A Short History of the WFLC

Questions have arisen regarding my Open Letter to Open Letter to Ken Salazar Re WFLC [here]. By way of clarification, I have prepared the following.

Note: this essay refers to the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, not the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition, which shares the same initials but is an entirely different organization.

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) was established in April 2002 by the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to provide an intergovernmental committee to support the implementation and coordination of Federal Fire Management Policy. [here]

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) was established in April 2002 to implement and coordinate the National Fire Plan, the Ten-Year Strategy (a component of the National Fire Plan) and the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. WFLC consists of senior level department officials, federal, state, tribal and county representatives, including all five federal wildland firefighting agency heads. WFLC was established to address interagency, interdepartmental differences to ensure seamless delivery of a coordinated fire protection program. The Council brings together wildland firefighting organizations to implement the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan. WFLC meets regularly to monitor progress of the Ten-Year Strategy, to discuss current issues, and to resolve differences among wildland firefighting agencies.

Authority. The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are authorized to enter into cooperative agreements by the Protection Act of 1922 (42 Stat 857; 16 U.S.C. 594) and the Public Land Administration Act of 1960 (74 Stat 506; 43 U.S.C. 1361-1364).

In addition, the Secretaries entered into a Memorandum of Understanding dated January 28, 1943, and February 21, 1963, to provide adequate wildfire management and protection to the lands under their respective jurisdictions. State representation is authorized by the Clarke-McNary Act of June 7, 1924, Sec. 1 (43 Stat 653, 16 U.S.C. 564). [here]

In Fall of 2006 it came to my attention that lobbying groups, specifically the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Wilderness Society (TWS), were participating in WFLC meetings. I made an inquiry to the Committee Management Secretariat (CMS) of the GSA which oversees the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). They informed me that the incorporation of registered lobbyists on Federal Advisory Committees was a “gray area” of the law, and that I could file a lawsuit if I so desired.

I consulted with my attorney and he asked me how much money I had. That killed that idea.

In the meantime the WFLC received some sort of communication from the CMS regarding my inquiry, and in early 2007 they asked Federal attorneys to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding that would declare them NOT to be a Federal Advisory Group and to allow registered lobbyists to continue to participate. From the WFLC minutes of February 22, 2007 [here]:


* Request Secretaries to extend MOU
* Revise MOU language for NGO participation consistent with WFLC goals. WFLC should not become a Federal Advisory Committee. Consider addition of a fire chief’s representative as WFLC member, in a manner consistent with FACA. Confer with legal counsel. Draft business rules for review.
* Circulate draft, convene conference call to discuss. (WFLC Staff)
* New MOU at June meeting

TNC and other NGOs will assist with communication plan for wildland fire use as part of TYIP Goal 3, Task 2.

On April 3, 2007 I reported all this at SOS Forests [here]. As a direct result, on April 5, 2007 the WFLC removed the Feb. 22 minutes and their entire directory at http://fireplan.gov, a URL that no longer exists.

I also reported the substance of the “communication plan” being drawn up by TNC and TWS, paid for by the USDA and USDI on behalf of and under the guidance of the WFLC. TNC reported (this site is no longer up):

We are encouraging federal and local governments to allow natural fires to burn when it is safe and ecologically beneficial. This practice, known as “wildland fire use,” has saved firefighter lives and millions of dollars in suppression and restoration costs across the U.S.

TWS had created their policy statement in 2004 [here]:

Wildland Fire Use: An Essential Fire Management Tool

Key Points:

* Federal land agencies’ ongoing fire suppression policy has created a situation in which a number of the nation’s forests have become dangerously overgrown, producing increasingly intense fires and escalating suppression costs.

* Wildland Fire Use (WFU) — using naturally-burning fires in designated, remote sections of forests — is widely accepted by scientists, policymakers and land managers as an important tool for helping to restore forest health and mitigating the escalating costs of fire suppression.

* Good fire management often involves a mix of approaches, from full suppression action to WFU; managers must follow a complex series of steps when they make the choice to allow a fire to burn in a given area.

