Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - October 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
CWPP Agreement Signed by All Entities
Houston County Courier - October 2008
By Sharron Randall
A Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Houston County, in the making a little over a year, was finally signed by local government, local fire department heads and state foresters on Monday, Oct. 20 at the Houston County Commissioners Courtroom in the courthouse annex.
The courtroom was filled to capacity as Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt, Crockett Fire Chief Darrell Deckard and Houston County Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshall David Lamb, plus a number of state and district Texas Forest Service representatives, including the TFS Interim Director Tom Boggus gathered to sign the final certification and agreement.
Also in attendance from the Texas Forest Service were Mark Stanford, Bill Oates, Bruce Woods, Justice Jones and Jeffrey Lester; from Crockett District TFS were Robert Grisham, Todd Nightingale and Michael Easley;
Mandy Patrick, AgriLife Extension (Cooperative Extension Program) Crockett was present and attendees from the United States Forest Service were Gerald Lawrence and Bobi Stiles.
The CWPP must be agreed to by three entities: the local government, the local fire department and the state entity responsible for forest management. Every representative that attended the signing was given an opportunity to review or explain the process of preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
TFS Specialist Lester explained how the incentive for communities to engage in comprehensive forest planning and prioritization was given new and unprecedented impetus with the enactment of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) in 2003.
He said, "Houston County is ahead of the curve; it's setting the bar for other counties." Houston County is only the second Texas county, Walker County was first, that has developed and signed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Minimum requirements for a CWPP as described in the HFRA are: (1) Collaboration: A CWPP must be collaboratively developed by local and state government representatives, in consultation with federal agencies and other interested parties;
(2) Prioritized Fuel Reduction: A CWPP must identify and prioritize areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommend the types and methods of treatment that will protect one or more at-risk communities and essential infrastructure;
(3) Treatment of Structural Ignitability: A CWPP must recommend measures that homeowners and communities can take to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the area addressed by the plan.
The process of developing a CWPP can help a community clarify and refine its priorities for the protection of life, property, and critical infrastructure in the wildland-urban interface. It also can lead community members through valuable discussions regarding management options and implications for the surrounding watershed.
TFS Mitigation and Prevention Coordinator Jones gave an overview of how this landmark legislation includes the first meaningful statutory incentives for the US Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to give consideration to the priorities of local communities as they develop and implement forest management and hazardous fuel reduction projects.
Jones said, "This is a living document" and with the signature page, all entities become partners; "I'm excited about the potential value of this plan."
Using available technology and local expertise, maps of the community and adjacent landscapes were developed that provide a visual information baseline from which community members and various fire departments can assess and make recommendations regarding protection and risk-reducing priorities.
A community risk assessment was also developed as part of the plan which will help the core team and community members more effectively prioritize area for treatment and identify the highest priority uses for available financial and human resources. A rating system of high or medium at-risk areas are displayed on the base maps; A rating of "low" threat was not used on Houston County's plan.
The vegetative fuels on federal and nonfederal land within or near the community, which includes the national forests, were evaluated with specific areas identified where the condition of vegetative fuels is such that, if ignited, would pose a significant threat to the community or essential community infrastructure.
Jones essentially gave credit to Houston County by saying, "The community and county came to us," and thanked Fire Marshal Lamb and TFS District Forester Nightingale IIII for their technical expertise in developing the CWPP.
In Texas, CWPPs are finalized when the Community Wildfire Protection Plan Certification and Agreement Signature Sheet is signed by the three entities and the signature page is attached to their plans.