Smoke Signals of Hope

 In Fire Adapted Colorado, Forest Health

A grass field on fire, smoke and trees in the background

I was recently immersed in Stephen Pyne’s Pyrocene, when adaptive management strategies that include an intentional patchwork of crown-fire burning in boreal forests caught my attention as fires across Canada are altering landscapes, devastating communities, and inundating much of North America with smoke. Despite often feeling behind in effort to live with fire and smoke, there is hope.

 A Map depicting Canadian Wildfire Smoke in North America. June 2023.

With smoke making national headlines, FACO is on the verge of publishing living with smoke resources developed by The Ember Alliance with BLM support. I imagine how our cool and wet weather is influenced by the particulates released from Canada’s boreal forests, putting a damper on spring wildfires and planned prescribed fires. The annual joint memo to wildland management leaders from the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture highlights increased national investments in proactive efforts. Mitigation staff are being added to Forest Service, BLM, State Forest Service, Division of Fire Prevention and Control, and many local wildfire organizations including some new FACO network participants welcomed in this newsletter. This spring, Governor Polis signed an act that will establish a statewide minimum WUI code to make future development in the wildland-urban interface more resilient.

We met with dozens of wildfire resilience professionals who are enlisting Neighborhood Ambassadors to change wildfire outcomes in their high-risk neighborhoods throughout Colorado and the western U.S. and FACO is actively working with Wildfire Adapted Partnership to support Neighborhood Ambassadors in Colorado to leverage WUI residents, the largest workforce to live wildfire ready. (Learn more about volunteer Neighborhood Ambassadors in this week’s FAC Net Blog Post, Engaging Volunteers, Empowering Community: The FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach).

Progress is on display every day amidst your chipping projects, neighborhood work days, and large events like Team Rubicon’s Op Trees on Parade bringing in hundreds of volunteers to reduce hazardous fuels from Grand Lake to Parshall. I listened in on the Southwest Colorado Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (SW CO CFLRP) meeting which included amazing program accomplishments across public and private lands. And Cindy Howard, FACO’s Operations and Communications Specialist, shared the header photo of a small lightning strike fire that skunked around and cleaned up some dead fuels on BLM managed lands adjacent to her property in southern Colorado. There’s nothing like observing good fire outcomes in your own backyard.

Sharing in hope,
Becca Samulski

“Hope is often misunderstood. People tend to think that it is simply passive wishful thinking: I hope something will happen but I’m not going to do anything about it. This is indeed the opposite of real hope, which requires action and engagement.” – Jane Goodall