The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, formed in 2021 through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, released a series of policy recommendations addressing wildfire in the United States on September 27th, 2023. The Commission was given only a year to conduct a comprehensive review of wildfire policy and produce recommended actions for Congress. The 340-page report includes 148 policy recommendations, acting as a thorough and comprehensive guide for suggested changes that could improve wildfire safety and preparedness in the United States.

These recommendations cover a broad range of topics from proactive, prefire risk mitigation to fire response and management, and post-fire recovery for ongoing resilience. The report states that no one entity can accomplish all of this alone, but rather that it will take all levels of society to “identify and implement locally driven solutions” (pg. 3). 

Several members of the 50-person Commission group have ties to the Fire Networks. The Fire Networks regularly work with practitioners and policy and program designers to translate learning from the field into changed outcomes. Part of what we’ve learned over the last two decades is that finding the right frames for the problems is essential to finding the right solutions. 

We are excited about the commission report because it asks some of those questions and reframes some of the issues on which we’ve been working. Critically, this includes leaning into the idea that we need social systems solutions to the wildfire fire challenges we face.

We were able to connect with a few Commission members that have connections with the Fire Networks to give us their take on the process.

Marek Smith (The Nature Conservancy, co-director of the Fire Networks)

“Just as the Commission’s composition reflects the all-of-society approach necessary to address our nation’s fire challenges, I think our recommendations do, too. 

The Commission recognizes that better outcomes with wildland fire require meaningful shared decision-making with a range of entities—Tribal, state, and local governments; residents; non-governmental organizations; private industry; the research community; and others—at every level. 

You see this in our recommendations for governance systems and structures to be more inclusive of non-federal entities. You see this in our calls for greater collaboration and empowerment of partners—through decision-making tools, program and funding flexibility and other means—to identify and implement locally driven solutions.

What I’ve learned working with the Fire Networks guided me in my work with the commission. I hope Fire Networks partners will take some time to review it, and when they do, they see themselves and their experiences in the commission’s recommendations. 

Through the powerful networks we share, we can continue to find solutions and change the way we live with wildland fire for the better.”

Bill Tripp (Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources)

“Though some of the terminology came down to very precise statements in order to get to such a comprehensive set of consensus based recommendations, it was a great honor to learn from, collaborate with, and just be among the amazing group of commission members, facilitators, and support staff.”

Neil Chapman (Flagstaff Fire Department)

“Working with Commission members over the last year was an amazing experience. The knowledge and commitment of the people in that space was exactly what was needed to draft a transformational narrative intended to restore our relationship with fire. I was looking forward to the expected sense of relief on Sept 27th when the report went public. Instead, I found myself quickly transitioning from relief back to concern. I feel like the easy part is now over. A new, more difficult task is now upon us—managing change.”

You can also listen to Fire Networks partner Kelly Martin (The Nature Conservancy, Grassroots Wildland Firefighters) speak about her experience on the Commission in a recent episode of the Life With Fire Podcast.

To access the full report, visit this link: ON FIRE: The Report of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. If your organization is looking to actively engage in wildfire resilience policy, consider joining the Wildfire Resilience Coalition.


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