* Before WFU can be expanded, Congress must reform incentive structures and institutional pressures that encourage unnecessary fire suppression; the public must also be educated about the ecological benefits of fire.

The combined efforts of TNC and TWS produced a slide show entitled Public Expectations in 20 20-30 Years: More of the Same or Can We Shape Public Opinion? [here]. They claimed authorization to produce the slide show under:

Goal 3, Task 2:
Further develop and implement a public education campaign such as the National Wildfire Coordination Group (NWCG) Wildland Fire: A Natural Process to complement Smokey Bear’s message of fire safety. The campaign will emphasize fire’s role in ecosystems and the benefits of fire management to ecosystems and public health and safety.

Collaboration Level: All

Lead Collaborator(s): Stakeholders, NWCG

Implementation timeframe: Fall 2008

Steering Committee
BLM, Cynthia Moses-Nedd
I-Chiefs, Bob Roper
NACo, Abby Friedman
NASF, Dan Smith
National Coalition Prescribed Fire Councils, Zach Prusak
NIFC/BLM, Don Smurthwaite
National Park Service, Roberta D’Amico
TNC, L.McCarthy, W. Fulks, E. Brunson
Northern Arizona University, Tom Sisk
Oregon Association of Counties, Eric Schmidt
USDA Forest Service, Maureen Brooks, Randy Philips
WGA, Jay Jensen
TWS, Greg Aplet,Tom Fry
Wisconsin DNR, Catherine Regan

Shaping Future
Public Expectations: Laying the Foundation to Influence Opinion and Behavior

Critical Aspects of Strategic Communications Programs

* Polling
* Messaging
* Targeting audiences
* Delivering the Message
* Measuring impacts

The NWCG is the National Wildfire Coordinating Group [here]. The member organizations are:

Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Park Service
Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management
Forest Service Fire Research
U.S. Fire Administration
National Association of State Foresters
Intertribal Timber Council

Again note that lobbyist groups like the TNC and TWS are NOT authorized members of the NWCG.

The slide show is a description of a PR campaign designed by TWS and TNC under the auspices of the NWCG and paid for by the WFLC. The purpose of the campaign is to convince “target audiences” that wildland fire use is a good thing.

In short, it is propaganda for a questionable program that has never been subject to NEPA, EIS, or any other national environmental law, and has in practice caused enormous damage to resources.

We could debate that last point. I have presented plenty of information that details some of those damages. However, the key issue is that the LAW HAS NEVER BEEN APPLIED. The purpose of NEPA is to evaluate environmental impacts due to Federal actions BEFORE they occur.

In the end of May, 2007, the WFLC resurfaced online, back on the fireplan.gov site. Then they shifted to the “Healthy Forests” site, which has since become the “Forests and Rangelands” site. Their minutes of their Conference Call meeting of May 2, 2007, indicate their concern about FACA [here].

The April 27 draft of the new MOU, the April 27, 2007 draft business protocols and a memo from USDA Office of General Council (OGC) attorney were provided to WFLC members in advance of the call.

The OGC memo helped clarify the role of non-federal members by explaining if the elected officials…

were invited to serve on WFLC in order to represent the interests of their respective governments, the council may be exempt from the requirements of FACA due to the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (“UMRA”), 2 U.S.C. 1534(b). See 41 C.F.R. 102-3.40(g); Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) Memorandum M-95-20, dated Sept. 21, 1995 (hereinafter “OMB Guidelines”) (setting forth guidance on the exemption to the FACA under the UMRA). … According to OMB, the UMRA offers an exemption to FACA in order to foster the exchange of official views regarding the implementation of federal laws requiring shared intergovernmental responsibility.

… With this discussion of the UMRA in mind, representatives of NGOs may not serve on the WFLC, unless the council becomes an advisory committee subject to the FACA.

From then on the NGO’s continued to attend WFLC meetings, despite the admonitions of the lawyers, but as contracted service providers, not voting members. They did however sit at the same table as everyone else (or conference calls) and participate in all the discussions.

At the June 19-20, 2007, meeting the NGO’s presented their propaganda slide show and a variety of other reports [here]. The MOU had not been signed yet, though.

