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USFWS & TNC Establish New National MOU for Increased Prescribed Burning

December 11, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and The Nature Conservancy (Conservancy) announce a new partnership that will for the first time increase and better coordinate controlled burn activities, also known as prescribed fire, on their respective lands to enhance wildlife values. The agreement will encourage more efficient use of personnel and equipment while treating lands that might otherwise not get the benefit of controlled burning.

“The wildlife habitats we manage need more prescribed fire to survive and thrive, and we can get more done on the ground by working together,” said Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System.

Today, controlled burns are used by land managers to safely mimic the natural fire cycle and maintain fire-resilient landscapes for the benefit of people, water, and wildlife. Planned, controlled burns are also a critical tool to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, often termed mega-fires, which have become more common in the past decade.

“The use of managed, controlled burns is essential to the health of our lands and waters, and the critical life-giving benefits they provide us,” said Blane Heumann, Director of Fire Management for the Conservancy. “We can also reduce the overgrowth of fuels that feeds the mega-fires of summer. We are very pleased and proud to be working more closely with the Service through this agreement.”

Collectively, the two entities manage more than 78 million fire adapted acres across the United States. Last year, the Conservancy led controlled burns on nearly 105,000 acres of land it owns. Annually, the organization assists the Service in burns on approximately 22,000 acres of the Refuge System.

Historically, natural fires were a common occurrence in the United States. They cleared overgrowth, restored nutrients to the soil, and “rebooted” the cycle of life across a patchwork of habitats. All told, around two-thirds of America’s forests and grasslands evolved to need the restorative power of fire at least once every 30 years.

The Service manages a network of fire-adapted lands in all 50 states and every U.S. territory, and needs to use prescribed fire on 400,000-800,000 acres per year. Fire is a critical habitat management tool, along with mechanical thinning, herbicides and other methods. More than 2,000 Service staff also cooperates with their federal, state and local partners to respond to wildfires.

The Nature Conservancy is a private, global, not-for-profit organization that works to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. In the United States, the Conservancy leads the national Fire Learning Network, along with multiple federal partners, including the Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

Over the past 11 years, working under less formal local agreements, the Service and the Conservancy have worked in 39 states with 1,150 community partners to advance collaborative conservation and train more than 2,400 fire workers. It is believed that this national partnership will expand the positive impact these two organizations have on conservation and the protection of our national treasures.

Vanessa Kauffman

Jon Schwedler

*This article was obtained from the following USFWS website: