oversight

Geospatial Information: Technologies Hold Promise for Wildland Fire Management, but Challenges Remain

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-09-23.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                 United States General Accounting Office


GAO              Report to Congressional Requesters




September 2003
                 GEOSPATIAL
                 INFORMATION

                 Technologies Hold
                 Promise for Wildland
                 Fire Management, but
                 Challenges Remain




GAO-03-1047
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                                                September 2003


                                                GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION

                                                Technologies Hold Promise for Wildland
Highlights of GAO-03-1047, a report to          Fire Management, but Challenges Remain
congressional requesters




Over the past decade, a series of               Geospatial information technologies—sensors, systems, and software that
devastating and deadly wildland                 collect, manage, manipulate, analyze, model, and display information about
fires has burned millions of acres              locations on the earth’s surface—can aid in managing wildland fires by
of federal forests, grasslands, and             providing accurate, detailed, and timely information to federal, state, and
deserts each year, requiring federal            local decision makers; fire-fighting personnel; and the public. This
land management agencies to
spend hundreds of millions of
                                                information can be used to help reduce the risk that a fire will become
dollars to fight them. GAO was                  uncontrollable, to respond to critical events while a fire is burning, and to
asked to assess opportunities to                aid in recovering from fire disasters.
improve the way agencies manage
fires through the use of geospatial             However, there are multiple challenges to effectively using these
information technologies,                       technologies to manage wildland fires, including challenges with data,
specifically, to (1) identify key               systems, infrastructure, staffing, and the effective use of new products. The
geospatial information                          National Wildfire Coordinating Group—composed of representatives from
technologies for addressing                     the five land management agencies and from other federal, state, and tribal
different aspects of managing                   organizations—has several initiatives under way to address specific
wildland fires, (2) summarize key               challenges, but progress on these initiatives has been slow, and not all of the
challenges to the effective use of
geospatial technologies in
                                                challenges are being addressed. A root cause of many of these challenges is
managing wildland fires, and                    the lack of an overall strategy guiding interagency management of
(3) identify national opportunities             information resources and technology. To improve interagency management
to improve the effective use of                 of information resources and technology, different teams within the
geospatial technologies.                        Coordinating Group plan to establish an interagency geospatial strategic
                                                plan, a strategy for information resources management, and an interagency
                                                enterprise architecture—a blueprint for operational and technical change in
                                                support of wildland fire management. However, these efforts lack the senior-
GAO is making a series of
                                                level endorsement and detailed plans and milestones necessary for success.
recommendations to address
specific challenges in effectively              Until effective interagency management of information resources and
using geospatial information                    technology is a priority, the wildland fire community will likely continue to
technologies and to improve the                 face challenges in effectively using geospatial information technologies.
management of information
resources and technologies in the               Effectively using geospatial information is of interest beyond the wildland
interagency wildland fire                       fire management community. Detailed, accurate, and accessible geospatial
management community.                           information is critical in addressing homeland security and national
                                                preparedness, supporting our transportation infrastructure, and managing
Commenting on a draft of this                   natural resources, among other activities. For decades, the federal
report, the Departments of                      government has tried to reduce duplicative geospatial data collection by
Agriculture and the Interior agreed
                                                coordinating activities inside and outside the federal government. Most
with the report’s conclusions and
recommendations.                                recently, Geospatial One-Stop, one of 25 high profile e-government initiatives
                                                sponsored by the Office of Management and Budget, was initiated to develop
Note: The graphics in this report               national geospatial data standards and an Internet portal for locating
are in color and are best viewed                geospatial data. While this and other initiatives hold promise, achieving a
electronically.                                 nationwide network of geospatial data remains a formidable challenge.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-1047
                                                GAO focused on the five federal agencies that are primarily responsible for
To view the full product, including the scope   wildland fire management: the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service
and methodology, click on the link above. For   and the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, Bureau of Land
more information, contact David Powner at
(202) 512-9286 or pownerd@gao.gov.
                                                Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Contents

Letter                                                                                     1
                        Results in Brief                                                   2
                        Background                                                         5
                        Numerous Geospatial Technologies Can Be Used to
                           Address Different Aspects of Wildland Fire Management          12
                        The Wildland Fire Community Faces Numerous Challenges
                           in Using Geospatial Information Technologies
                           Effectively; More Must Be Done to Address These
                           Challenges                                                     30
                        New National Efforts to Improve the Use of Geospatial
                           Information Are Promising, but Challenges to Effective
                           Data Sharing Remain                                            37
                        Conclusions                                                       40
                        Recommendations                                                   41
                        Agency Comments                                                   42

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                            44

Appendix II: Major Wildland Fire Policies, Plans, Reports, and Initiatives                48

Appendix III: Federal, State, and Local Entities with Land Management, Technology, or
Other Fire-Related Roles                                                              52
                         Federal Departments and Agencies                             52
                         State, Local, and Other Associations and Committees          54

Appendix IV: Remote Sensing Systems                                                       57

Appendix V: Examples of Applications with Geospatial Components Supporting
Wildland Fire Management                                                                  60

Appendix VI: Comments from the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior                66

Appendix VII: GAO Contacts and Acknowledgments                                            68
                     GAO Contacts                                                         68
                     Acknowledgments                                                      68

Glossary                                                                                  69




                        Page i                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figures
                Figure 1: Wildland Fire Management Activities ..................................... 6
                Figure 2: Acres of Land Managed by Federal Land Management
                           Agencies...................................................................................... 7
                Figure 3: National Wildfire Coordinating Group: Member
                           Organizations ............................................................................ 9
                Figure 4: Members of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council ............ 10
                Figure 5: Overview of the Flow of Data Among Key Geospatial
                           Information Technologies and Resulting Products of
                           These Technologies ................................................................ 15
                Figure 6: Vegetation Map, Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado,
                           August 1999............................................................................. 17
                Figure 7: Fire Hazard Map, Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado,
                           August 1999............................................................................. 18
                Figure 8: National Wildland Fire Outlook.............................................. 19
                Figure 9: Fire Danger Map ........................................................................ 20
                Figure 10: Satellite Images of Fires in the Northwestern United
                           States, July 21, 2003............................................................... 21
                Figure 11: Satellite Image Showing Early Fire Perimeters for the
                           Rodeo and Chediski Fires, Arizona, June 2002 ................ 22
                Figure 12: An Aerial Infrared Image and Resulting Fire
                           Perimeter Map, September 2001.......................................... 23
                Figure 13: Output of a Fire Behavior Model.......................................... 24
                Figure 14: Internet-Based Maps of Active Fires ................................... 25
                Figure 15: Burn Severity Map, Hayman Fire, June 2002..................... 27


Tables
                Table     1:   Key Geospatial Technologies ................................................... 13
                Table     2:   Characteristics of Selected Remote Sensing Systems ......... 58
                Table     3:   Examples of Operational Applications .................................. 60
                Table     4:   Examples of Developmental Applications ............................ 64


Abbreviations
                BIA              Bureau of Indian Affairs
                BLM              Bureau of Land Management
                FGDC             Federal Geographic Data Committee
                FS               Forest Service
                FWS              Fish and Wildlife Service
                GIS              geographic information system
                IRM              information resource management
                IT               information technology


                Page ii                                                             GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
MODIS      Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
NASA       National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NOAA       National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NPS        National Park Service
NWCG       National Wildfire Coordinating Group
USGS       U.S. Geological Survey




Page iii                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Letter


         September 23, 2003

         The Honorable Mark Udall
         House of Representatives

         The Honorable Joel Hefley
         House of Representatives


         Over the past decade, there has been a series of devastating and
         deadly wildland fires on federal lands. Fires like these burn
         millions of acres of forests, grasslands, and deserts each year,
         requiring federal land management agencies to spend hundreds of
         millions of dollars to fight them. Wildland fires also threaten
         communities that are near federal lands. During the 2002 fire
         season, approximately 88,458 wildland fires burned about 6.9
         million acres and cost the federal government over $1.6 billion to
         suppress. These fires destroyed timber, natural vegetation, wildlife
         habitats, homes, and businesses, and they severely damaged forest
         soils and watershed areas for decades to come. The 2002 fires also
         caused the deaths of 23 firefighters and drove thousands of people
         from their homes. Only 2 years earlier, during the 2000 fire season,
         approximately 123,000 fires had burned more than 8.4 million
         acres and cost the federal government over $2 billion.

         Geospatial information technologies—sensors, systems, and
         software that collect, manage, manipulate, analyze, model, and
         display information about locations on the earth’s surface—can aid
         in managing wildland fires by providing accurate, detailed, and
         timely information to federal, state, and local decision makers; fire-
         fighting personnel; and the public. This information can be used to
         help reduce the risk that a fire will become uncontrollable, to
         respond to critical events while a fire is burning, and to aid in
         recovering from fire disasters.

         Concerned with recent wildland fires, you asked us to assess
         opportunities to improve the way agencies manage fires through
         the use of geospatial information technologies. Specifically, our
         objectives were to (1) identify key geospatial information
         technologies for addressing different aspects of wildland fire
         management, (2) summarize key challenges to the effective use of


         Page 1                                       GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                   geospatial technologies in wildland fire management, and
                   (3) identify national opportunities to improve the effective use of
                   geospatial technologies.

                   To accomplish these objectives, we focused our review on the five
                   key federal agencies that are primarily responsible for wildland fire
                   management on public lands: the Department of Agriculture’s
                   Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s National Park
                   Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and
                   Bureau of Indian Affairs. To address the final objective, we also
                   reviewed national efforts to improve the use of geospatial
                   information, undertaken by the Office of Management and Budget
                   and the Federal Geographic Data Committee. We conducted our
                   work between October 2002 and September 2003 in accordance
                   with generally accepted government auditing standards. Appendix I
                   contains further details on our objectives, scope, and methodology.
                   Key terms are defined in the glossary.


Results in Brief
                   Numerous geospatial information technologies are currently
                   available, in use, or under development that can aid in wildland fire
                   management. These technologies include remote sensing systems,
                   the Global Positioning System, geographic information systems
                   (GIS), and specialized software for modeling and visualizing
                   locations and events. Land management agencies are using
                   geospatial technologies in a number of different ways, ranging
                   from mapping vegetation and dangerous accumulations of fuel, to
                   identifying the perimeter and behavior of active fires, to mapping
                   burned areas for rehabilitation. However, the extent to which these
                   technologies are currently being used is not fully known.

                   There are multiple challenges to effectively using geospatial
                   technologies—all complicated by the fact that wildland fire
                   management extends beyond a single agency’s responsibility and
                   requires a collaborative interagency approach. Key challenges
                   include issues with the following:

               •   Data: Geospatial data are not consistently available and are not
                   compatible across different agencies, states, and local entities. As a
                   result, decision makers often lack the timely, integrated
                   information they need to make sound decisions in managing
                   different aspects of wildland fire.




                   Page 2                                       GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
•   Systems: Agencies have developed multiple, duplicative systems to
    address local or agency-specific needs. As a result, many similar
    systems are not interoperable. Also, there is no single
    comprehensive inventory of the systems used to support wildland
    fire management.

•   Infrastructure: GIS specialists do not consistently have access to
    the equipment, communications infrastructure, and Internet when
    and where they need them to address wildland fires. As a result,
    these specialists often have difficulty in obtaining and
    manipulating geospatial data and in producing geospatial maps at
    remote fire sites.

•   Staffing: The training and qualifications of the GIS specialists who
    work on wildland fires are not consistent, resulting in major
    differences in these individuals’ capabilities.

•   New products: While new products and services are available to
    support wildland fire management, commercial vendors expressed
    concern that the fire community is not aware of these products.
    Land management agencies noted that the cost of commercial
    products can be prohibitive and that licensing restrictions can keep
    local land units from sharing data with others in the wildland fire
    community.

    The National Wildfire Coordinating Group—comprising
    representatives from the five land management agencies and from
    other federal, state, and tribal organizations—has several initiatives
    under way to address specific challenges to using geospatial
    information technologies, but progress on these initiatives has
    been slow, and these initiatives do not address all of the
    challenges. A root cause of many of these challenges is the lack of
    an overall strategy guiding interagency management of information
    resources and technologies. Currently, different teams within the
    Coordinating Group are planning initiatives to improve the
    interagency management of information resources and technology.
    Focusing specifically on geospatial technologies, one interagency
    team has proposed developing an interagency strategic plan for
    using geospatial technologies to support wildland fire
    management. Another interagency team developed a draft
    Information Resource Management (IRM) strategy that provides
    high-level objectives for interagency IRM management. At a broader
    level, another interagency team plans to develop an enterprise
    architecture—a blueprint for operational and technological change
    in support of wildland fire management. However, these efforts
    lack the senior-level endorsement and the detailed plans and


    Page 3                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
milestones necessary for success. Until effective interagency
management of information technologies becomes a priority, the
wildland fire community will likely continue to face challenges in
effectively using geospatial technologies.

Effectively using geospatial information is of interest beyond the
wildland fire management community. Detailed, accurate, and
accessible geospatial information is critical in addressing homeland
security and national preparedness, supporting our transportation
infrastructure, managing natural resources, and carrying out the
national census—among other activities. For decades, the federal
government has tried to reduce duplicative geospatial data
collection by coordinating GIS activities within and outside the
federal government. Most recently, the E-Government Act of 2002
called for common protocols for geographic information systems
in order to reduce redundant data collection and information and
to promote collaboration and use of standards for government
geographic information.1 To improve the use of geospatial data, the
Office of Management and Budget initiated Geospatial One-Stop, a
project to develop an Internet portal for locating geospatial data
and to develop national geospatial data standards. While this and
other initiatives hold promise, achieving the vision of a nationwide
network of geospatial data remains a formidable challenge. We
recently reported that a much more substantial effort will be
required to attain the broader vision of seamless integration of GIS
data nationwide—and that this effort will probably have to
continue over an extended period of time.2

We are making recommendations to the Secretaries of Agriculture
and the Interior to address specific challenges in effectively using
geospatial technologies and to improve the management of
information resources and technologies in the interagency wildland
fire management community. In commenting on a draft of this
report, the departments agreed with the report’s conclusions and
recommendations, and noted that staff from the two departments
will be tasked with developing an action plan to address our
findings and the broader issue of geospatial needs for wildland fire
management.




1
 Sec. 216, P.L. 107-347, December 17, 2002.
2
 U.S. General Accounting Office, Geographic Information Systems: Challenges to Effective
Data Sharing, GAO-03-874T (Washington, D.C.: June 10, 2003).



Page 4                                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Background

Wildland Fire Management Life Cycle: An Overview
                    Effectively managing wildland fires can be viewed in terms of a life
                    cycle—there are key activities that can be performed before a fire
                    starts to reduce the risk of its becoming uncontrollable; other
                    activities that can take place during a fire to detect the fire before
                    it gets too large and to respond to it; and still others that can be
                    performed after a fire has stopped in order to stabilize,
                    rehabilitate, and restore damaged forests and rangelands. Prefire
                    activities can include identifying areas that are at risk for wildland
                    fire by assessing changes in vegetation and the accumulation of
                    fuels (including small trees, underbrush, and dead vegetation), as
                    well as these fuels’ proximity to communities; taking action to
                    reduce fuels through a variety of mechanisms (including timber
                    harvesting, management-ignited or prescribed fires, mechanical
                    thinning, and use of natural fires); and monitoring fire weather
                    conditions. Other activities during this phase can include providing
                    fire preparedness training and strategically deploying equipment
                    and personnel resources to at-risk areas.

                    Activities that take place during a fire include detecting fires,
                    dispatching resources, planning the initial attack on the fire,
                    monitoring and mapping the fire’s spread and behavior, and
                    planning and managing subsequent attacks on the fire—if they are
                    warranted. Postfire activities can include assessing the impact of
                    the fire; providing emergency stabilization of burned areas to
                    protect life, property, and natural resources from postfire
                    degradation, such as flooding, contamination of a watershed area,
                    and surface erosion; rehabilitating lands to remove fire debris,
                    repair soils, and plant new vegetation; and monitoring the
                    rehabilitation efforts over time to ensure that they are on track.
                    Other activities—such as enhancing community awareness—can
                    and should take place throughout the fire management life cycle.
                    Figure 1 depicts a fire management life cycle, with key activities in
                    each phase.




                    Page 5                                       GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                   Figure 1: Wildland Fire Management Activities




Federal Land Management Responsibilities
                   Five federal agencies share responsibility for managing the
                   majority of our nation’s federal lands—the Department of
                   Agriculture’s Forest Service (FS) and the Department of the
                   Interior’s National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management
                   (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Indian Affairs
                   (BIA). While each agency has a different mission and responsibility
                   for different areas and types of land, they work together to address
                   catastrophic wildland fires, which often cross agency boundaries.
                   In addition, state, local, and tribal governments and private
                   individuals own thousands of acres that are adjacent to federal
                   lands and are similarly susceptible to wildland fires. Figure 2
                   shows the number of acres of land managed by each of the five
                   federal agencies.




                   Page 6                                          GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                      Figure 2: Acres of Land Managed by Federal Land Management Agencies




The National Fire Plan
                      After years of catastrophic fires, in September 2000, the
                      Departments of Agriculture and the Interior jointly issued a report
                      on managing the impact of wildland fires. This report forms the
                      basis of what is now known as the National Fire Plan—a long-term
                      multibillion-dollar effort to address the nation’s risk of wildland
                      fires. The plan directs funding and attention to five key initiatives:

                  •   Hazardous fuels reduction—investing in projects to reduce the
                      buildup of fuels that leads to severe fires.

                  •   Firefighting—ensuring adequate preparedness for future fires by
                      acquiring and maintaining personnel and equipment and by placing
                      firefighting resources in locations where they can most effectively
                      be used to respond to fires.

                  •   Rehabilitation and restoration—restoring landscapes and
                      rebuilding ecosystems that have been damaged by wildland fires.

                  •   Community assistance—working directly with communities to
                      ensure that they are adequately protected from fires.

                  •   Accountability—establishing mechanisms to oversee and track
                      progress in implementing the National Fire Plan, which includes
                      developing performance measures, processes for reporting
                      progress, and budgeting information.

                      A key tenet of the National Fire Plan is coordination between
                      government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to
                      develop strategies and carry out programs. Building on this goal of
                      cooperation, the five land management agencies have worked with


                      Page 7                                        GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                    state governors and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive
                    strategy and an implementation plan for managing wildland fires,
                    hazardous fuels, and ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation on
                    federal and adjacent state, tribal, and private forest and rangelands
                    in the United States. Appendix II provides a summary of the major
                    federal policies, plans, reports, and initiatives on managing
                    wildland fires and how they are related. In developing these
                    integrated plans and initiatives, the land management agencies
                    identified other federal agencies that have roles in wildland fire
                    management: agencies that manage other federal lands, including
                    the Department of Defense and Department of Energy; agencies
                    that research, manage, or use technologies that can aid in wildland
                    fire management, including the Department of the Interior’s U.S.
                    Geological Survey, the National Aeronautical and Space
                    Administration, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic
                    and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense’s
                    National Imagery and Mapping Agency; and agencies with other
                    fire-related responsibilities, including the Department of Homeland
                    Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and the
                    Environmental Protection Agency. The integrated plans also
                    identify key state and local organizations that may collaborate on
                    wildland fire management. Appendix III identifies key federal,
                    state, and local organizations and their roles in wildland fire
                    management.

An Interagency Framework Supports the National Fire Plan
                    Over the past four decades, the Departments of Agriculture and the
                    Interior have established an interagency framework to handle
                    wildland fire management—a framework that currently supports
                    the National Fire Plan. In 1965, the Forest Service and the Bureau of
                    Land Management established the National Interagency Fire Center
                    in Boise, Idaho. The Fire Center is the nation’s principal
                    management and logistical support center for wildland firefighting
                    and now includes the five land management agencies, the National
                    Weather Service, and the Department of the Interior’s Office of
                    Aircraft Services. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal
                    Emergency Management Agency and the National Association of
                    State Foresters also have a presence at the center. Working
                    together, representatives from this mix of organizations exchange
                    fire protection information and training services and coordinate
                    and support operations for managing wildland fire incidents while
                    they are occurring, throughout the United States.




                    Page 8                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
In 1976, the departments established the National Wildfire
Coordinating Group to coordinate government standards for
wildland fire management and related programs, in order to avoid
duplicating the various agencies’ efforts and to encourage active
collaboration among entities. This group comprises representatives
from the five land management agencies and from other federal,
state, and tribal organizations. Figure 3 identifies these member
organizations. The coordinating group seeks to foster more
effective execution of each agency’s fire management program
through agreements on common training, equipment, and other
standards; however, each agency determines whether and how it
will adopt the group’s proposals. The group is organized into 15
working teams, which focus on issues that include information
resource management (IRM), fire equipment, training, fire weather,
and wildland fire education. Most recently, the coordinating group
established the IRM program management office to further support
the IRM working team by developing guidance and products. In
addition, the IRM working team has established two subgroups to
focus on specific issues involving geospatial information and data
administration.

Figure 3: National Wildfire Coordinating Group: Member Organizations




In recent years, we have reported that despite these interagency
efforts, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior had
not established clearly defined and effective leadership for
ensuring collaboration and coordination among the organizations
that respond to wildland fires.3 Further, the National Academy of
Public Administration recommended that the Secretaries of

3
 U.S. General Accounting Office, The National Fire Plan: Federal Agencies Are Not
Organized to Effectively and Efficiently Implement the Plan, GAO-01-1022T (Washington,
D.C.: July 31, 2001); Severe Wildland Fires: Leadership and Accountability Needed to
Reduce Risks to Communities and Resources, GAO-02-259 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 31,
2002); Wildland Fire Management: Improved Planning Will Help Agencies Better Identify
Fire-Fighting Preparedness Needs, GAO-02-158 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 29, 2002).



Page 9                                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                     Agriculture and the Interior establish a national interagency council
                     to achieve more consistent and coordinated efforts in
                     implementing national fire policies and plans.4 In response to these
                     concerns, in April 2002, the departments established the Wildland
                     Fire Leadership Council. This council comprises senior members of
                     both departments and of key external organizations; it is charged
                     with providing active, visible interagency leadership and
                     coordination and consistent, integrated policy direction to the land
                     management agencies regarding wildland fire management.
                     Figure 4 identifies members of the Leadership Council.

                     Figure 4: Members of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council




                     Accurate information about specific locations is critical to all of the
                     activities in wildland fire management. To manage information that
                     extends beyond organizational boundaries in support of a common
                     mission—such as the wildland fire mission—it is useful to view
                     these activities within the context of the information technology
                     management discipline of enterprise architecture management.

