Written by Michael Lynch, Amanda Mahaffey, and Colleen Robinson
As national support grows for addressing forest stewardship challenges created by centuries of wildfire suppression, the Forest Stewards Guild is increasing our engagement in fire networks across the country. Our staff have been involved with several regional and national prescribed fire workshops over the last couple of months. One of these was the Northeast – Midwest Regional Prescribed Fire Science and Management Workshop in Madison, Wisconsin from August 29 – 31, 2023. This workshop was for fire management partners across the 20 state NE-MW region to share region-wide, science-based, fire ecology information oriented toward expanding and maintaining the use of prescribed fire across all landscapes, jurisdictions, and fire-dependent ecosystems.
Amanda Mahaffey, Guild Deputy Director, offered the Leader’s Intent on the second day while Michael Lynch, Guild Great Lakes Director, presented and served on a panel discussion about Fire Needs Assessments. Throughout the workshop, many perspectives were shared related to prescribed fire’s history, successes, challenges, future, strategies, technology, community, and more. It was exhilarating to see, for example, a panel describing Indigenous fire, and how it is both similar and unique from most prescribed fire efforts, share space and time in this workshop with artificial intelligence technology engineers working to design solutions to some of today’s barriers to getting good fire on the ground.
This was a well-attended event and the provided a great opportunity for scientists, managers, and practitioners across the 20-state region to share prescribed fire related experiences, successes, and potential solutions to implementation challenges. Many students attended as well, sharing thoughts on what is needed to support the next generation of fire practitioners and build upon existing successes in local training and outreach programs. We were happy to see so many members and collaborators present and to make new connections around this work in a Guild region with a strong foundation in ecologically minded land stewardship.
Guild staff have also been part of the annual meetings of the Fire Learning Network, Fire Adapted Communities network, and Indigenous Peoples Burning Network meetings facilitated by The Nature Conservancy. We are “at the table” for strategic discussions of wildfire resiliency. In early November, Guild staff were integral to the National Cohesive Strategy wildland fire management workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This event highlighted the value of partnerships for enabling good fire to be restored to fire-adapted landscapes and showed off the importance of the work of the Guild in advancing ecological forest stewardship.