Hedstrom: Idea sharing is critical to future success

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By Steve Hedstrom

Here in Montana, wildfire is something we deal with annually. It’s like that throughout the West, and it affects landowners in eastern and southern states each year now, too. To get by, you need to manage your lands to combat wildfire – to limit its potential and to plan for how to repair when it does strike. That’s the reality.

The statistics suggest things are getting worse – bigger fires eating more acres, costing more money, the experts say. But there’s a silver lining: wildfire has brought folks together. State agencies have no choice but to work on the wildfire problem together, and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are starting to take notice of the strain fire has put on the budget.

Conservation districts have long been part of the fight. At the wildfire listening sessions that NACD sponsored in winter of 2016, conservation district attendees shared stories about how fire has impacted their lives, and how they worked to help the communities and residents they serve before and after wildfire breaks out. No one came up with a new solution to fix wildfire, but attendees did realize all they had in common and gained a better appreciation for the need to work together – partner with partner, across state boundaries – to fight future fires.

One day we may get better control of these fires that lately have impacted so many. Until then, our best weapons are cooperation and open discussion.

Steve Hedstrom (Montana) is the chairman of the NACD Forestry Resource Policy Group (RPG).

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