A comparative risk assessment framework for wildland fire management: the 2010 cohesive strategy science report
The FLAME Act of 2009 requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Interior to submit to Congress a Cohesive Wildfire Management Strategy. In this report, we explore the general science available for a risk-based approach to fire and fuels management and suggest analyses that may be applied at multiple scales to inform decisionmaking and tradeoff analysis. We discuss scientific strengths and limitations of wildfire risk assessment frameworks, including the benefit of broad scalability as demonstrated by four recent case studies. We further highlight the role of comparative risk assessment, which extends the analysis to include the decision space available to managers and stakeholders to allow them to explore the tradeoffs between alternative courses of action. We identify scientific limitations of the analytical protocol and discuss questions of how to better address climate change, smoke modeling issues, and socioeconomic vulnerability, and how to better quantify treatment effectiveness. Key challenges are: achieving a balance between retaining analytical flexibility at regional and sub-regional planning scales while simultaneously retaining data and methodological consistency at the national scale, and identifying and aligning regional and national priorities to inform multi-objective strategy development. As implementation proceeds, the analytical protocol will no doubt be modified, but the contents of this report comprise a rigorous and transparent framework for comparative risk assessment built from the best available science.