BIA’s Innovative Landscape Network Research Project | So Good News


Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

WASHINGTON, DC – The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) provided funds to dramatically increase fuel handling and wildfire recovery efforts. The funding will enable dramatic improvements in tools and modeling to plan individual fuel treatments, monitor fuel treatment efficiency, and account for landscape-scale risk mitigation. To replace reliance on old fire management models and time-consuming monitoring methods with new tools and technologies, the US Geological Survey (USGS) proposed the Innovative Landscape Network under BIL. The Innovation Landscape Network connects Department of the Interior (DOI) bureau managers with researchers, modelers, and new technologies to advance a co-production model of research development into operational applications.

The initial pilot project for the Innovative Landscape Network began in Southeast Arizona with a workshop hosted by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the USGS. This workshop was held on June 7-10, 2022. This workshop will feature technologies and emerging modeling tools from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the US Forest Service (USFS), Tall Timbers Research Station, and the University of California, San Diego. Southeast Arizona represents the perfect test case for innovation. All DOI bureaus are attached to India in the northeast and the Buenos Aires National Reserve on the southern border. The landscape includes extensive USGS research with the National Park Service (NPS) in Saguaro National Park, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Altar Valley, USFS in Coronado National Forest, National Advanced Fire and Resources Institute, and partners below. map.

Innovative Landscape Network Map

Leadership for innovation

The BIA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the USGS Fuels program worked closely together to test the technology and scale up new modeling as the basis for the innovative landscape network concept. As part of the Southeast Arizona Demonstration Project (the first “node” in the Innovation Network), the San Carlos Apache Tribe volunteered to host the first “Innovative Landscape Workshop.” 25 researchers and managers discussed fire and fuel issues, trained on new terrestrial laser monitoring technology, evaluated next-generation fire behavior models, and developed a plan to expand the partnership. This effort extends to other major DOI landscapes with NPS, BLM, and other tribal lands.

Ground laser scanning

The field portion of the workshop utilized a new terrestrial laser scanning monitoring protocol combined with FEAT/FIREMON integrated (FFI) plots for planned prescribed burns. Tribal fuel staff and partners were trained in the use of the laser and provided an analysis of the scan the next morning. San Carlos will continue to use the two lasers provided during the monitoring season. After prescribed burns in the fall, the team will assess post-fire impacts.

Piney Point Laser Scanning
Figure 1 – Surface laser scanning treatment control plots of ponderosa pine in the Piney Point portion of the Reserve were obtained. These new sampling methods will be combined with reliable traditional fire effects monitoring in San Carlos.

3D landscapes by FastFuels

Russ Parsons of the USFS also demonstrated a 3D landscape planning tool called FastFuels. If the default values ​​are used to plan prescribed fires, BIA-funded lidar (or laser imaging, detection, and ranging) will be used to update 1m3 vegetation maps for the entire reservation. Surface laser scanning is used to estimate surface fuel prices for this innovative new program.

3D landscape San Carlos
Figure 2 – 3D landscape planning. High-resolution fuels (1m3) fuel and topographic default inputs were used to simulate the initial fire behavior of a focused combustion unit in the shoe tank combustion unit at San Carlos Apache Reservoir. Observational data from ground-based lasers, airborne lasers and drones will be used to update FastFuels through multiple “ramps” that enable next-generation fire simulations to assess fuel handling.

Prescribed Fire Planning: The QUIC-Fire Model

FastFuels not only provides high-resolution vegetation mapping, but also provides all the critical data to power next-generation integrated fire-atmosphere modeling tools such as QUIC-Fire. Firefighters planned by San Carlos Firefighters in 2022 in shoe tank burning units are modeled after tribal firefighters in the workshop (Figure 3). These burn units are managed in ensembles with subsequent discussions with San Carlos fire managers for input for evaluation and improvement in the WIFIRE (Workstreams Integrating the Sciences of Collaborative Risk) Commons at the University of California, San Diego. WIFIRE Commons enables the use of AI-driven public and scientific wildfires through the sharing of data and models.

QUIC fire
3D outputs San Carlos
Figure 3 and 4: QUIC-Fire modeling for planned prescribed burns on the San Carlos Apache Reservation performed on-site (Los Alamos National Laboratory partners with local fire managers. The modeler will continue to work with tribal managers to estimate 3D outputs and model outputs and QUIC-Fire visualization for ensembles (Fig. 4).

Expanding innovation

The first QUIC-Fire workshop, hosted by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, will be used to demonstrate new fire-atmosphere modeling tools and help effectively monitor treatment effectiveness. In the coming months, all DOI sites in this demonstration area will be involved in follow-up workshops and talks. There is growing interest in expanding the Innovation Network to other nodes across the country that are already anchored by DOI sites.

Report authors: Kevin Hiers, Mark Jackson and John Wallace.


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