USFS chief shares policy shift
On June 28, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Randy Moore had been selected to serve as the 20th Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Moore took over the position on July 26.
Previously, Moore served as the regional forester in the Pacific Southwest Region in California, beginning in 2007, where he was responsible for 19 national forests which covered one-fifth of the state on 20 million acres of land. His background also includes the regional forester for the Eastern Region, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisc., for five years.
On his appointment, Vilsack commented, “Randy Moore has been a catalyst for change and creativity in carrying out the Forest Service’s mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”
“In his role as regional forester, Moore has been a conservation leader on the forefront of climate change, most notably leading the region’s response to the dramatic increase in catastrophic wildfires in California over the last decade,” Vilsack continued. “His proven track record of supporting and developing employees and putting communities at the center of the Forest Service’s work positions him well to lead the agency into the future at this critical time in our country.”
Fire management policy
In an Aug. 2 letter to USFS personnel on the ground, Moore said because there is a “national crisis,” the USFS will not “manage fires for resource benefit.” According to Wildfire Today, several factors have led to the crisis, including: Competition for firefighting resources, a large number of incidents, firefighter numbers reduced by COVID-19 infections and fire behavior enhanced by drought.
The temporary shift in wildfire policy, Moore explained is due to “over 70 large fires burning across the nation and 22,000 personnel responding, which are both nearly three times more than the 10-year average for the month of July.”
He continued, “Severe drought is affecting over 70 percent of the West, and the potential for significant fire activity is predicted to be above normal into October. Our firefighters are fatigued, especially after more than a year of almost constant deployments, beginning with helping Australia in January 2020 and continuing through a difficult 2020 fire year, then supporting the vaccination effort in early 2021.”
“The current situation demands we commit our fire resources only in instances where they have a high probability of success and they can operate safely and effectively,” Moore concluded. “We will rely on the tested principles of risk management in determining our strategies and tactics.”
Across the nation, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported 105 large wildfires with active fires totaling 2,438,183 acres.
Montana, with four new fires, has a total of 25 large fires with 252,378 acres burned as of Aug. 12. The NIFC reports Idaho has a total of 21 fire, with 252,278 acres actively burning.
In Wyoming, four large fires are currently burning. The Crater Ridge Fire northeast of Lovell has reached 30 percent containment and 2,033 acres burned. The Jenkins Fire 13 miles west of Urie in Campbell County has burned 400 acres and is 90 percent contained.
The Morgan Creek Fire and the Muddy Slide Fire in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest have burned 7,505 and 4,093 acres with containment at 24 percent and 70 percent, respectively.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.