Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy & Program Review: Draft Report, by U.S. Department of Interior & U.S. Department of Agriculture
With fire management policy and so many other aspects of government behavior, there are shifts that are predictable if lamentable, and this book represents one of those shifts. At times, as in the late 1990’s, there was a general mood of austerity when it came to budgeting, and as a result this particular guide seeks to tone down fire management in such a way that the lives of precious and rare federal trained forestry workers were preserved, along with a fair bit of grousing about the supposed unfairness of the expectations of rural dwellers that their property would be protected in the case of a fire. I am admittedly biased in the matter at least somewhat, but I do not think that to be an unreasonable expectation. At any rate, this particular guide was written in a time of retrenchment when low salaries and morale at the forest service encouraged an attitude of letting fires burn a bit more readily and being less aggressive in defending the property of rural Americans in harm’s way, which led in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s to a rash of massive wildfires that cost a lot of damage and that damaged the political reputation of the forest service because of its lack of protection.
This guide is a short one at only about 40 pages or so. The book begins with an executive summary as well as an introduction. There are some guiding principles as well as some current and proposed federal fire policies that sought to de-emphasize the duty of care and protection for rural Americans, at least for a while, until the political pressure was turned up again in the early 2000’s. After that the bulk of the guide is taken up with topical area discussions, including some thoughts about coordinated policy and program management, the role of fire in resource management, the use of prescribed fire and fuel management, preparedness and suppression, and wildlife/urban interface protection. After this come three appendices, a glossary, references, and a steering group. Altogether this particular guide emphasizes a goal in saving money and the lives of federal workers, and complaining and attacking the expectations of rural Americans for protection from fire, as well as the political pressure they put to bear on the federal government through their elected representatives. My sympathies are with the American people, though, and not with the beancounters and cost-cutting measures that we see here. Whatever retrenchment federal government needs to have, there are reasons why cost-cutting when it comes to essential services is a bad call.