5.4 million acres treated since 2017, a 49% increase compared to the prior four years
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced today that the Department of the Interior reduced wildfire risk across 1.5 million acres of Interior-managed lands in FY 2020, bringing its total to 5.4 million acres since 2017. This is the most acreage treated during a Presidential term since Interior started tracking the data in 2003 and an increase of 49% compared to the last four years of the previous administration.
“President Trump set aggressive targets to more effectively and actively manage our rangelands and forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires. He took bold action on this issue, which had been missing in previous administrations,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Answering the call in hitting our significant milestones were our top-class wildland firefighter crews, who have been on the front lines working around the clock to conduct these preventative treatments and extinguish destructive blazes throughout the West this year. They deserve our unending appreciation.”
At 1.5 million acres, this year was the highest total for preventative treatments in more than a decade. Since 2017, Interior has increased the amount of acreage treated to prevent wildfires every year.
Under President Trump’s Executive Order 13855 on Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, Interior was directed to:
Treat 750,000 acres of public lands to reduce fuel loads;
Treat 500,000 acres of public lands to protect water quality and mitigate severe flooding and erosion risks arising from wildfires; and
Reduce vegetation through forest health treatments by offering for sale 600 million board feet of timber from public lands.
Surpassing these goals, Interior:
Reduced fuel loads on 1,534,136 acres;
Protected water quality and mitigated severe flooding and erosion risks arising from wildfires on 1,691,167 acres;
Addressed non-native and invasive species across 1,099,576 acres;
Offered for sale 763 million board feet of timber; and
Performed maintenance on public roads needed to provide access for emergency services and restoration work across 19,797 miles.
Interior also completed more fuels treatment work in the wildland-urban interface than at any time in the Department’s history, covering more than a million acres. This work reduces wildfire risk to tribal communities and communities adjacent to Interior-managed lands.
To further limit and prevent wildfires now and in the years to come, Secretary Bernhardt signed a record of decision earlier this year, requiring the construction and maintenance of a system of up to 11,000 miles of strategically placed fuel breaks within a 223 million-acre area in portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
Local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) district and field offices will use manual, chemical and mechanical treatments, including prescribed fire, seeding and targeted grazing, to construct fuel breaks along roads and rights-of-way on BLM-administered lands. The fuel breaks will minimize new disturbance and wildlife habitat fragmentation and maximize accessibility for wildland firefighters.
The BLM has extensively documented that fuel breaks and other types of fuel treatments are effective. Since 2002, the bureau has assessed more than 1,400 fuel breaks and other types of fuels treatments that intersect with wildfires and determined that 79% of fuel breaks are effective in helping to control wildfires and that 84% are effective in helping to change fire behavior.
While the Trump Administration has continually prioritized wildfire treatments and preventative measures to more effectively manage public woodlands and forests, human-caused wildfires account for more than 80% of all wildfire ignitions across the country every year and are preventable. If not for these human-caused wildfires, even more resources could be dedicated to wildfires caused by lightning and other natural causes.
About the U.S. Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior conserves and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people, provides scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people, and honors the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.