Enterprise Architecture: A Brief Description
                     If properly developed, an enterprise architecture provides a clear
                     and comprehensive picture of an entity, whether it is an
                     organization (for example, a federal department, agency, or bureau)

                     4
                      Frank Fairbanks, Henry Gardner, Elizabeth Hill, Keith Mulrooney, Charles Philpot, Karl
                     Weick, and Charles Wise, Managing Wildland Fire: Enhancing Capacity to Implement the
                     Federal Interagency Policy (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Public Administration,
                     December 2001).



                     Page 10                                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
or a functional or mission area that cuts across more than one
organization (for example, grant management, homeland security,
or wildland fire management). These architectures are recognized
as essential tools for effectively and efficiently engineering
business operations and the systems and databases that are
needed to support these operations.

Enterprise architectures are systemically derived and captured
blueprints or descriptions—in useful models, diagrams, and
narrative—of the mode of operation for a given enterprise. This
mode of operation is described in both (1) logical terms, such as
interrelated business processes and business rules, information
needs and flows, data models, work locations, and users, and
(2) technical terms, such as hardware, software, data,
communications, and security attributes and performance
standards. They provide these perspectives both for the
enterprise’s current, or “as is,” environment and for its target, or
“to be,” environment, as well as a transition plan for moving from
the “as is” to the “to be” environment.

Using enterprise architectures is a basic tenet of effective
information technology (IT) management, embodied in federal
guidance and commercial best practices.5 We recently issued an
executive guide for improving enterprise architecture
management.6 When developed and used properly, these
architectures define both business operations and the underlying
IT infrastructure that supports these operations in a way that
optimizes interdependencies and interrelationships. They provide a
common frame of reference to guide and constrain decisions about
the content of information asset investments in a way that can
ensure that the right information is available to those who need it,
when they need it. Employed in concert with IT investment
management practices designed to ensure that new investments
are compliant with the architecture, enterprise architectures can
greatly increase an organization’s likelihood of making successful
and effective technology investments.7 Our experience with federal

5
  For example, see Office of Management and Budget, Management of Federal Information
Resources, Circular No. A-130 (Washington, D.C.: November 2000) and U.S. General
Accounting Office, Executive Guide: Improving Mission Performance through Strategic
Information Management and Technology: Learning from Leading Organizations,
GAO/AIMD-94-115 (Washington, D.C.: May 1994).
6
   U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Technology: A Framework for Assessing and
Improving Enterprise Architecture Management (Version 1.1), GAO-03-584G (Washington,
D.C.: April 2003).
7
   U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Technology Investment Management: A
Framework for Assessing and Improving Process Maturity (Exposure Draft), GAO/AIMD-
10.1.23 (Washington, D.C.: May 2000).



Page 11                                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
               agencies has shown that investing in information technology
               without the context of an architecture often results in systems that
               are duplicative, not well integrated, and unnecessarily costly to
               maintain and interface.8


Numerous Geospatial Technologies Can Be Used to Address
Different Aspects of Wildland Fire Management
               Geospatial information technologies—sensors, systems, and
               software that collect, manage, manipulate, analyze, model, and
               display information about positions on the earth’s surface—can aid
               in managing wildland fires by providing accurate, detailed, and
               timely information to federal, state, and local decision makers; fire-
               fighting personnel; and the public. This information can be used to
               help reduce the risk that a fire will become uncontrollable, to
               respond to critical events while a fire is burning, and to aid in
               recovering from fire disasters.

               Specific examples of geospatial technologies include remote
               sensing systems, the Global Positioning System, and geographic
               information systems. In addition, specialized software can be used
               in conjunction with remote sensing data and geographic
               information systems to manipulate geographic data and allow
               users to analyze, model, and visualize locations and events. Table 1
               describes key geospatial technologies.




               8
                See, for example, U.S. General Accounting Office, DOD Business Systems Modernization:
               Improvements to Enterprise Architecture Development and Implementation Efforts Needed,
               GAO-03-458 (Washington, D.C.: February 2003); Information Technology: DLA Should
               Strengthen Business Systems Modernization Architecture and Investment Activities, GAO-
               01-631 (Washington, D.C.: June 2001); and Information Technology: INS Needs to Better
               Manage the Development of Its Enterprise Architecture, AIMD-00-212 (Washington, D.C.:
               August 2000).



               Page 12                                                GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Table 1: Key Geospatial Technologies

Technology            Description
Remote                Remote sensing systems observe data that are either emitted or reflected by the earth
sensing               and the atmosphere, collecting these data from a distance—such as from a satellite or
systems               an aerial platform. Remote sensing systems involve different observing technologies,
                      including cameras, scanners, radar and sonar systems, radiometers, lasers, and
                      thermal devices—to name a few—and are capable of collecting data from one or more
                      bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.a Data from different bands provide different
                      kinds of information. For example, data observed in the infrared band can identify heat
                      sources that are not observable in the visible band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
                      When data are collected from multiple bands, a more sophisticated analysis can be
                      performed. Key factors that differentiate one sensor from another include the type(s)
                      of data collected, the resolutionb of the images, the width (or swath) of area covered
                      on the ground, and the rate at which the sensor’s platform revisits an area on the
                      ground. Appendix IV provides more detail on types of sensors and identifies the
                      characteristics of several remote sensing systems.
                      After being observed, remotely sensed data need to be processed—a function that can
                      include referencing the data to a position on earth, calibrating them, and then
                      transforming them into a usable format. The resulting product can be an image or a
                      quantitative data product, which can in turn be used as an input to other geospatial
                      technologies, including geographic information systems and specialized software.
Global                The Global Positioning System is a constellation of orbiting satellites that provides
Positioning           navigation data to military and civilian users around the world. These satellites orbit
System                the earth every 12 hours, emitting continuous navigation signals. With the proper
                      equipment, users can receive these signals and use them to calculate time, location,
                      and velocity. Receivers have been developed for use on aircraft, ships, and land-based
                      vehicles, as well as via mobile hand-held units. Data from the Global Positioning
                      System can be used to reference remotely sensed aerial images or ground-based
                      human observations to specific geographic coordinates, a process called geo-
                      referencing.
Geographic            A geographic information system (GIS) is a system of computer software, hardware,
information           and data used to manipulate, analyze, and graphically display a potentially wide array
systems               of information associated with geographic locations. These systems can receive input
                      from remotely sensed images from satellites and aerial platforms, as well as from other
                      sources, including human observation, tabular data, and maps. These systems are
                      capable of relating multiple layers of data (such as roads, vegetation, structures, and
                      utilities) concerning the same geographical location and representing these multiple
                      layers of information as one composite result.
Specialized           Specialized software for modeling, decision support, and visualization complements the
software              sensing, positioning, and GIS technologies described above by allowing analysts and
                      managers to analyze data and explore different scenarios—and thereby make better
                      informed decisions. For example, fire behavior specialists use such software to model
                      fire behavior. Inputs to these models come from satellite images as well as weather
                      data, tabular data, and on-the-ground observations.
Source: GAO.
a
  A spectral band is a set of adjacent wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Examples include the ultraviolet, visible, near-
infrared, mid-infrared, and thermal infrared bands.
b
 Spatial resolution is a measure of the size of the smallest feature that can be distinguished in an image. That is, in a 30-meter
resolution image, one can discern objects 30 meters and larger. Images with smaller discernable objects are considered to have
higher resolutions.




                                    Page 13                                                        GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
While individual technologies can be used to obtain information
and products, the integration of these technologies holds promise
for providing even more valuable information to decision makers.
For example, remote sensing systems provide images that are
useful in their own right. However, when images are geo-referenced
and combined with other layers of data in a geographic
information system—and then used with specialized software—a
more sophisticated analysis can be performed, and more timely
and sound decisions can be made. Figure 5 provides an overview of
the relationships among the different technologies and some
resulting products.




Page 14                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 5: Overview of the Flow of Data Among Key Geospatial Information Technologies and Resulting
Products of These Technologies




Federal Land Management Agencies Are Using Geospatial Technologies to
Support Wildland Fire Management
                           The geospatial information technologies mentioned above—remote
                           sensing systems, the Global Positioning System, geographic
                           information systems, and specialized softwareare being used to
                           some extent in managing wildland fires. These technologies are
                           used throughout the wildland fire management life cycle. Key
                           examples follow.


                           Page 15                                         GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Examples of Geospatial Technology Use: Prefire

                       Before a fire starts, local and regional land managers often use
                       vegetation and fuels maps derived from remote sensing data in
                       conjunction with a geographic information system to understand
                       conditions and to identify areas for fuels treatments. Some land
                       management offices have also developed software to help them
                       assess risk areas and prioritize fuels treatment projects. For
                       example, figure 6 depicts a vegetation map, and figure 7 depicts a
                       map showing areas with increased risk of fires. Interestingly, an
                       area that the map identified as being at high risk of fire later
                       burned during the Hayman fire of 2002.




                       Page 16                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 6: Vegetation Map, Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado, August 1999




Page 17                                        GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 7: Fire Hazard Map, Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado, August 1999




Land management agencies also use geospatial products related to
the weather to aid in fire planning, detecting, and monitoring
activities. Weather-based products are derived from ground-based
lightning detection and weather observing systems, as well as from
fire-related weather predictions from the National Weather Service.



Page 18                                        GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 8 depicts a seasonal fire outlook, and figure 9 depicts a fire
danger map that is based on daily weather predictions.

Figure 8: National Wildland Fire Outlook




Page 19                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                       Figure 9: Fire Danger Map




Examples of Geospatial Technology Use: During Fire

                       During a fire, some fire responders use satellite and aerial imagery,
                       in combination with Global Positioning System data, geographic
                       information systems, and specialized fire behavior modeling
                       software, to obtain information about the fire and to help plan how
                       they will respond to it. For example, the Forest Service uses
                       satellite data to produce images of active fires. Also, the National
                       Interagency Fire Center manages an aerial infrared program that
                       flies aircraft equipped with infrared sensors over large fires to
                       detect heat and fire areas. These images contribute to the
                       development of daily fire perimeter maps. Figure 10 depicts a
                       satellite image of active fires. Figure 11 depicts a satellite image of
                       a fire perimeter, and figure 12 depicts an aerial infrared image and
                       a fire perimeter map based on that image. Some incident teams
                       also use fire growth modeling software to predict the growth of
                       wildland fires in terms of size, intensity, and spread, considering
                       variable terrain, fuels, and weather. Using this information, incident
                       managers are able to estimate short- and long-term fire behaviors,
                       plan for potential fires, communicate concerns and needs to state
                       and local governments and the public, and request and position
                       resources. Figure 13 shows the output of a fire behavior model.




                       Page 20                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 10: Satellite Images of Fires in the Northwestern United States, July
21, 2003




Note: Images from NASA’s Aqua satellite, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS).




Page 21                                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 11: Landsat Satellite Image Showing Early Fire Perimeters for the
Rodeo and Chediski Fires, Arizona, June 2002




Page 22                                          GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 12: An Aerial Infrared Image and Resulting Fire Perimeter Map,
September 2001




Page 23                                          GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 13: Output of a Fire Behavior Model




Geospatial technologies are also used to provide information on
active fires to the general public. The wildland fire community and
the U.S. Geological Survey established an Internet Web site, at
www.geomac.gov, to provide access to geospatial information
about active fires. This site allows visitors to identify the location
of wildland fires on a broad scale and then focus in to identify
information on the location and status of specific fires. Figure 14
shows images from the Web site.




Page 24                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Figure 14: Internet-Based Maps of Active Fires




It is important to note that there are many commercial products
and services available for use during a fire—ranging from high-
resolution aerial and satellite imagery, to handheld Global
Positioning System devices, to enhanced visualization models, to
on-site geographic information systems, equipment, and personnel.


