Sharing, and Learning Together since 2017
In making the tough decision to postpone our 2020 face-to-face event, we found ourselves looking back with pride and a feeling of accomplishment at the three previous National Workshops. We thought you’d enjoy the story as well!
As you know, the Wildland Fire Leadership Councili (WFLC) tasked the three regions (NE, SE and West) with facilitating implementation of the Cohesive Strategy. While all the regions each have geographically and culturally different priorities, it was clear that there was a strong need to bring together practitioners, leadership, decision-makers and the science community from across the country to share their experiences (both successes and challenges) and learn from each other in person. Not having much experience in coordinating large, national workshops, we engaged our Cohesive Strategy partners at the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) who are extremely experienced in the coordination of these types of events.
Together, we developed and kicked off the 1st Annual National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop in Reno, Nevada in 2017. Our goal was to clarify, support and share successes and challenges of implementing the Cohesive Strategy to force-multiply the understanding and application of the Cohesive Strategy.
The theme of the 1st Annual Workshop was “All Hands All Lands: Implementation Rooted in Science.” As the first gathering of the national audience, the Workshop focused entirely on the Cohesive Strategy, its understanding as well as its early activities and progress towards the Cohesive Strategy goals of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and a Safe, Effective Wildfire Response, all supported by best available science.
Presentations and discussions emphasized the role of science in supporting implementation and identified processes to ensure science integration in all planning. The Workshop also offered an opportunity for attendees to network and build relationships with new friends and partners for future engagements. While it was very successful and a significant milestone for us, two important lessons emerged from the event.
First, the wildland fire issues facing us were not declining but escalating, and there was a timely need to continue and accelerate a comprehensive program of work.
Second, because the planning and implementation required to meet challenges outlined in the Cohesive Strategy had not been fully examined, there was a great deal still to be learned from experiences and a clear need for continuing discussions that warranted the prominent stage of a national workshop.
A Quick Review
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy was finalized in 2014 to comprehensively address wildland fire issues across all lands in the United States. It is by far the most wide-reaching, timely, and applicable strategy ever developed for wildland fire management. It sets broad, strategic intent and direction as the foundation for implementing actions and activities nationwide to reduce risk at all levels. The vision of the Cohesive Strategy is:
To safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed;
use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources;
and as a Nation, live with wildland fire.
The primary, national goals identified as necessary to achieving the vision are:
Fire Adapted Communities
Safe and Effective, Risk-Based Wildfire Response
These goals are undeniably interconnected and cover the broad range of issues we continue to face in wildland fire, confronting significant challenges that cannot be left unaddressed.
Local, state, Tribal, federal, non-governmental partners and the public are working together at unprecedented levels to make progress towards the three goals. This requires a shift in the cultural norm and the way we’ve conducted business over the last 20-100 years…and that’s no easy task. It involves committed, collaborative efforts that consider the hard truths of our current forest, ecosystem, rangeland and community conditions as well as the collective sharing of risk and investments in reductions in risk across landscapes, jurisdictions and publics.
In 2018, the 2nd Annual Workshop “Making a Difference: Building Capacity, Improving Preparedness, and Learning from Experience” provided plenty of important learning in many additional areas, including:
- a clearer understanding of what Cohesive Strategy implementation looks like at the local, regional, tribal and federal levels;
- the importance of Cohesive Strategy planning and implementation nationwide;
- improving preparedness for wildland fire management challenges – planning, implementation, collaboration, scale, management options, and policy
- nation-wide accomplishments, continuing actions and capacity building.
The 3rd Annual Workshop was held in 2019 to build on the success of the first two. The theme, “Our Journey to the New Wildland Fire Paradigm” reflected the continuing efforts across the nation to implement to Cohesive Strategy and change the way we respond to risk. By hosting the Workshop in Plymouth, Massachusetts, we drew in much more of the mid-western, eastern and southern experiences than the two previous workshops located in the West in Reno, Nevada.
And if you’re looking for the full blog about this virtual offering as well as the Postponed 4th Annual Cohesive Strategy Workshop, click here.