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Data Information and Reporting for Indicator F.c.
Oregon Indicator of Sustainable Forest Management F.c.
Forest fuel conditions and trends related to wildfire risks
 

Forestry Program for Oregon Strategy F:
Indicator F.c. is one of three indicators that will measure progress towards achieving Forestry Program for Oregon Strategy F: Protect, maintain, and enhance the health of Oregon's forest ecosystems, watersheds, and airsheds within a context of natural disturbance and active management.
 
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Other Indicators for
Stategy F Reporting
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Desired Trend
Increasing rates of effective forest fuel treatments to improve resiliency to wildfire and an increasing area of Oregon forestland resilient to wildfire.

At-a-Glance: Condition, Trend, and Information
Once data for this indicator has been compiled and reported, this section will display symbols that at-a-glance illustrate the condition, trend, and quality of information available for this indicator.

Why is this indicator important?
A photo showing forested area in northeast Oregon burning as a result of the Cottonwood Creek Fire in July 2007
Cottonwood Creek Fire in northeast Oregon - July 2007
Wildfires are a natural part of Oregon’s forests.  In some forest ecosystems, management actions, including passive management, have led to unnatural build-ups of forest fuels which increase the risk of uncharacteristically intense wildfires.  In other forest ecosystems, even historic (characteristic) fire intensities may be socially unacceptable.  For example, stand replacement fires are part of the natural fire regime of some forest cover types, like lodgepole pine forests.  However, human developments in or near a lodgepole pine forests will likely make stand replacement fires economically and socially undesirable.
 
Both the public and policy-makers want to know where and the how much of Oregon’s forests are in a condition that is resilient to catastrophic wildfires and, over time, if the condition is improving or worsening.  They also want to know what is being done to effectively produce and/or maintain forest fuel conditions that are resilient to wildfires and see a map of where these treatments are occurring. 
 
“Resilient” forest conditions means that when wildfires do occur they will generally not burn at  intensities greater than historic levels, thus avoiding uncharacteristic damage to forest ecosystems, watersheds, and airsheds  In some cases, “resilent” forest conditions may also mean that when wildfires that do occur they will not generally threaten economic and social values, regardless of their relationship to historic intensity.
 
This indicator will provide information on both the scale of the forest fuel problem and the rate of fuel treatment   The indicator’s  metrics will track the amount of forestland that is resilient to wildfires and the amount of management activity occurring on forestlands to produce forest conditions resilient to wildfires

What does this indicator tell us about sustainable forest management?
Background:
Strategy F of the Forestry Program for Oregon addresses the need to “protect, maintain, and enhance the health of Oregon's forest ecosystems, watersheds, and air sheds within a context of natural disturbance and active management.”  Key Action F.1 states that the “board will promote active fuels and vegetation management, along with aggressive wildfire suppression, as key tools to manage forest health on public and private forestlands.”   Action F.2 states that the “board will promote forest landscape conditions that are resilient to natural disturbances, reducing the adverse environmental impacts and losses of forest resources to wildfire, insects, diseases and other agents in a cost-effective, environmentally, and socially acceptable manner.”  Assessing the amount and effectiveness of these active fuels and vegetation management activities is important for evaluating progress, as well as for planning future vegetation maintenance strategies.
 
Fire Regime Condition Class is an interagency, standardized tool for determining the degree of departure from natural (reference) condition vegetation, fuels, and disturbance regimes. Fire Regime Condition Class is best suited for assessing fuel conditions that will produce uncharacteristic fire behavior that would adversely impact the natural ecological function of a forest landscape, primarily federal forestlands.  Fire Regime Condition Class is used in the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy Implementation Plan (A Collaborative Approach for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and the Environment), as well as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, to identify where hazard fuel reduction projects should occur.
 
Reducing the likelihood of large, high-intensity crown fires is a generally accepted means of maintaining fire resilient forests, (reducing the likelihood of costly fires that damage the environment and are socially unacceptable), especially on private lands and near communities.  Crowning index is the wind speed necessary to sustain a crown fire - the higher the wind speed, generally the lower the potential for crown fire.  For example, fuel reduction treatments, if done right, result in a higher wind speed necessary to initiate a crown fire.  A treatment might increase the wind speed from 15 to 20 mph (untreated) to 75 mph (treated).

Description:
The LANDFIRE Mapping Project will provide data needed for this indicator.  Oregon is covered by three LANDFIRE regions, all scheduled to be completed in fall of 2006.  The current plan is to re-map the regions in Oregon every five years. These data will be valuable for watershed-scale planning and larger. Although the mapping resolution is 30 meters (approximately ¼ acre), accuracy will generally not be adequate for project level planning. 
 
LANDFIRE will also produce the Fire Regime Condition Class and the data elements needed to calculate the expected fire type (surface, passive or active crown) across the landscape.   The 90th percentile weather and wind conditions will need to be determined by the Oregon Department of Forestry for regions within Oregon by using historic weather records.  A fire potential mapping program called FLAMMAP will use the LANDFIRE data and fixed weather parameters to generate a map expected fire type.  Percent surface fire type can be determined from the FLAMMAP output. 
 