Page 25                                          GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                       Incident commanders responsible for responding to fires often
                       choose to purchase commercial products and services to
                       supplement interagency resources.

Examples of Geospatial Technology Use: Postfire

                       After a fire occurs, burned-area teams have recently begun to use
                       remote sensing data in conjunction with geographic information
                       systems to determine the extent of fire damage and to help plan
                       and implement emergency stabilization and rehabilitation efforts.
                       Typical products include burn severity and burn intensity maps.
                       Figure 15 depicts a satellite image and a burn severity map
                       showing areas that have a high priority for emergency stabilization
                       measures. Geospatial technologies also aid in monitoring
                       rehabilitation efforts for years after a fire to ensure that
                       restoration plans are on track.




                       Page 26                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                    Figure 15: Burn Severity Map, Hayman Fire, June 2002




New Uses of Geospatial Information Technologies to Aid in Wildland Fire
Management Are under Development
                    The Forest Service and Interior are researching and developing new
                    applications of geospatial information technologies to support
                    business needs in wildland fire management. In addition, the Joint


                    Page 27                                        GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
    Fire Science Program, a partnership of the five land management
    agencies and the U.S. Geological Survey, funds numerous research
    projects each year on fire and fuels management. Once again, these
    initiatives vary greatly—ranging from research on remote sensing
    systems to the development of interagency information systems
    with geospatial components, to improvements in existing software
    models. Examples of these efforts include the following:

•   Sensor research. Several new research projects are under way on
    LIDAR and hyperspectral sensors.9 For example, a BLM state office
    is researching the use of high-resolution hyperspectral and LIDAR
    imaging technologies for improving the identification of vegetation;
    planning hazardous fuels projects; and monitoring wildland urban
    interface projects, the effects of wildland fires, and fire
    rehabilitation efforts. Additionally, the Forest Service is exploring
    the use of mobile LIDAR systems for assessing smoke plumes, and
    it is conducting research on using LIDAR data, satellite data, and
    modeling techniques to forecast air quality after a fire.

•   Vegetation data and tools. The five land management agencies and
    the U.S. Geological Survey are working together to develop a
    national geospatial dataset and a set of modeling tools for wildland
    fire planning. This effort, called LANDFIRE, is to provide a
    comprehensive package of spatial data layers, models, and tools
    needed by land and fire managers. The system is expected to help
    prioritize, plan, complete, and monitor fuel treatment and
    restoration projects on national, regional, and local scales. A
    prototype of the system covers central Utah and Northwestern
    Montana and is expected to be completed by April 2005.

•   Interagency information systems. The five land management
    agencies are developing information systems for use by Interior
    and Forest Service offices to track efforts under the National Fire
    Plan. The National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System is an
    interagency system designed to assist field personnel in managing
    and reporting accomplishments for work conducted under the
    National Fire Plan. It is a Web-based data collection tool with GIS
    support that locates projects and treatments. It consists of three
    modules—hazardous fuels reduction, restoration and
    rehabilitation, and community assistance. While the agencies are
    currently using the system, it will not be fully operational until
    2004. Another information system, the Fire Program Analysis

    9
      LIDAR sensors measure the reflection of emitted light; hyperspectral sensors observe
    data in multiple contiguous channels of the electromagnetic spectrum. A more detailed
    discussion of these and other types of sensors is included in appendix IV.



    Page 28                                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                     system, is an interagency planning tool for analysis and budgeting
                     to be used by the five federal wildland fire management agencies.
                     The first module—preparedness—is scheduled for implementation
                     in September 2004 and will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of
                     alternative initial attack operations in meeting multiple fire
                     management objectives. Additional system modules are expected
                     to provide geospatial capabilities and to address extended attack,
                     large fires and national fire resources, hazardous fuels reduction,
                     wildland fire use, and fire prevention.

                 •   Improvements in existing systems. There are multiple efforts
                     planned or under way to improve existing systems or to add
                     geospatial components to systems that are currently under
                     development. For example, researchers at a federal fire sciences
                     laboratory are exploring possible improvements to the Wildland
                     Fire Assessment System, an Internet-based system that provides
                     information on a broad area of national fire potential and weather
                     maps for fire managers and the general public. Specifically,
                     researchers are working to develop products that depict moisture
                     levels in live fuels, which will aid in assessing the potential for
                     wildland fires.

Extent to Which Geospatial Technologies Are Used to Support Wildland Fire
Management Is Not Fully Known
                     While many land management entities are using geospatial
                     technologies in support of their wildland fire-related activities, the
                     extent to which geospatial technologies and tools are being used in
                     support of wildland fire management is not fully known. In an
                     effort to get a more accurate picture of how extensively geospatial
                     information technologies are being used, the Geospatial Task
                     Group, a subgroup of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s
                     (NWCG) IRM working team, is conducting a survey of wildland fire
                     personnel to determine what technologies are being used and how
                     they are being used. Group members stated that this information
                     would help them to develop interagency standards for equipment
                     and training and would allow land managers to learn from others’
                     experiences in using some of the geospatial information
                     technologies. For example, some incident teams use fire modeling
                     software during active fires, while some land management offices
                     are using the software in planning prescribed fires. The group
                     initiated its survey in June 2003 and expects to complete its
                     assessment by September 2003.




                     Page 29                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
The Wildland Fire Community Faces Numerous Challenges in
Using Geospatial Information Technologies Effectively; More
Must Be Done to Address These Challenges
                     There are numerous challenges in using geospatial information
                     technologies effectively in the wildland fire community. Key
                     challenges involve data, systems, infrastructure, staffing, and the
                     effective use of new products and technologies—all complicated by
                     the fact that wildland fire management extends beyond a single
                     agency’s responsibility. NWCG has several initiatives under way to
                     address specific challenges to using geospatial information
                     technologies. However, progress on these initiatives has been slow,
                     and the initiatives do not address all of the challenges.

                     A root cause of many of these challenges is the lack of an overall
                     strategy guiding interagency management of information resources
                     and technologies. Currently, different IRM-related teams within
                     NWCG are planning initiatives to improve the interagency
                     management of information resources and technology. Focusing
                     specifically on geospatial technologies, the NWCG’s IRM working
                     team’s geospatial task group has proposed developing an
                     interagency strategic plan for using geospatial technologies to
                     support wildland fire management. Additionally, the IRM working
                     team has developed a draft IRM strategy to guide information
                     technology development and use by the interagency fire
                     community. At a broader level, NWCG’s IRM program management
                     office plans to develop an enterprise architecture to guide and
                     integrate business operations for wildland fire management.
                     However, these efforts lack the senior-level endorsement and the
                     detailed plans and milestones necessary for success. Until effective
                     interagency management of information technologies becomes a
                     priority, the wildland fire community will likely continue to face
                     challenges in effectively using geospatial technologies.

Many Challenges Affect the Usefulness of Geospatial Information Technologies
                     As the use of geospatial information technologies has become
                     more common in wildland fire management, the challenges to
                     effectively using and sharing geospatial information have become
                     more apparent. Key challenges include the following:

                 •   Data issues. Users of geospatial information have noted problems
                     in acquiring compatible and comprehensive geospatial data. For


                     Page 30                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
example, GIS specialists involved in fighting fires reported that
they did not have ready access to the geospatial data they needed.
They noted that some local jurisdictions have geospatial data, but
others do not. Further, they reported that the data from
neighboring jurisdictions are often incompatible. GIS specialists
reported that the first days at a wildland fire are spent trying to
gather the geospatial information needed to accurately map the
fire. While concerns with data availability and compatibility are
often noted during fire incidents, these issues are also evident
before and after fire incidents. For example, we recently reported
that the five land management agencies did not know how effective
their postfire emergency stabilization and rehabilitation treatments
were because, among other reasons, local land units do not
routinely collect comparable information.10 As a result of
unavailable or incompatible data, decision makers often lack the
timely, integrated information they need to make sound decisions
in managing different aspects of wildland fire.

On a related note, the development and implementation of data
standards is a well-recognized solution for addressing some of the
problems mentioned above, but there are currently no nationally
recognized geospatial data standards for use on fires. GIS
specialists frequently cited a need for common, interagency
geospatial data standards for use with fires. They noted that the
land management agencies and states do not record information
about fires—such as fire location, fire perimeter, or the date of
different fire perimeters—in the same way.

System issues. In 1996, NWCG reported that there was a
duplication of information systems and computer applications
supporting wildland fire management, noting that agencies were
using 15 different weather-related software applications, 9 logistics
applications, and 7 dispatch applications.11 Since that time, the
number of applications has grown—as has the potential for
duplication of effort. Duplicative systems not only waste limited
funds, but they also make interoperability between systems more
difficult.

This issue is complicated by the fact that there is no single,
comprehensive inventory of information systems and applications
that could be of use to others in the interagency wildland fire

10
   U.S. General Accounting Office, Wildland Fires: Better Information Needed on
Effectiveness of Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Treatments, GAO-03-430
(Washington, D.C.: Apr. 4, 2003).
11
   National Wildfire Coordinating Group, Information Resource Management Strategy
Project: Wildland Fire Business Model (National Interagency Fire Center: August 1996).



Page 31                                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
community. A single comprehensive inventory would allow the
wildland fire community to identify and learn about available
applications and tools, and to avoid duplicating efforts to develop
new applications. We identified five different inventories of
software applications—including information systems, models, and
tools—that are currently being used in support of wildland fire
management. While these listings are not limited to geospatial
applications, many of the applications have geospatial components.
The most comprehensive listing is an inventory managed by NWCG.
This inventory identifies 199 applications used in support of
wildland fire, but even this inventory is not complete. That is, it did
not include 45 applications that were included in the other
inventories. Additionally, it did not include 24 applications that we
had identified. Appendix V provides information on applications
with geospatial components.

Infrastructure issues. Many GIS specialists noted that there are
problems in getting equipment, networking capabilities, and
Internet access to the areas that need them during a fire. For
example, at a recent fire in a remote location, these specialists
reported that they were unable to produce needed information and
maps because they had problems with networking capabilities.
Again, this issue is critical during a fire, when incident teams try to
set up a command center in a remote location. However, it is also
an issue when federal regional managers try to obtain consistent
information from the different land management agencies’ field
offices before or after fires. The majority of local field offices have
equipment to support geospatial information and analysis, but
some do not.

Staffing issues. GIS specialists noted that the training and
qualifications of the GIS specialists who support fire incidents is
not consistent. Specifically, officials noted that skills and
qualifications vary widely among those who work with geographic
information systems. For example, some GIS specialists are capable
of interpreting infrared images as well as developing maps, but
others are not. Some have experience working with GIS applications
but are not specifically trained to develop GIS maps for fires.

Use of new products. While many commercial vendors are
developing geospatial products and services that could be of use to
the wildland fire community—including advanced satellite and
aerial imaging; GIS software and equipment; and advanced
mapping products, including analyses, visualization, and
modeling—many have expressed concern that the wildland fire
community is not aware of these advancements or has little


Page 32                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                     funding for these products. Land managers acknowledged the
                     value of many of these products, but noted that acquiring these
                     products needs to be driven by business needs. Agency officials
                     also expressed concern that the cost of these products and services
                     can be prohibitive and that licensing restrictions could keep them
                     from sharing the commercial data and products with others in the
                     wildland fire community.

