WASHINGTON (KCAU) – The Trump administration announced Wednesday they reduced wildfire risk across 5.4 million acres in the 2020 Fiscal Year.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced Wednesday that the Department of Interior reduced wildfire risk across 1.5 million acres of Interior-managed lands in the 2020 Fiscal Year, which brings the total acreage to 5.4 million acres since 2017.
“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,” Secretary Bernhardt said.
“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 blazes throughout the West this year. They deserve our unending appreciation,” Secretary Bernhardt added.
According to the U.S. Department of Interior, at 1.5 million acres, 2020 was the highest total for preventative treatments in more than a decade. They stated that in 2017, they increased the amount of acreage treated to prevent wildfires every year.
The U.S. Department of Interior was directed under President Trump’s Executive Order 13855 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.
- Reduce vegetation through forest health treatments by offering for sale 600 million board feet of timber from public lands.
The U.S. Department of Interior surpassed these goals by:
- 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 1,099,567 acres.
- Offered for sale 763 million board feet of timber.
- Performed maintenance on public roads needed to provide access for emergency services and restoration work across 19,797 miles.
The Department of 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, which reduces wildfire risk to tribal communities and communities adjacent to Interior-managed lands.
Secretary Bernhardt signed a record of the decision earlier in 2020 to further limit and prevent wildfires now and in the years to come. His record of decision required 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.
The 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 added fuel breaks will minimize new disturbance and wildfire habitat fragmentation, and maximize accessibility for wildland firefighters.
The BLM has extensively documented that fuel breaks and other types of fuel treatment are effective.
According to the Department of Interior, the bureau has assessed more than 1,400 fuel breaks and other types of fuel treatments that intersect with wildfires since 2002 and determined that 79% of fuel breaks are effective in helping control wildfires and that 84% are effective in helping to change fire behavior.
Human-caused wildfires account for more than 80% of all wildfire ignitions across the country every year and are preventable, according to the Department of Interior.