MOU Actions and Agreements

The Council reaffirmed its consensus and agreement on the draft MOU. WFLC staff was directed to prepare the current version for review and approval by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture. The draft is subject to final review by legal counsel of the two Secretaries.

The practice of involving NGO’s continued at the next meeting on October 10-11, 2007 [here]. (Note that Laura McCarthy was the TNC representative). I do not know when the MOU was signed.

At the next meeting on February 5, 2008, the WFLC discussed Modifying Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy (Appropriate Management Response) [here].

The during a conference call meeting on March 24, 2008, the WFLC adopted the new WFU and AMR guidance on behalf and in direction to all the Federal land and fire management agencies [here].

That is the last meeting for which minutes are available. More meetings were held, but the WFLC discontinued posting their minutes online. I assume that is because the MOU was finally signed and the WFLC no longer felt obligated to report to the public in any manner.

I don’t know how many more meetings have been held. Frankly I was surprised by USDI Sec. Salazar’s letter of Feb. 19, 2010 intimating that he was going to reconvene the WFLC. I did not know they had been un-convened. It is difficult for me to track the machinations of a non-transparent advisory group (or whatever they are now) that meets in secret, does not produce minutes, and does not report to the public via the Internet. I am not a DC insider mole. The Western Governors Assoc. [here] does not report on the WFLC on their website, and I have no inside information about them either.

All the information above I gleaned from the Internet and I have given the URL’s so that you may confirm it.

16 Mar 2010, 3:21pm
by bear bait

Government for government by government: A microcosm of the reality of Oregon at the Federal level. I think when I was a teenager, there was a song named “It’s my Party” and that is how it is now on the Public Domain. The new looters are the very subversives the Congress was scared spitless of, oh so long ago.

Fire can be beneficial. Fire is not unto itself beneficial, just as a hammer has no value until it is put to use. Fires have potential value, and so do trees. It is disingenuous for the US Attorney to have three teams of lawyers litigating against private interests whose fire trespass on US Govt land, on one hand, and for the other hand of the US Govt, the USFS for example, claiming all this benefit from wildland fire which is indiscriminate in how and what it burns. One fire on the very same ground is beneficial and the other a compensable damage against the US Govt.

Stephen Pyne mentioned last week that there was a private land fire claim against a fire of public land origin that was successfully litigated by the private side, and he believed that is was Rayonier, the pulp and paper outfit, against the US Park Service and the Olympic NP. Someone smarter than me might want to follow his recollection.

The duality of purpose expressed by the US Justice Dept. as to fire needs to have a conclusion and a legal interpretation. My opinion. You can’t have your government suing you because your fire trespassed, and they obtain damages for values that are statutorily not recoverable except as foregone concepts (timber value in terms of board feet volume and stumpage value measured by lumber prices in a backing off of numbers back to the stump from a sold 2×4 by a sawmill) and have that added to the concept of “grandeur of the landscape” as a value destroyed by an accidental fire, and not have the same damage by purposefully unfought and uncontrolled wildland fire of any origin. It don’t pass the smell test. Or, can you claim damages because someone else’s fart stinks? And yours do not, so there are no damages when you fart?

All farts stink. Or they don’t. And so it goes now with fire. Rapid oxidation of organic material. Something has to burn for there to be a fire. And that reasoning says that something is lost in that rapid oxidation process. How can one loss be an environmental gain, and another a damage to resources? I just plain don’t get it, but then again, I am not the government out to take it all and tell you what good they are doing and what they will do with all you have once they get it. Sure.

Bulletin!!! I don’t believe a word the WFLC says. None of the vaunted AG Holder sunlight has hit them or their process. Where is Joe McCarthy when he is needed? That would bring them out of the woodwork. “Have you or have you not, ever been a card carrying arsonist?” “Have you ever been a part of the arson policy formulating secret society of the USFS and the Administrations of any President?”

16 Mar 2010, 7:29pm
by Larry H.

I think that WISE and its concerned members should get a seat on their board, as well. We surely have a LOT more pertinent and expert counsel on fires than they do. I would consider myself as useful and informed as ANY member sitting on their board. They don’t see the results two, five and 20 years later. I have!



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