National Wildfire Coordinating Group Has Initiated Efforts to Address Some
Geospatial Challenges, but Progress Has Been Slow and Not All Challenges Are
Being Addressed
                     Different NWCG teams (including the IRM working team, the IRM
                     program management office, the IRM working team’s geospatial
                     task group, and the IRM working team’s data administration
                     working group) are undertaking efforts to address specific
                     challenges to effectively using information technologies.
                     Specifically:

                 •   Focusing on geospatial data issues, NWCG teams are working to
                     share geospatial data and to define geospatial data standards. To
                     date, an NWCG team has established an Internet site where
                     geospatial data can be provided and obtained. NWCG teams have
                     also begun developing data standards for daily and final fire
                     perimeters with a goal of implementing these standards across the
                     land management agencies.

                 •   Recognizing the large number of systems supporting fire
                     management, an NWCG team is managing the development of five
                     new interagency systems to replace several similar systems that are
                     currently being used by different agencies. For example, the team
                     has developed a resource ordering and status system to replace
                     four existing systems and is developing an integrated system for
                     tracking the qualifications of individuals assigned to fire incidents
                     (such as incident commanders and firefighters), which should
                     replace separate tracking systems that are currently used by the
                     five land management agencies. NWCG is also working to improve
                     the inventory of information systems and applications that are
                     used to support wildland fire management. This team is seeking
                     validation of the information already in the inventory and adding
                     new items to the inventory as they become known.

                 •   Focusing on the development of GIS specialists’ skills, an ad hoc
                     group not associated with NWCG developed a training course for
                     GIS technical specialists who work on fires, to provide them a


                     Page 33                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                   minimum set of qualifications, with the intent of obtaining a
                   consistent level of GIS skills among the specialists. An NWCG team
                   is evaluating this training for use throughout the wildland fire
                   community. Also, this NWCG team has proposed a minimum set of
                   qualifications for GIS specialists who work on fires.

                   However, progress on these geospatial initiatives has been slow.
                   Although these initiatives have been under development for over
                   14 months, senior NWCG IRM officials have not yet endorsed
                   proposals for a data standard on fire perimeters, the GIS
                   specialists’ qualifications for incident support, or the GIS
                   specialists’ training. NWCG officials were unable to estimate when
                   they would evaluate or implement these proposals; they explained
                   that they have multiple competing priorities.

                   Further, these initiatives do not address all of the challenges to
                   effectively using geospatial information technologies. The
                   initiatives do not address issues associated with infrastructure and
                   the use of new technologies, and they do not comprehensively
                   address all of the issues with data, systems, and staffing. For
                   example, other geospatial data standards are needed to achieve
                   consistency in the geospatial data used to support wildland fire
                   management.

Effective Interagency IT Management Could Help Address Challenges
                   Effective interagency IT management could help address the
                   challenges faced by the wildland fire community in using
                   geospatial information and technologies. Such an approach could
                   address the implementation and enforcement of national
                   geospatial data standards for managing wildland fires, an
                   interagency strategic approach to systems and infrastructure
                   development, a plan for ensuring consistent equipment and
                   training throughout the wildland fire community, and a thorough
                   evaluation of user needs and opportunities for meeting those
                   needs through new products and technologies.

                   Acknowledging many of the geospatial and information
                   management challenges, in September 2002 the National Academy
                   of Public Administration reported that a national information
                   technology/information management framework is needed to
                   guide future development and deployment of systems and
                   information sources to support more cost-effective fire




                   Page 34                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                    suppression.12 Such a framework would provide an architecture for
                    systems, applications, data, and networks, based on user-identified
                    needs. The academy recommended that the agencies involved work
                    together under the guidance of the Wildland Fire Leadership
                    Council to describe what the desired system and data sources
                    should accomplish in fire management and how individual
                    components and data sources can become functioning parts of the
                    overall system. The academy also recommended that the
                    framework provide uniform data policies and standards to ensure
                    the interoperability needed among federal, state, and local systems
                    to maximize the utility and maintenance of available geographic
                    information.

National Wildfire Coordinating Group Plans to Improve Interagency IT
Management, but Efforts Lack Senior-Level Endorsement and Detailed Plans
and Milestones
                    Three different teams within NWCG are planning initiatives to
                    improve the interagency management of geospatial information
                    and information resources and technology. However, these
                    initiatives lack the senior-level endorsement and detailed plans and
                    milestones necessary for success.

                    Focusing specifically on geospatial technologies, the Geospatial
                    Task Group (a subgroup of NWCG’s IRM working team) has
                    proposed developing an interagency strategic plan for using
                    geospatial technologies to support wildland fire management.
                    Officials proposed that this geospatial strategic plan would
                    evaluate the use of technologies in support of the wildland fire
                    mission, assess the need for these technologies, explore
                    opportunities to improve these technologies, and contribute to
                    developing an interagency geospatial infrastructure. However,
                    NWCG has not approved funding for this initiative, and as a result,
                    there is as yet no schedule for developing this geospatial strategic
                    plan.

                    Focusing on IRM management, NWCG’s IRM working team
                    developed a draft IRM strategy to help guide information
                    technology development and use by the interagency fire
                    community. However, this plan has been in draft form since March
                    2002, and officials could not estimate when it would be finalized.
                    Further, the draft plan includes high-level objectives, but does not

                    12
                      Frank Fairbanks, Elizabeth Hill, Patrick Kelly, Lyle Laverty, Keith F. Mulrooney, Charlie
                    Philpot, and Charles Wise, Wildfire Suppression: Strategies for Containing Costs
                    (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Public Administration, September 2002).



                    Page 35                                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
include detailed action items or schedules for accomplishing these
objectives. For example, the draft IRM strategy lists objectives such
as leveraging existing technologies, incorporating emerging
technologies, and developing and obtaining a workforce that is
fully trained and skilled in the use of IRM applications. However,
the plan does not identify any activities or schedules for
accomplishing these objectives.

At a broader level, NWCG’s IRM program management office plans
to develop an interagency enterprise architecture to guide and
integrate business operations for wildland fire management.
According to federal guidance on developing enterprise
architectures, one of the most important initial steps is to obtain
and demonstrate senior-level support for the architecture effort.                     13


Another critical element is to demonstrate a clear plan, or
roadmap, for developing the architecture. Such a plan would
include critical steps, deliverables, and estimated time frames for
the deliverables. Critical activities in the plan would include a
description of the current IT environment (hardware, software,
data, communications); an assessment of user needs and
technological opportunities for meeting those needs; a target
environment; and a transition plan to get to the target
environment. Finally, for an enterprise architecture to be effective,
it needs to be tied to investment processes and controls. That way,
decision makers can ensure that new investments in technology are
consistent with the target environment.

NWCG’s IRM program management office is beginning to work on
an interagency enterprise architecture. To date, the office has
established a goal of developing an enterprise architecture for the
interagency wildland fire community and has designated an IRM
program manager, data architect, and applications architect to help
build it. Further, the data and applications architects expect to be
certified in the development of federal enterprise architectures by
October 2003.

However, the planned interagency enterprise architecture lacks
senior-level support, detailed plans and milestones, and a link to
investment control processes. The Wildland Fire Leadership
Council was established in April 2002 to provide senior-level
leadership in the wildland fire community. However, the
Leadership Council has not formally endorsed NWCG’s interagency
enterprise architecture effort. Without this senior-level support, the


 Chief Information Officer Council, A Practical Guide to Federal Enterprise Architecture,
13


Version 1.0 (February 2001).



Page 36                                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                interagency wildland fire community runs the risk that its
                components will continue to invest in duplicative “stovepiped”
                systems and will perpetuate the existing situation of limited
                interoperability and unnecessarily costly operations.

                Additionally, although the IRM program management office has
                established the goal of developing an enterprise architecture, it has
                not yet defined exactly what it will deliver and by when. NWCG
                officials could not provide estimates for when they would develop
                a thorough understanding of the current “as is” interagency
                environment, identify user needs and technological opportunities
                for meeting those needs, identify a target architecture, or complete
                a plan for transitioning to that target architecture. NWCG officials
                explained that “to successfully implement anything across two
                departments, five federal agencies, and 50 states is difficult and
                takes years of planning and preparation.”

                Further, once it is developed, it is not clear how this enterprise
                architecture would be linked to the interagency geospatial strategic
                plan, the interagency IRM strategy, or the different agencies’
                investment control processes.

                Given the complexity of interagency wildland fire operations, it is
                clear that effectively managing IT (including geospatial IT) in
                support of the wildland fire mission is a challenging task. However,
                it is also clear that without senior-level endorsement and clear
                plans for achieving results, efforts to address geospatial IT
                challenges and to improve IT management may never be
                successful. Until effective management of information resources
                and technology in support of the wildland fire mission becomes a
                management priority, the wildland fire community will likely
                continue to face significant challenges in effectively using
                geospatial technologies.


New National Efforts to Improve the Use of Geospatial
Information Are Promising, but Challenges to Effective Data
Sharing Remain
                Effectively using geospatial information is of interest beyond the
                wildland fire management community. Detailed, accurate, and
                accessible geospatial information is critical in addressing homeland
                security and national preparedness, supporting our transportation
                infrastructure, managing natural resources, and performing the



                Page 37                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
national census—among other activities—and the federal
government has long recognized problems in duplicative
collections of geospatial data.

We recently reported that the federal government has tried for
years to reduce duplicative geospatial data collection by
coordinating geospatial activities both within and outside the
federal government.14 In 1953, the Bureau of the Budget first issued
its Circular A-16, encouraging expeditious surveying and mapping
activities across all levels of government and avoidance of
duplicative efforts. In 1990, the Office of Management and Budget
revised this circular to establish a Federal Geographic Data
Committee (FGDC), chaired by the Department of the Interior, to
promote coordinated use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial
data nationwide. In 1994, an executive order called for coordinating
geographic data acquisition and access through a National Spatial
Data Infrastructure.15 The order defined this infrastructure as the
technology, policies, standards, and human resources necessary to
acquire, process, store, distribute, and improve the utilization of
geospatial data. In 2002, the Office of Management and Budget
issued revised guidance for agencies that create, use, or store
geospatial data and established a coordinated approach to the
National Spatial Data Infrastructure.16 Additionally, the
E-Government Act of 2002 called for common protocols for GIS in
order to reduce redundant data collection and information, and to
promote collaboration and use of standards for government
geographic information.17 Most recently, the Office of Management
and Budget issued guidance on implementing the act.18

Various efforts are now under way to implement this guidance and
legislation. Under the framework of the National Spatial Data
Infrastructure, the FGDC coordinates efforts to develop national
standards for geospatial data, develop a national framework for
sharing geospatial data collections, and establish a portal on the
Internet—called the Geospatial One-Stop initiative—for accessing
geospatial information.

14
   U.S. General Accounting Office, Geographic Information Systems: Challenges to Effective
Data Sharing, GAO-03-874T (Washington, D.C.: June 10, 2003).
15
   Executive Order 12906, Coordination of Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: The
National Spatial Data Infrastructure (Apr. 13, 1994).
16
   Office of Management and Budget, Coordination of Geographic Information and Related
Spatial Data Activities, Circular A-16 Revised (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 19, 2002). The
Circular applies to any agency that collects, produces, acquires, maintains, distributes,
uses, or preserves paper maps or digital geospatial data to fulfill its mission.
17
   Sec. 216, P.L. 107-347, December 17, 2002.
18
   Office of Management and Budget Memorandum, "Implementation Guidance for the
E-Government Act of 2002," M-03-18 (Aug. 1, 2003).



Page 38                                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
    The status of these efforts follows.

