You’ll be glad to know that the state is working on a comprehensive fire management plan for Myles Standish State Forest and several surrounding properties. That’s the good news.
PLYMOUTH – You’ll be glad to know that the state is working on a comprehensive fire management plan for Myles Standish State Forest and several surrounding properties.
That’s the good news.
The concerning news is that this level of planning is necessary in part because the old ways of fighting fires, climate change and other factors have turned what use to a be a “fire season,” state Department of Conservation and Recreation Bureau of Forest Fire and Forestry Chief Fire Warden Dave Celino says, to a “fire year.”
A stakeholder review of the first draft of the comprehensive fire management plan was held recently at the headquarters of the forest off Cranberry Road and was attended by representatives of the town of Plymouth, the Boy Scouts, the Pine Barrens Alliance, the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest, the environmental organization now known as Manomet and other organizations and individuals that would be immediately impacted by a major brush fire within the forest.
The primary stakeholders that the plan is meant to protect was, however, not well represented at the meeting: residents of the area.
It may be that residents are unaware of, or even unconcerned about the potential for catastrophic fires that the state forest and natural communities of this region represent. You have to go back a long way – to the 1950s – to find a massive, catastrophic fire that swept through the Plymouth area.
At that time the Plymouth's population was approximately 15,000. It is now just under 60,000. A similar fire today would impact thousands of homes, put at risk billions of dollars of property and be far more likely to put lives in jeopardy.
At the public meeting on the draft fire management plan Ken Clark from Northeast Forest and Fire Management - a private firm partnering with the state to write the plan – displayed an illustration showing areas within the management plan area where catastrophic crown fires could potentially occur. Crown fires are forest fires that advance with great speed, jumping from the crowns of trees ahead of the ground fire.
The potential for catastrophic forest fires and the increasing population density have been driving firefighting research for some time, resulting recently, in the development of a National Cohesive Wildlands Fire Management Strategy that the MSSF draft plan incorporates. That strategy is necessarily complex but it has been distilled into a short, concise and eminently understandable mission statement.
“Safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and as a nation, to live with wildland fire.”
Over the last several decades state agencies including the DCR, which manages the forest, alongside private companies and in coordination with community fire departments have trained in pro-active fire suppression techniques and jointly participated in an ever-increasing number of prescribed fires creating a nationally respected approach to fire management.
That is in keeping with the national strategy, which states “whether it is implementation of a community wildfire protection plan or restoration of fire resilience to a watershed hundreds of thousands of acres in size, (a cohesive fire management strategy) requires collaboration among stakeholders with different authorities and resources.”
Now agencies and private entities across the state are working together to create comprehensive fire management plans for many regions including Myles Standish State Forest.
In general, the preamble to this plan states that a fire management plan “identifies and integrates all wildlands fire management and related activities within the context of approved land, general or resource management plans.”
Specifically, the draft plan on display at the state forest headequarter's barn is considered an extension of the Myles Standish Planning Unit Resource Management Plan developed in 2011, which includes “a combination of mechanical fuel reduction and prescribed fire to maintain and improve habitat quality for rare Pine Barrens species, as well as to reduce the potential for uncontrollable wildfire.”
Included in the management plan are the 635 acres of the Boy Scout’s Camp Cachalot, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s 683-acre Maple Springs and their 437-acre Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Wildlife Management Areas.
Added to the state forest’s 12,409 acres this fire management plan covers a total of 14,164 acres.
The plan’s four goals begin with public safety and end with education.
• Goal 1: Effectively respond to wildfire to protect lives and property, ensuring that safety of firefighters and the public are the highest overall priorities.
• Goal 2: Perpetuate a viable resilient, fire-adapted ecosystem… using fire management tools and emphasizing restoration and maintenance of rare and imperiled species, rare and exemplary natural communities, and ecosystem function.
• Goal 3: Protect, enhance and maintain recreational, scenic and cultural resources through fire management.
• Goal 4: Using fire management as an opportunity, make the site available to and encourage its use for fire ecology research, public and academic education, and Wildlands fire operations training.
Prior to the discussion of the fire management plan Chief Celino broke the news that the achievement of that last goal in this region of the country – namely to make use of the management area for research and education – is happening on its own, much sooner that anyone anticipated.
The National Cohesive Wildlands Fire Management Strategy Workshop is moving from Reno, Nevada – the site of the 2018 meeting – to Plymouth next year, with the headquarters at the 1620 Hotel.
The workshop’s sponsor – the International Association of Wildlands Fire - is an independent organization whose membership includes experts in all aspects of wildlands fire management allowing it to “offer a neutral forum for the consideration of important, at times controversial, wildlands fire issues.”
To receive a copy of the full draft fire management plan for the Myles Standish Planning Area – or to offer your concerns or submit questions or commentary – send an email by Sept. 12 to Caren Caljouw at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Paul Gregory at the DCR (email@example.com).
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.