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Aviation History Month: Aircraft and Paratroopers in the Forest Service

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the U.S. Forest Service relies heavily on fixed wing and rotary aircraft to accomplish the agency’s mission. Employees take to the skies for forest inventory surveys, prescribed fire support, firefighting or to get to remote locations. Since 1919, aircraft has been an invaluable resource for the agency.

There are differing accounts as to when the Forest Service first put aircraft to use. But, it wasn’t until 1919 when Forest Service leadership talked about the use of aviation resources. In April, Forester Coert du Bois told Chief Forester Henry Graves that aerial fire patrols would begin on the Angeles and Cleveland National Forests. These patrols, supported by military pilots from the Air Service of the U.S. Army, continued through 1927, after which the Air Service could no longer support the agency.

5 Ways Landowners Give Shell-ter to the Gopher Tortoise

The gopher tortoise earned its name for good reason – because it likes to dig and spends much of its time underground. The gopher tortoise, the Southeast’s only land-dwelling tortoise, burrows in the sandy soils below longleaf pine forests where it can escape heat and danger.

Its burrows are popular. About 360 other species, from rattlesnakes to rabbits, toads, and northern bobwhite take advantage of the underground real estate provided by the tortoise, what biologists call a keystone species because other species depend on it.

The Science Behind Fire

In recent months, we have all become familiar with images in the media of wildland firefighters digging lines, air tankers dropping retardant and fire engines dispersing water. You may wonder “how do these firefighters know what it takes to fight fire?”

The short answer is: research.

Before a wildland firefighter sees his or her first fire, they are given the tools and training on how to fight fire and its behavior. The information passed onto them is not learned overnight but rather through years of research.

Be Fire Wise: Preparing Your Home for Wildfire Season

Very often, the difference between saving your home in a wild fire and losing it to the flames is pretty much determined by what you do to prepare your property. The U.S. Forest Service calls it being Fire Wise.

I’ve had personal experience in the importance of clearing a wide perimeter around your property to deny fuel—dried wood, grass and trees—to a fire. Back about ten years ago my grandparents’ ranch house near the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County was spared because of a 150-foot clear space between the flames and the house. And this wasn’t the first time that had happened.

Being Fire Wise is an Easy Way to Prepare for Fire Season

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching images on TV: lives and property destroyed by wildland fire.  And, this fire season, with over eight million acres burned, we are seeing these images more frequently.

Most of us think nothing can be done to protect a home from the onslaught of a raging wildland fire. Don’t be fooled, there is a way to protect your home.  The U.S. Forest Service calls it Fire Wise.

In the Wake of the Rim Fire, What Comes Next? A Story of Recovery, Restoration and Reforestation

Like a phoenix rising from ashes, blackened portions of the Stanislaus National Forest, which were left by the Rim Fire that blazed through the Sierras in August of 2013, have begun to spring to life. Left with a burn scar that is one-third larger than New York City, a reforestation team is diligently working to bring forth a new forest.

Since the fire, much has been done in the way of making the forest safe for public travel and recreation along main travel routes. Snags and fire-damaged trees present significant safety hazards to humans. They also create a tremendous fuel load on the ground (biomass) as they fall. This fuel can feed future fires, which can be severely damaging to the soil.

How EDEN can help YOU prepare for disasters

With the annual hurricane season brewing and potential winter storms on the horizon – not to mention the ever-present tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and fire – federal agencies are joining forces this month to help Americans prepare for and survive disasters.

 September is National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon! is a national awareness campaign to get families and communities thinking about how to respond in the event of a disaster or other emergency.  Saluting the “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” theme, the month’s events conclude on September 30 with National PrepareAthon! Day.  Are you getting involved?

Secretary's Column: Skyrocketing Fire Costs

Over the past twenty years, a changing climate, population growth near forests and rangelands, and the buildup of brush and other fuels have dramatically increased the severity of wildfires and the damage that they cause to our natural lands and communities. Year after year, fire seasons grow longer and longer, destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure and the watersheds that provide clean drinking water to millions of people. Between 1980 and 2011, the average annual number of fires on Federal land more than doubled, and the total area burned annually tripled. Even as fire seasons have grown, the way we pay to fight these fires remains unchanged – and fundamentally broken.

The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly increased as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today. As the costs of wildfires have spiraled out of control, it has shrunk the budget of other Forest Service programs, taking millions of dollars from other critical forest health and land management priorities in order to pay for them. What’s more, often the programs we are forced to divert funds from are the very programs which help to mitigate the impact of wildfires.

Elite Firefighting Team Ready to Protect Lake Tahoe Basin

A group of 20 determined firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit completed a demanding and extensive certification process to become the first Interagency Hotshot Crew from Lake Tahoe.  Formerly the Tallac Hand Crew, the Tallac Hotshots join an exclusive group of roughly 2,000 firefighters across the country.

“The certification of the Tallac Hotshots is a significant event for the Lake Tahoe Basin,” said Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson.  “Fire suppression in the Basin is vital to our communities and it’s reassuring, particularly in light of the anticipated active fire season, to have such a key resource of well-trained and experienced firefighters in our area.”

Secretary's Column: Caring for Our Forests, Protecting Our Families and Our Communities

Over the past several years, we have seen the spread and occurrence of wildfires increase significantly. Deadly wildfires threaten our homes and communities and turn lives upside down.

USDA continues to do all that we can to protect people, homes and our forests in the face of fire. Just this week, we announced four new airtanker additions to the U.S. Forest Service’s next-generation firefighting fleet, which brings the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air tankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed) and more than 100 helicopters. These new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters during this year’s wildfire season.