•   Geospatial Data Standards. FGDC is developing standards for data
    documentation, collection, and exchange so that data can be shared
    across state and local boundaries on many different hardware
    platforms and with many different software programs. To date,
    FGDC has established 20 different standards, including standards
    for classifying vegetation and for documenting information about
    the collected data, called metadata.

•   National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse. The clearinghouse is a
    decentralized system of Internet servers that contain field-level
    descriptions or metadata of available digital geospatial data. The
    clearinghouse allows individual agencies, consortia, and
    geographically defined communities to coordinate and promote the
    use of their available geospatial data. Currently, the FGDC
    Clearinghouse server connects to over 250 nodes around the world.

•   Geospatial One-Stop. One of 25 high-profile Office of Management
    and Budget-sponsored e-government initiatives, this project builds
    upon the data clearinghouse to develop an Internet portal for one-
    stop access to geospatial data. This effort is expected to develop
    national geospatial data standards, increase the inventory of data
    holdings, and encourage greater coordination among federal, state,
    and local agencies about existing and planned geospatial projects.
    The Department of the Interior expects to complete this initiative
    in early 2004.

    While these initiatives hold promise, much remains to be done to
    achieve effective sharing of geospatial data. We recently reported
    that progress has been made on these initiatives, but that achieving
    the goals of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure remains a
    formidable challenge.19 Despite a series of mandates and directives
    over many years requiring the use of standards and cooperation
    among federal agencies and other entities, not all governmental
    entities are fully cooperating on a nationwide basis. As a result,
    significant geographic data standardization and data sharing have
    not been realized. We also noted that a much more substantial
    effort will be required to attain the vision of seamless integration
    of GIS data nationwide. Specifically, existing draft standards may
    need further revision, and more extensive coordination efforts may
    be required to ensure broad adoption of the standards at all levels
    of government. Further, attaining this goal is likely to require a
    continuing effort over an extended period of time. Clearly,

    19
         GAO-03-874T.



    Page 39                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
              compliance with the mandate of the E-Government Act will advance
              the goal of obtaining standardized geographic data.

              Although these national efforts are not at the level of detail that
              the wildland fire community needs for fire-related geospatial data
              standards, it will be important that the efforts are coordinated. As
              the interagency wildland fire community moves forward with its
              plans to develop an overall strategy for geospatial information
              technology and data standards, it will be important to incorporate
              national data standards, to participate in national initiatives such
              as the Geospatial One-Stop, and to comply with the purpose and
              requirements of the E-Government Act.


Conclusions
              The federal wildland fire management community is using a variety
              of different geospatial technologies for such activities as
              identifying dangerous fuels, assessing fire risks, detecting and
              fighting fires, and restoring fire-damaged lands. These technologies
              run the gamut from satellite and aerial imaging, to the Global
              Positioning System, to geographic information systems, to
              specialized fire models.

              Local land managers and incident teams often acquire, collect, and
              develop geospatial information and technologies to meet their
              specific needs, resulting in a hodgepodge of incompatible and
              duplicative data and tools. This problem is echoed throughout the
              fire community: Those who work with different aspects of fire
              management commonly cite concerns with unavailable or
              incompatible geospatial data, duplicative systems, lack of
              equipment and infrastructure to access geospatial information,
              inconsistency in the training of GIS specialists, and ineffective use
              of new products and technologies. These challenges illustrate the
              need for a new, integrated, strategic approach to managing
              information systems and data in the wildland fire community.
              Different teams within the National Wildfire Coordinating Group
              have proposed developing an interagency geospatial strategy to
              help define and plan how to address geospatial challenges, drafted
              an interagency IRM strategy to identify high-level goals, and
              proposed developing an interagency enterprise architecture to
              more effectively manage information resources and technology.
              However, the plan to develop a geospatial strategy has not been
              approved, and the draft IRM strategy lacks detailed activities and
              schedules for accomplishing key objectives. Further, the NWCG


              Page 40                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
               team responsible for developing the architecture has not yet begun
               the effort, and the initiative lacks the senior management
               endorsement, the detailed plans and schedules, and the link to an
               investment control process that are critical to any architecture’s
               success.

               Looking beyond the wildland fire community, effective use of
               geospatial information is a national priority. The federal
               government has been working for years to use geospatial data
               more effectively and efficiently. New initiatives to develop
               nationwide standards, a geospatial data clearinghouse, and an
               Internet portal for accessing geospatial data holdings offer much
               promise. However, significant challenges remain. It will be
               important, as NWCG moves forward with its efforts to develop an
               interagency geospatial strategy, an interagency IRM strategy, and
               an interagency enterprise architecture, that these efforts comply
               with the requirements of the E-Government Act and incorporate
               national standards for geospatial data.


Recommendations
               In order to better manage the use of geospatial information in
               support of wildland fire management, we recommend that the
               Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior direct the Wildland Fire
               Leadership Council to endorse and oversee the National Wildfire
               Coordinating Group’s efforts to develop an interagency geospatial
               strategy for effectively using geospatial information technologies in
               all phases of wildland fire management. We also recommend that
               this geospatial strategy

           •   address challenges to effectively using geospatial technologies,
               including issues associated with data, systems, infrastructure,
               staffing, and the use of new products;

           •   establish deliverables and milestones for completing key initiatives;
               and

           •   be incorporated in interagency efforts to improve IT management,
               including the interagency IRM strategy and the interagency
               enterprise architecture effort.

               In order to ensure effective interagency IT management, we
               recommend that the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior
               immediately endorse development of an interagency IRM strategy



               Page 41                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
               and an enterprise architecture for wildland fire management.
               Further, we recommend that the Secretaries ensure senior-level
               oversight by directing the Wildland Fire Leadership Council to
               oversee the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s efforts to

           •   establish detailed plans and schedules for implementing the
               interagency IRM strategy for wildland fire management;

           •   establish a detailed plan for developing the interagency enterprise
               architecture for wildland fire management, and ensure that it
               includes clear interim steps and implementation milestones;

           •   ensure that the interagency geospatial strategic plan and the
               interagency IRM strategy are integrated with the enterprise
               architecture for wildland fire management;

           •   establish a link between the architecture and the investment
               control processes at the land management agencies; and

           •   ensure that the architecture incorporates E-Government Act
               requirements and national standards for geospatial data.


Agency Comments
               We provided a draft of this report to the Secretaries of Agriculture
               and the Interior for review and comment. The departments
               provided a consolidated, written response to our draft report,
               signed by the Under Secretary, Natural Resources and the
               Environment, Department of Agriculture, and the Assistant
               Secretary, Policy, Management and Budget, Department of the
               Interior. The departments’ response is included in appendix VI of
               this report. The departments agreed with the report’s conclusions
               and recommendations, and noted that developing an interagency
               IRM strategy and interagency enterprise architecture is an
               ambitious undertaking. They stated that it makes sense to
               incorporate our recommendations into ongoing agency and
               departmental e-government enterprise architecture strategies, and
               that doing so will enable them to modernize various lines of
               business in manageable components. The departments also stated
               that as a result of these initiatives, the agencies will gain
               incremental integration of information and shared use of
               information technology, but noted that these improvements will be
               both time and resource intensive.




               Page 42                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
The departments commented that our findings will be discussed by
the Wildland Fire Leadership Council at their October 2003 meeting
and that, based on that discussion and direction provided by the
Council, staff from the two departments will be tasked with
developing an action plan to address our findings and the broader
issue of geospatial needs for wildland fire management. The
departments also stated that the recommendations we provided
will help the departments move forward to establish a better
coordinated, interagency architecture for geospatial wildland fire
management information requirements. The departments also
provided technical corrections, which we have incorporated as
appropriate.


We are sending notification of this report to the Chairman and
Ranking Minority Members of the Subcommittee on Public Lands
and Forests, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources;
the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, House Committee
on Resources; and other interested congressional committees. We
will also send notification of this report to the Secretary of
Agriculture; the Secretary of the Interior; the Chief of the Forest
Service; the Directors of the Bureau of Land Management, the
National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service; the Deputy
Commissioner, Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Director, Office of
Management and Budget; and other interested parties. In addition,
this report will be available at no charge on GAO’s Web site at
www.gao.gov.

If you have any questions on matters discussed in this report,
please contact me at (202) 512-9286 or Colleen Phillips, Assistant
Director, at (202) 512-6326. We can also be reached by E-mail at
pownerd@gao.gov and phillipsc@gao.gov, respectively. Other
contacts and key contributors to this report are listed in
appendix VII.




David A. Powner
Director (Acting), Information Technology
 Management Issues




Page 43                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


               Our objectives were to (1) identify key geospatial information
               technologies for addressing different aspects of wildland fire
               management; (2) summarize key challenges to the effective use of
               geospatial technologies in wildland fire management; and
               (3) identify national opportunities to improve the effective use of
               geospatial technologies. To accomplish these objectives, we
               focused our review on five key federal agencies that are
               responsible for wildland fire management on public lands: the
               Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of
               the Interior’s National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management,
               Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. To address
               the final objective, we also reviewed national efforts to improve the
               use of geospatial information by the Office of Management and
               Budget and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).

               To identify key geospatial information technologies for addressing
               different aspects of wildland fire management, we assessed
               policies, plans, and reports on wildland fire management and
               technical documents on geospatial technologies. We assessed
               information on Forest Service and Interior efforts to develop and
               use geospatial technologies. We also interviewed officials with the
               Forest Service and the Interior, interagency organizations,
               commercial vendors, and selected states to determine the
               characteristics and uses of different geospatial technologies in
               supporting different phases of wildland fire management. In
               addition, we met with officials of other federal agencies, including
               the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey, the
               Department of Defense’s National Imagery and Mapping Agency,
               the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the
               Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric
               Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security’s
               Federal Emergency Management Agency, to identify their efforts to
               develop geospatial information products in support of wildland
               fire management.

               To compile a list of geospatial applications used in support of
               wildland fire management, we identified five inventories of
               software models, applications, and tools used to support wildland
               fire activities. We combined the five inventories to compile a more
               complete list of applications, and we added geospatial applications



               Page 44                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
that were not on any of the inventories. We learned about these
other applications through discussions with agency officials and by
searching Forest Service and Interior Web sites. Additionally, Forest
Service and Interior officials provided input on which applications
have geospatial components and provided supporting information
where it was available. We did not validate the accuracy of the
information in the five separate inventories.

To summarize key challenges to the effective use and sharing of
geospatial technologies, we reviewed key reports and studies on
these challenges. These include the following:

Burchfield, James A., Theron A. Miller, Lloyd Queen, Joe Frost,
Dorothy Albright, and David DelSordo. Investigation of Geospatial
Support of Incident Management. National Center for Landscape
Fire Analysis at the University of Montana. November 25, 2002.

Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, Disaster Management
Support Group. The Use of Earth Observing Satellites for Hazard
Support: Assessments & Scenarios. National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, n.d.

Department of Agriculture (Forest Service) and Department of
Interior. Developing an Interagency, Landscape-scale Fire Planning
Analysis and Budget Tool. n.d. [December 2001].

Fairbanks, Frank, Elizabeth Hill, Patrick Kelly, Lyle Laverty, Keith F.
Mulrooney, Charlie Philpot, and Charles Wise. Wildfire Suppression:
Strategies for Containing Costs. Washington, D.C.: National
Academy of Public Administration, September 2002.

