering wildfire risks for structures.

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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hey everyone! I’m Murphy Woodhouse, Boise State Public Radio’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter.