PRESS RELEASE - For Immediate Release Klamath National Forest Stonewalls Increased Use of Prescribed Fire

PRESS RELEASE - For Immediate Release
Klamath National Forest Stonewalls
Increased Use of Prescribed Fire
Contact: Erica Terence (530) 925-9710,
May 9, 2023
Klamath National Forest Stonewalls
Increased Use of Prescribed Fire
Yreka, CA -
Efforts to collaborate on and enlarge the acreage of prescribed burning between the Klamath National Forest (KNF) and the non-profit Torchbearr have come to an abrupt halt.
Earlier in the year the non-profit and the forest management agency had exchanged a flurry of emails and a video conference and the agency has since declined to partner.
These talks came on the heels of a finding from the US Forest Service Chief’s office last September in the wake of the Hermit’s Peak Fire in New Mexico stating that more partnerships are needed to support prescribed burning.
Torchbearr is a non-profit organization working to promote prescribed fire use for a brighter, safer fire future for all, using training, hands-on burning, and public education. Both Torchbearr and KNF are headquartered in Yreka, CA.
Initially when the dialogue opened, last October, Klamath National Forest expressed interest in discussing partnership opportunities. Topics of discussion during the exploratory meeting included prescribed burn capacity, training, hiring, and the federal pause on prescribed burning that the USFS issued after a prescribed burn escape in New Mexico.
Torchbearr circulated a set of meeting notes immediately after that meeting via e-mail to those in attendance during that video conference. Three Torchbearr attempts to follow up via e-mail went unanswered for months.
It was unclear why KNF went silent on this subject, but Torchbearr staff were left to wonder if it could have been Torchbearr’s video conference questions around how to increase the area burned annually by KNF. While Klamath National Forest spans 1,700,000 acres, its management agency admittedly burns around 20,000 acres of burning annually in a good year.
Meanwhile, the McKinney Fire on KNF forest land last year burned around 60,000 acres, and the 2020 Slater and Devil Fires burned upwards of 100,000 acres in KNF territory.
“While KNF can’t be bothered to respond about how to scale up prescribed burning in our area to reduce hazardous fuels and prevent future fires, I received an instant response from the forest supervisor on my personal comments about a proposed post-wildfire salvage timber sale. It seems that KNF is not interested in talking about how we can partner to reintroduce prescribed fire,” said Scot Steinbring, Executive Director of Torchbearr.
Steinbring, who has worked more than 30 years in the fire service, added that while he’d much rather work alongside KNF to bring healthy fire back to Klamath landscapes, he’s not waiting around since much can and must be done with or without the federal agency to bring back the use of intentional fire. “Wildfires and climate change will not wait,” he said.
Steinbring said KNF has waffled about what is preventing prescribed burning at larger scales, stating on a call about the federal prescribed burn pause in the fall that limited capacity was hampering efforts to scale up.
A KNF staffer later contradicted that statement on the exploratory collaborative call in early January with Torchbearr, who said repeatedly that capacity was not a problem. A final KNF communication came on March 13 when Fire Management Officer Heather McRae replied to Torchbearr months later: “We have so many agreements in place right now it is hard to keep up with them all… With all that being said, it isn’t in our best interest to enter into another agreement with another partner at this time.”
“We wanted to give KNF a chance to move in the right direction with their fire management. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has once again passed up that chance and instead chosen to repeat the failed policies and practices of the past century,” said Torchbearr Action Executive Director Erica Terence.
Torchbearr is providing training and burning assistance to many diverse partners in California, including prescribed burn associations, timber companies, Tribes, basket weavers, universities, and private landowners.
Torchbearr is also working to create a mobile prescribed fire workforce and provide prescribed burn assistance anywhere in the US. The organization created a prescribed burn mascot “Torchbearr.” Together with its 501(c)4 social welfare non-profit counterpart Torchbearr Action, the organization envisions a time when Smokey Bear and Torchbearr stand shoulder to shoulder at a press conference, describing the benefits of a large scale prescribed burn they’re about to do together to protect and improve the health of communities.

Editor’s Note: All photos on following page courtesy of Torchbearr. Pictured below, upper left: Smokey Bear shakes Torchbearr’s hand at the 2022 Yreka Christmas parade. Pictured below, upper right: Torchbearr Operations Director Scot Steinbring and KNF assist the with burning piles of hazardous fuels in Scott Valley. Pictured below: Students participate in a basic fire school offered and instructed by Torchbearr.

Heather is a solid fire manager. That was uncalled for. We all work for someone.

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Agreed, Heather is a great manager…
This is not about her- Its about leadership saying one thing to congress and to the public, but doing and saying another.
Your statment however does not make this untrue.