Fairbanks, Frank, Henry Gardner, Elizabeth Hill, Keith Mulrooney,
Charles Philpot, Karl Weick, and Charles Wise. Managing Wildland
Fire: Enhancing Capacity to Implement the Federal Interagency
Policy. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Public
Administration, December 2001.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wildland Fire
Management: Some Information Needs and Opportunities. Working
paper, National Hazards Information Strategy, July 2002.

National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Information Resource
Management Strategy Project: Wildland Fire Business Model.
National Interagency Fire Center. August 1996.




Page 45                                       GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
National Wildfire Coordinating Group, Information Resource
Management Working Team, Geospatial Task Group. Geospatial
Technology for Incident Support: A White Paper. April 12, 2002.

We also interviewed federal officials from interagency wildland fire
groups, including the national fire directors, the National Wildfire
Coordinating Group’s (NWCG) Information Resource Management
(IRM) working team, NWCG’s IRM program management office, the
IRM working team’s geospatial task group, and the Wildland Fire
Leadership Council to discuss challenges and ongoing efforts to
address these challenges. In addition, we reviewed postfire reports
on the Hayman, Biscuit, and Cerro Grande fires to identify how
geospatial technologies were used on these fires and to evaluate
any challenges the incident teams may have encountered in using
these technologies. We attended federal and commercial
conferences on geospatial information technologies, interviewed
representatives from selected states and commercial vendors, and
observed group discussions on challenges in effectively using these
technologies and plans for addressing them.

To identify national opportunities to improve the effective use of
geospatial technologies to address wildland fire management, we
identified key national efforts to set geospatial data standards, to
reduce duplication of effort, and to increase collaboration among
the federal government, states, and private entities. Specifically, we
evaluated the history of legislation and guidance from the Office of
Management and Budget on geospatial information, and identified
the status and plans of efforts under the National Spatial Data
Infrastructure, including FGDC’s efforts to develop geospatial data
standards, a data clearinghouse, and an Internet portal (called
Geospatial One-Stop). We discussed the status of these initiatives
with the Office of Management and Budget and committee officials.
We also reviewed the land management agencies’ progress in
implementing and enforcing key elements of these national efforts
by assessing the FGDC progress reports and by determining the
status of the agencies’ efforts to adopt geospatial data policies.

We conducted our review at the federal agencies’ headquarters in
Washington, D.C.; the Forest Service’s Remote Sensing Applications
Center and Geospatial Service and Technology Center in Salt Lake
City, Utah; the U.S. Geological Survey’s Rocky Mountain Mapping
Center in Denver, Colorado; the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth
Resources Observation Systems Data Center in Sioux Falls, South
Dakota; the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho; and
the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences
Laboratory in Missoula, Montana. We conducted our work between


Page 46                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
October 2002 and September 2003 in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards.




Page 47                                 GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix II: Major Wildland Fire Policies, Plans, Reports, and
Initiatives


                              The following table provides a chronology of the policies, plans,
                              reports, and initiatives that form the national approach to wildland
                              fire management over the past decade.

                                                                                                 Relationship to
Document or initiative       What it does                                                        other initiatives
Federal Wildland Fire        This policy responded to the tragic fires of 1994. Among other      Provides the
Management Policy and        things, the report                                                  overarching fire
Program Review,              • reaffirms the protection of life as the first priority,           policy framework for
December 1995                • recognizes wildland fire as a critical natural process,           the Department of
                                                                                                 Agriculture’s Forest
                             • requires that fire management plans be developed for all
                                                                                                 Service (FS) and the
                                burnable acres,
                                                                                                 Department of the
                             • requires that fire management decisions be consistent with        Interior’s National
                                approved land and resource management plans,                     Park Service (NPS),
                             • requires that agency administrators conside r a full range of     Fish and Wildlife
                                fire management actions, and                                     Service (FWS),
                             • clarifies the role of federal agencies in the wildland-urban      Bureau of Indian
                                interface.                                                       Affairs (BIA), and
                                                                                                 Bureau of Land
                                                                                                 Management (BLM).
A Report to the President:   This report was developed in response to a Presidential request.    Provides the basis
Managing the Impact of       It provides recommendations to the Departments of Agriculture       and conceptual
Wildfires on Communities     and the Interior on how best to respond to the severe fire          framework for the
and the Environment,         season of 2000.                                                     National Fire Plan
September 2000               Among other key recommendations, the report recommends              and the 10-Year
Web site:                    that the departments                                                Comprehensive
www.fireplan.gov/content     • provide additional firefighting resources;                        Strategy.
/reports/                    • restore damaged landscapes and communities;
                             • increase investment to reduce fire risk (emphasis on multi-
                                jurisdictional efforts that give better landscape protection);
                             • work directly with local communities that are at risk, to
                                improve community fire-fighting capacity and coordination,
                                implement restoration and fuel reduction projects, and
                                expand education and risk mitigation efforts in the wildland
                                urban interface; and
                             • establish accountability.




                              Page 48                                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                                                                                                Relationship to
Document or initiative       What it does                                                       other initiatives
The National Fire Plan       This initiative is a long-term, multifaceted program designed to   Implements the
Initiative, October 2000     manage the impacts of wildland fire on communities and             recommendations in
                             ecosystems and to reduce wildfire risk. It encompasses the         the Report to the
                             Departments of Agriculture (FS) and the Interior (NPS, FWS,        President through
                             BIA, BLM). The program focuses on                                  the Departments of
                             • improving fire preparedness,                                     Agriculture and the
                             • restoring and rehabilitating burned areas,                       Interior, with
                                                                                                increased funding
                             • reducing hazardous fuels,
                                                                                                provided by
                             • assisting communities, and                                       Congress.
                             • accountability.
Protecting People and        This strategy is the Forest Service’s response to GAO report       Identifies priorities
Sustaining Resources in      RCED-99-65,a which found that fuel buildup was a major             and focus for
Fire-Adapted Ecosystems:     problem in the interior west and recommended that the Forest       hazardous fuel
A Cohesive Strategy,         Service develop a cohesive strategy for reducing fuel buildup.     treatments on
October 2000                 The strategy establishes a framework to restore and maintain       national forest
                             the health of fire-adapted ecosystems on National Forest System    system lands, as
                             lands. It focuses treatments in “short-interval” fire-adapted      called for in the
                             ecosystems—ecosystems where frequent lower-intensity ground        National Fire Policy
                             fires historically occurred and were a powerful force in shaping   and the 10-year
                             the makeup and structure of vegetative communities.                Comprehensive
                             The strategy identifies as priority areas for treatment            Strategy.
                             • wildland urban interface,
                             • municipal watersheds,
                             • threatened and endangered species habitats, and
                             • the maintenance of low risk Condition Class I areas.
Review and Update of the     This policy                                                        Reaffirms the
1995 Federal Wildland Fire   • reviews the status of 1995 Fire Policy implementation and        relevance of the
Management Policy,              provides recommendations for full implementation,               1995 Federal Fire
January 2001                 • addresses specific issues raised in the Cerro Grande             Policy; provides a
Web site:                       Prescribed Fire Investigation report,                           contemporary and
www.nifc.gov/fire_policy/                                                                       comprehensive
                             • recommends creating a senior level interagency mechanism
index.htm                                                                                       interagency federal
                                to oversee fire policy implementation,
                                                                                                fire management
                             • recommends a series of strategic implementation actions that     policy to support
                                are essential for wildland fire management, and                 long-term
                             • recommends establishing a new mechanism for ensuring             implementation of
                                coordinated implementation of the policy.                       the National Fire Plan
                                                                                                and the 10-year
                                                                                                Comprehensive
                                                                                                Strategy.
A Collaborative Approach     This coordinated 10-year strategy to comprehensively manage        Extends the concepts
for Reducing Wildland Fire   wildfire, hazardous fuels, and ecosystem restoration was           of the Report to the
Risks to Communities and     developed in collaboration with governors and in consultation      President and focus
the Environment: 10-year     with a broad range of stakeholders. Its scope includes federal     of the National Fire
Comprehensive Strategy,      and adjacent state, tribal, and private lands. Its primary goals   Plan into a broader,
August 2001                  are to                                                             longer-term,
Web site:                    • improve fire prevention and suppression,                         collaborative effort.
www.fireplan.gov/content     • reduce hazardous fuels,
/reports/                    • restore fire-adapted ecosystems, and
                             • promote community assistance.
                             The core principles of the strategy are collaboration, priority
                             setting, and accountability.




                              Page 49                                                  GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                                                                                                    Relationship to
Document or initiative       What it does                                                           other initiatives
A Collaborative Approach     The plan identifies 22 specific tasks supporting four goals            Translates the
for Reducing Wildland Fire   identified in the 10-year Comprehensive Strategy and                   conceptual
Risks to Communities and     performance measures that are interagency and                          framework of the 10-
the Environment: 10-year     interdepartmental in scope. It was developed in collaboration          year Comprehensive
Comprehensive Strategy       with governors and in consultation with a broad range of               Strategy into specific
Implementation Plan, May     stakeholders. It emphasizes a collaborative, community-based           actions, identifying
2002                         approach to address issues related to wildland fires.                  time frames for
Web site:                                                                                           completion.
www.fireplan.gov/content
/reports/
Healthy Forests: An          This presidential initiative is to better protect people and natural   In facilitating fuels
Initiative for Wildfire      resources by lowering the procedural and process hurdles that          reduction projects,
Prevention and Stronger      impede the reduction of hazardous fuels on public land, and to         the healthy forest
Communities, August          fulfill the original objectives of the Northwest Forest Plan. The      initiative would
2002                         initiative has legislative and administrative components.              speed
Web site:                    The administration will propose to (1) facilitate timely reviews of    implementation of
www.whitehouse.gov/          high priority forest health restoration and rehabilitation projects,   projects, improving
infocus/healthyforests/      consistent with agency procedures and land and resource                implementation of
toc.html                     management plans; (2) amend rules for project appeals to               the National Fire Plan
                             hasten the process of reviewing vital forest health projects while     and the 10-year
                             encouraging meaningful public participation; (3) improve the           Comprehensive
                             Endangered Species Act process to expedite decisions to allow          Strategy. It is a
                             timely completion of fuels treatment projects while providing          legislative proposal
                             protection for wildlife and restoring habitat; and (4) establish       that requires the use
                             improved and more focused process for environmental                    of a collaborative
                             assessments of forest health projects. All these actions will          process consistent
                             make it easier for land managers to restore forest and rangeland       with the
                             health, while also engaging communities early, frequently, and         Implementation Plan
                             in a meaningful way in these decisions. These changes will bring       for the 10-year
                             about more timely actions to restore forest and rangeland              Comprehensive
                             health.                                                                Strategy.
                             The initiative emphasizes using collaborative processes in
                             identifying projects and priorities.
Memorandum of                The memorandum provides the framework of a process for the             Consistent with the
Understanding for the        federal land management agencies, the National Association of          goals, performance
Development of a             State Foresters, and the National Association of Counties to           standards, and
Collaborative Fuels          collaborate on the annual selection of a fuels treatment program       collaborative
Treatment Program            within their respective jurisdictions, in order to provide for         framework outlined
among the Department of      community protection and enhance the health of forests and             in the 10-Year
Agriculture (FS), the        rangelands. Concentration on high priority areas will be               Comprehensive
Department of the Interior   facilitated by                                                         Strategy and
(BLM, FWS, and NPS), the     • collaborating by notification and discussion of an annual            Implementation
National Association of         program of work for fuels treatment,                                Plan.
State Foresters, and the     • completing a proposed program of work by May 1 of each
National Association of         year,
Counties
                             • placing priority on treating acres within states that are
January 2003                    actively incorporating projects into a joint program of work,
Web site:                    • taking into account multiyear landscape-level projects across
www.fireplan.gov/content        ownerships, and
/reports/                    • considering long-term investments and sequencing of
                                projects and building on prior year programs to ensure that
                                projects are strategically located and implemented across
                                landscapes.




