Policy

Roadmap for Wildfire Resilience: How to Get There from Here

View of a mountain road, surrounded by trees in autumn foliage and steep mountainsides.
Resilient forests Taneum, South Cle Elum Ridge. Taken in conjunction with acquisition of Plum Creek Timber Company land near Cle Elum, WA. © John Marshall

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.

Roadmap for Wildfire Resilience

Download the Roadmap

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.”

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.

TNC's Senior Policy Advisor for Forest Restoration and Fire

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.” 

Infographic showing themes of wildfire resilience funding policy.
Wildfire Resilience Policy Roadmap Themes & Problem Statement

The development of the Roadmap’s policy recommendations coincides with the passage of once-in-a-generation infusion of resources from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which allocated billions of dollars for wildfire risk mitigation and forest health programs across federal agencies.

The Roadmap makes clear that a paradigm shift requires close coordination with federal, state and local governments, Tribal Nations, NGO and other partners, in addition to durable and predictable funding at or above current levels. While some problems and solutions may be addressed individually and in the shorter-term, most are intimately connected and require long-term, strategic and cross-sector coordination. 

Implementation of the Roadmap policy recommendations will strengthen a seamless and urgent all-of-society approach to restore and manage landscapes, reduce impacts and improve the safety of wildfire response actions, and enable communities to better coexist with fire in their landscapes. 

A dozen wildland fire workers engage in a trust-building exercise by carrying a man over their heads.
BUILDING TRUST Participants in a Spanish-language fire learning exchange in New Mexico in 2019 pass a crew member in a trust-building exercise. © José Luis Duce

National public opinion polling conducted by TNC in 2022, with an oversample in the Intermountain West, revealed robust bipartisan support for increased investment in forest health and wildfire prevention. Four in five U.S. voters support increased federal investment to proactively reduce the threat and intensity of wildfire. Polling methods and data can be found in the Roadmap appendices.

“Much of what TNC has learned in 60 years of working with fire is mirrored in the Roadmap. It’s an all-of-society approach. We know that working with fire is about working with people, and achieving healthier landscapes and safer communities is going to require a larger and more diverse force of prescribed fire practitioners,” says Marek Smith, director of TNC’s North America Fire program. “It’s going to take every tool—the full suite of recommendations in the Roadmap—and ‘all hands’ using them to apply the good fire we need in the places we need it most.”

Strong Bipartisan Support for Wildfire Resilience

Four in five voters support increased federal investment to proactively reduce the threat and intensity of wildfires.

  • 77%

    Republicans

  • 92%

    Democrats

  • 74%

    Independents

Spreading Concern

Wildfires and droughts are top-tier concerns for American voters, just behind inflation, housing, and government waste.

Voters' concern about wildfires increased 18% from 2018 to 2022.

39% of voters nationwide know someone who has been impacted personally by wildfires or wildfire smoke.

The goals of the actions highlighted in the Roadmap are supported by public opinion research conducted in 2022 by FM3 Research and New Bridge Strategy. National polling, with an oversample in the Intermountain West, revealed robust bipartisan support for increased investment in forest health and wildfire prevention. Four in five U.S. voters support increased federal investment to proactively reduce the threat and intensity of wildfire.

Implementation of the Roadmap policy recommendations will strengthen a seamless and urgent all-of-society approach to restore and manage landscapes, reduce impacts and improve the safety of wildfire response actions, and enable communities to better coexist with fire in their landscapes. 

Additional Wildfire Resilience Roadmap Resources

Wildfire Resilience Roadmap

Roadmap for Wildfire Resilience: Solutions for a Paradigm Shift

DOWNLOAD