Pacific Southwest Region Fire Management
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region provides fire management oversight for many unique and challenging environments in California, Nevada and the Oregon Klamath Basin. In California alone there are nine different bioregions and 18 ecotypes which have the most complex and diverse vegetation communities and fire regimes in the continental US. Many habitats in the Region have rare and protected resources including 346 federally listed species.
The Region manages 470,773 acres in California and 2.3 million acres in Nevada including 46 national wildlife refuges (NWRs), and three national fish hatcheries. The primary objectives of the fire program are to protect and manage all burnable acres on Service lands while providing for firefighter and public safety first. To meet our agency mission many of our fire projects emphasize habitat protection and enhancement.
Our fire management activities include wildland fire suppression, burned area emergency response and rehabilitation, vegetation management (fuels reduction), community assistance, prescribed fire, fire prevention and outreach.
Working with Others Partnerships, Consultations and Grants
Our fire managers are often called upon to lend their expertise to partners. We gain reciprocal benefits from these partnerships including mutual aid and technical support for both planned and unplanned fires. Through cooperative agreements, contracts, grants and other collaborative venues we support other federal, Tribal, and state governments as well as fire safe councils and private landowners in collaborative fire management activities.
Our fire managers are members of national, regional and local fire program coordinating groups including, but not limited to the California Wildfire Coordinating Group, California Fire Alliance, California, Nevada & Hawaii Forest Fire Council, Great Basin Coordinating Group, Fire Prevention Association of Nevada and the Southern Oregon Fuels Committee.
Our fire professionals provide critical support to national wildland fire preparedness and suppression efforts and also help support training and safety initiatives for rural and volunteer fire departments involved in wildland fire support.
Service biologists in the Endangered Species Program provide essential consultation to other agencies conducting hazardous fuels reduction projects to ensure the protection of threatened and endangered species and their habitats. Service Archeologists also provide consultations to help protect historic and cultural resources.
Service biologists in the Conservation Partnerships Program administer programs which can support fire partners including private landowners, tribes and schools. These programs include the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, Coastal Program, Tribal Grants Program and Schoolyard Habitat Program.
Working with Nature
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works through a number of programs to address the two faces of fire; beneficial and detrimental. Our fire program works with partners to prevent and mitigate detrimental fire effects by reducing hazardous fuels levels, enhancing firefighting capabilities and educating the public about fire preparedness and planning. We are also one of the leading agencies in utilizing fire as a tool to help restore and manage habitats for fish, wildlife and plants.
Most of the wildlife and habitats on our national wildlife refuges have evolved with some level of fire and many ecosystems and species are fire-dependent. We use prescribed fire along with a myriad of other mechanical and biological tools to effectively and efficiently manage habitat. In Nevada, where we have large and remote wildlife refuges, wildfires can be used, when safe and appropriate, to help benefit habitats. In such cases, the wildfire effects are more beneficial to the environment than suppressing the fire. Fire suppression actions can have negative impacts to natural resources. When wildfire is managed to benefit resources, fire suppression costs are reduced, firefighter risks are reduced, and the need and cost of future prescribed fire is reduced.
Our Endangered Species Program works with biological experts to develop plans to help recover listed species (Recovery Plans) and protect and conserve their habitats through Endangered Species Act consultations and Habitat Conservation Plans. Many plans and consultations emphasize fire as a natural and needed process to conserve and protect threatened and endangered species. Catastrophic wildfires and suppression actions can have negative impacts to listed species. The Service works with partners and incident management teams to develop minimum impacts strategies and tactics (MIST). In all fire related plans and recommendations firefighter and public safety considerations comes first.
We provide technical expertise and support to private landowners and agency partners on how to enhance and protect the ecosystem through sound fire management practices. A key to successful fire management is the integration and analysis of societal and ecological factors through cooperative landscape planning.