Note: Processes are available to determine fire type using existing Forest Inventory and Analysis tree list data, but processing this data on a statewide basis would be very difficult.
 
Treatment data for federal lands are being reported through the National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System. The Wildfire Leadership Council’s review of performance measures will hopefully recommend including pre- and post-treatment indicators for fire behavior and a spatial component (although it’s too early to tell). 
 
For non-federal forestlands, a multi-program database with mapping (spatial) capabilities will be needed to track acres of all active management activities on forest landscapes.  To estimate effectiveness of these activities, a small portion of these operations will need to be sampled every five years using a photo series to determine expected pre- and post-fire conditions for each forest activity (pre-commercial thinning, clear-cut harvest, partial-cut harvest, slash burning, etc.) by forest vegetation type.  The 90th percentile weather and wind conditions will need to be determined by the Oregon Department of Forestry for regions within Oregon by using historic weather records.  These effectiveness factors would then be applied to all of the data already gathered by the various programs in the department to determine acres effectively treated to create a fire resilient condition.
 
Finally, an efficient process for sharing data between NFPORS and the Oregon Department of Forestry's system will need to be developed. The Natural Resource Projects Inventory used in California allows both private and agency entities to report accomplishments online.  In addition, there is a means of “dumping” large amounts of agency data into the system.

Overall Data Availability:
Fuel condition data are in the process of being developed by the LANDFIRE Mapping Project that will provide information in a consistent manner, statewide, across all ownerships. These data are planned to be updated every five years.
 
Fuel treatment data will require some major work beyond existing data collection systems and will need to be coordinated with national efforts (since much of the data will come from federally-funded projects).  Currently, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council is evaluating new monitoring activities to improve their ability to track achievement of the primary objectives of the National Fire Plan and Healthy Forest initiative.  The International Association of Wildland Fire held a conference titled Fuels Management – How to Measure Success in March 2006 in Portland.
 
Fuel reduction projects, as well as other forest management activities, are currently reported in numerous databases by a variety of agencies.  However, none of these provide reliable pre- and post-treatment fire behavior information, there is no consistency across agencies, and none are mapped consistently with common attributes.  The National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System only includes federally-funded projects and does not report data needed for the second metric; pre and post treatment conditions are not determined in a consistent manner; and there is no mapping component. The Oregon Department of Forestry maintains several databases tracking commercial forest activities, federal cost share projects, smoke management activities, and National Fire Plan projects – again with limited or no pre- and post-treatment information, common attributes, or mapping component. 
 
Fortunately, tools to help evaluate pre- and post-treatment fire resilience are being developed. Existing photo series can be enhanced, or software used to classify, at the project level, forestland into classifications suited to estimate both surface and crown fire characteristics.
 
Also, guides and tools now exist through the Fire Regime Condition Class Guide to make consistent pre and post treatment assessments of Fire Regime Condition Class at the project level.  A statewide, spatial, interagency database, along with a field sampling process, will need to be developed to determine the amount and effectiveness of activities (treatments) on the landscape.  A possible model is the web-based Natural Resource Projects Inventory used in California.

Types of information produced by this indicator
This indicator will provide information in both tabular and map form on forest fuel conditions and progress in managing forest fuel conditions.

Metrics and Data Sources

Metric
Data Source
Percent of forestland in Condition Class I or Fire Regime IV or VLANDFIRE
Percent of forestlands that produce a surface fire type (no passive or active crown fire) at 90th percentile weather and wind for the regionLANDFIRE

Acres of forestland in Fire Regime I, II, or III that are treated to either maintain at, or reduced to, Condition Class I National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System
U.S. Forest Service
Bureau of Land Management
Acres of forestland treated to either maintain at, or reduced to, a surface fire type at 90th percentile weather and wind for the regionOregon Department of Forestry

 
Note: Data and analysis tools needed to forecast Fire Regime Condition Class and fire behavior given expected management parameters have been utilized on a limited localized basis and may be available for statewide application in the future.

Related State, National, or International Indicators
  • Montreal Process: Criterion 3--Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality: 2003 Indicator 15:  Area and percent of forest affected by processes or agents beyond the range of historic variation, e.g. by insects, disease, competition from exotic species, fire, storm, land clearance, permanent flooding, salinisation, and domestic animals and 2010 Indicator 15: Area and percent of forest affected by abiotic agents
  • Heinz Center: Fire frequency compared to pre-settlement (currently no data, due to lack of pre-settlement data)
  • 10-Year Comprehensive Strategic Implementation Plan, Goal 2:  Number of acres treated that are 1) in the Wildland Urban Interface or 2) in condition classes 2 or 3 in fire regimes 1, 2, or 3 outside the wildland urban interface, and are identified as high priority through collaboration consistent with the Implementation Plan, in total, and as a percent of all acres treated
  • Wildland Fire Leadership Council: Draft monitoring proposal 1.8: Number of treated acres to moved to or maintained in the desired condition classes