On September 27, both the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held hearings to explore methods of restoring the health and resiliency of national forests and to mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildfires.
As the U.S. endures another fire season, legislators on the Hill are seeking to address some of the challenges associated with managing wildland fires on federal land. A hearing held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on August 3 tackled the complex challenges in reducing wildland fire risk, focusing primarily on wildfire management programs and technologies.
Wildfires, or wildland fires, are a natural and critical part of forest ecosystems. Fire removes overgrown or dead vegetation and provides diverse habitats for plants and animals; in fact, some trees cannot reproduce without heat from fire to open pinecones and release seeds. However, natural fire processes often come into conflict with human development, resulting in loss of lives, resources, and property.
The Wildfire Sciences Team at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Center produces vegetation type, vegetation structure, and fuel products for the United States, primarily through the Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools (LANDFIRE) program. LANDFIRE products are used across disciplines for a variety of applications. The LANDFIRE data retain their currency and relevancy through periodic updating or remapping. These updating and remapping efforts provide opportunities to improve the LANDFIRE product suite by incorporating data from other sources. Light detection and ranging (lidar) is uniquely suitable for gathering information on vegetation structure and spatial arrangement because it can collect data in three dimensions. The Wildfire Sciences Team has several completed and ongoing studies focused on integrating lidar into vegetation and fuels mapping.
Where there's smoke, there's fire - but what's in the smoke? A recent air quality study from the University of Colorado Boulder has confirmed earlier laboratory experiments that show that grass and crop fire smoke carries greater amounts of nitrogen-containing volatile organic compounds (NVOCs) than wood fire smoke. Read the full story in EARTH Magazine.