How to Get There from Here

In recent years, a surge in catastrophic wildfire events has strained local, state, and federal resources destroying communities, lives and livelihoods. These wildfire events have become more frequent and severe, resulting from more than a century of fuel build-up, past land and fire management practices, fire exclusion, growing populations moving into and expanding the wildland-urban interface, the effects of climate change, and a lack of funding streams to support wildfire resilience.

During the past two decades, wildfires have become larger, longer lasting, more frequent, and more destructive in terms of lives lost and economic costs. These trends are projected to increase under future climate scenarios with the annual area burned in the western United States forecasted to increase two to six times from current levels, depending on the geographic area, ecosystem, and local climate.

“We need a paradigm shift on how the country approaches wildfire,” says Cecilia Clavet, Senior Policy Advisor for Forest Restoration and Fire with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). “We needed to write a new chapter in how we live with fire, a vision for fire-prone forests and forest-adjacent communities, and a roadmap to show us how to get there from here.”

In August 2021, TNC and Aspen Institute launched a new partnership to improve resilience to and mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the United States. The partnership hosted a series of workshops that sought input from all levels of government, Tribal Nations, the private sector, fire-prone communities, philanthropists, academics, and other stakeholders, culminating in a Roadmap for Wildfire Resilience: Solutions for a Paradigm Shift.

The Roadmap concentrates on the two pillars of the 2014 National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy – resilient landscapes and fire adapted communities – that require an investment commensurate with the third pillar, safe and effective wildfire response, to alter the current wildfire trajectory. It also weaves together lessons from decades of policy and practice with forward-thinking approaches that incorporate new technology and knowledge.

“We’ve developed this Roadmap as an authoritative reference for policy makers and forest health and community advocates,” said Greg Gershuny, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Energy & Environment Program. “Protecting communities from the impacts of climate change, our ability to collectively embrace new strategies will require trust and a willingness to invest in an all-inclusive approach to problem-solving.”