                              Page 50                                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                                                                                                                Relationship to
    Document or initiative                  What it does                                                        other initiatives
    Protecting People and                   The strategy outlines a coordinated approach to fuels treatment     Emphasizes goals
    Natural Resources: A                    to be adopted by the five major federal land management             two and three in the
    Cohesive Fuel Treatment                 agencies in the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior.        Implementation Plan
    Strategy (Draft)                        The strategy provides considerations for local prioritization in    for the 10-year
    February 2003                           project planning to ensure that areas that present the greatest     Comprehensive
                                            risk to communities and cultural, historical, and natural           Strategy. Uses
                                            resources receive the highest priority for funding. These           performance
                                            considerations include                                              measures outlined in
                                            • quality interagency planning,                                     the 10-year
                                                                                                                Comprehensive
                                            • evidence of active community participation, and
                                                                                                                Strategy to measure
                                            • development of partnerships and other collaborative efforts       success.
                                               with stakeholders.
                                            It also explains and clarifies the common goals of fuel
                                            treatments. It
                                            • reiterates the mission of the fuels treatment program,
                                            • clarifies priorities for selecting projects, and
                                            • spells out the strategy for reducing the risk of wildland fire.
    2001 Fire Policy                        This implementation plan will develop a common code for fire        Provides uniform
    Implementation Plan (in                 management organizations within the five major federal land         implementation of
    development)                            management agencies in the Departments of Agriculture and the       federal fire policy to
                                            Interior. It is to ensure unified implementation of the 2001 Fire   enable effective
                                            Policy.                                                             collaboration with
                                                                                                                states, tribes, and
                                                                                                                communities in
                                                                                                                implementing the
                                                                                                                National Fire Plan,
                                                                                                                the 10-year
                                                                                                                Comprehensive
                                                                                                                Strategy, and the
                                                                                                                Interagency
                                                                                                                Cohesive Treatment
                                                                                                                Strategy.
Sources: Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture.
a
 U.S. General Accounting Office, Western National Forests: A Cohesive Strategy Is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats,
GAO/RCED-99-65 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 2, 1999).




                                              Page 51                                                GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix III: Federal, State, and Local Entities with Land
Management, Technology, or Other Fire-Related Roles


                  Under the National Fire Plan, five federal land management
                  agencies lead the efforts to develop wildland fire policies and
                  initiatives. However, many other federal agencies and nonfederal
                  associations also have a role in wildland fire management. The
                  federal entities include agencies that manage other federal lands;
                  agencies that research, manage, or use technologies that can aid in
                  wildland fire management; and agencies with other fire-related
                  responsibilities. The nonfederal entities include key state, local,
                  and international organizations, which collaborate with the federal
                  agencies on wildland fire management. Key federal, state, and local
                  organizations and their roles in wildland fire management are
                  identified below.


Federal Departments and Agencies
                  Five federal agencies have key responsibilities for managing more
                  than 90 percent of all federal lands.20

              •   The Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service manages 191
                  million acres of national forests and grasslands; its mission is to
                  sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of these areas to
                  meet the needs of present and future generations.

              •   The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management
                  manages 261 million acres of public domain lands. Its mission is to
                  sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of these public lands
                  for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Most
                  of the land managed by Bureau of Land Management is located
                  west of the Mississippi.

              •   The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs
                  administers and manages 56 million acres of land that is held in
                  trust by the United States for American Indians, Indian tribes, and
                  Alaska natives. Its mission includes developing forestlands, leasing
                  assets on these lands, directing agricultural programs, protecting

                  20
                    Several of these agencies also provide scientific research, technology, and products in
                  support of the land management missions.



                  Page 52                                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
    water and land rights, developing and maintaining infrastructure,
    providing for health, human services, and economic development.

•   The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service manages
    93 million acres of national wildlife refuges and wetland areas. Its
    mission is to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance
    fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing
    benefit of the American people.

•   The Department of the Interior’s National Park Service administers
    over 80 million acres of national parks, monuments, historic sites,
    natural areas, and other federal lands. Its mission is to preserve the
    natural and cultural resources and values of the national park
    system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of present
    and future generations.

    In addition to the five federal land management agencies, three
    other federal departments manage extensive tracts of federal land.

•   The Department of Defense manages about 38 million acres at
    bases and installations around the country and has fire
    management responsibility for these lands.

•   The Bureau of Reclamation manages about 9 million acres of land.

•   The Department of Energy manages about 2.4 million acres of land.

    Other federal entities research, manage, or use technologies that
    can aid in wildland fire management.

•   The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, through its
    Earth Science Enterprise research and development efforts,
    partners with federal agencies with fire management
    responsibilities to provide satellite remote sensing images and
    other science and data products.

•   The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric
    Administration operates satellites, manages the daily processing
    and distribution of data and images produced by these satellites;
    conducts research, develops innovative technologies and
    observation systems, and prepares weather and fire weather
    forecasts—all of which provide useful information to fire
    management officials who plan and manage wildland fires.

•   The Department of Defense’s National Imagery and Mapping
    Agency provides imagery and geospatial information in support of
    the national security objectives of the United States. At the request


    Page 53                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                 of the National Interagency Fire Center, through the Forest Service,
                 the agency uses multiple sources of imagery and geospatial data to
                 provide map products to assist the fire community with fire
                 suppression efforts.

             •   The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey contributes
                 to wildland fire management by conducting fire-related research to
                 meet the varied needs of the fire management community and to
                 understand the role of fire in the landscape. This research includes
                 fire management support, studies of postfire effects, and a wide
                 range of studies on fire history and ecology. In addition, the U.S.
                 Geological Survey supports the wildland fire community by
                 providing earth science information through (1) receipt and
                 archiving of remotely sensed land data and (2) geographical
                 scientific information that describes and interprets the nation’s
                 landscape.

                 Other federal entities also have fire-related responsibilities.

             •   The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency
                 Management Agency, the lead agency for emergency management
                 in the federal government, provides financial assistance for the
                 mitigation, management, and control of fires burning on publicly
                 or privately owned forests or grasslands. The agency also provides
                 maps of geologic and flood hazards to support fire management.

             •   The Environmental Protection Agency develops and enforces
                 regulations regarding the environment, including the effects of
                 wildland fire on air quality.


State, Local, and Other Associations and Committees
                 Many state, local, international, and private organizations
                 participate in wildland fire management.

             •   The National Association of State Foresters, the largest nonfederal
                 firefighting partner, is a nonprofit organization that represents the
                 directors of the state forestry agencies from all 50 states, 8 U.S.
                 territories, and the District of Columbia. The state foresters
                 provide management assistance and protection services for over
                 two-thirds of the nation’s forests. The association is a member of
                 both the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the Wildland
                 Fire Leadership Council.




                 Page 54                                       GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
•   The Intertribal Timber Council is a nationwide consortium of
    Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, and individuals
    dedicated to improving the management of natural resources of
    importance to Native American communities. The Council is a
    member of both the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the
    Wildland Fire Leadership Council.

•   The National Fire Protection Association’s mission is to reduce the
    worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life
    by providing and advocating scientifically based consensus codes
    and standards, research, training, and education. The association’s
    membership totals more than 75,000 individuals from around the
    world and more than 80 national trade and professional
    organizations.

•   The Fire Control Officers Group is an umbrella organization
    consisting of fire control officers from the forest fire management
    agencies in all Australian states and New Zealand, with additional
    representation from industry, research, and education. The group
    develops and maintains international relationships with fire
    management agencies in the United States.

•   The National Governors’ Association deals with issues of public
    policy and governance relating to the states. The association’s
    ongoing mission is to support the work of the governors by
    providing a bipartisan forum to help shape and implement national
    policy and to solve state problems.

•   The National Association of Counties seeks to represent the
    nation’s 3,066 counties; its membership totals more than 2,000
    counties, representing over 80 percent of the nation’s population.
    As a member of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and in
    working with the National Association of State Foresters, the
    association is a lead collaborator on such wildland fire issues as
    (1) assessing the training, equipment, and safety awareness of and
    services provided by rural, volunteer, and other firefighters who
    work in the wildland urban interface and (2) annually selecting fuel
    treatment and ecosystem restoration projects within jurisdictions.

•   The Western Governors’ Association, composed of the governors of
    18 states and 3 islands in the Pacific, addresses important policy
    and governance issues in the West—in particular wildland fire
    issues, because of the prevalence and severity of fires and
    grassland fires in these states.




    Page 55                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
•   The International Association of Fire Chiefs is a network of more
    than 12,000 chief fire and emergency officers. The association’s
    mission is to provide leadership to chief fire officers and managers
    of emergency services organizations. The International Association
    of Fire Chiefs also prepares awareness and training information on
    the use of minimum impact suppression activities.

•   The National Volunteer Fire Council, a nonprofit membership
    association, represents the interest of the volunteer fire, emergency
    medical, and rescue services.

•   The International Association of Wildland Fire is a nonprofit,
    professional association representing members of the global
    wildland fire community. The purpose of the association is to
    facilitate communication and provide leadership for the wildland
    fire community.

•   The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the plants,
    animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of
    life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to
    survive. One of the Nature Conservancy's five priority conservation
    initiatives is to play a leading role in restoring fire-altered
    ecosystems by working to counter the threats posed to both human
    and natural communities where the role of fire is severely out of
    balance.

•   The Wilderness Society seeks to save, protect, and restore
    America’s wilderness areas through the combination of scientific
    expertise, analysis, advocacy, and education. The Wilderness
    Society’s Wildland Fire Program is an interdisciplinary program
    designed to return fire to fire-dependent ecosystems in a socially
    acceptable manner.




    Page 56                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix IV: Remote Sensing Systems


                 Remote sensing systems observe data in one or more bands of the
                 electromagnetic spectrum, including the visible, near-infrared, mid-
                 infrared, thermal infrared, and microwave bands. Data from
                 different bands provide different kinds of information. For
                 example, data observed in the thermal infrared band can identify
                 heat sources that are not observable in the visible band of the
                 electromagnetic spectrum. When data are collected from multiple
                 bands or from multiple channels within a band, a more
                 sophisticated analysis can be performed.

                 Remote sensors are often characterized by the type of observations
                 they perform and their resulting products. Common types of
                 sensors include panchromatic imaging sensors, multispectral
                 imaging sensors, hyperspectral imaging sensors, radio detection
                 and ranging (radar) sensors, and light detection and ranging
                 (LIDAR) sensors. A definition of each type of sensor follows.

             •   Panchromatic imaging sensors collect data in a single band of the
                 electromagnetic spectrum. These data are then processed to
                 provide a black and white image.

             •   Multispectral imaging sensors collect data in multiple,
                 noncontiguous, wide-wavelength bands, which are then combined
                 to create color images.

             •   Hyperspectral imaging sensors collect data in multiple,
                 contiguous, narrow-wavelength bands. Because different materials
                 absorb and reflect light differently, analysis of detailed
                 hyperspectral data can identify different materials, minerals, and
                 species.

             •   Radar sensors emit a high-frequency radio wave to determine a
                 remote object’s velocity, position, or other characteristic by
                 analyzing the radio wave reflected from the remote object. Radar
                 sensors can acquire images through clouds, fog, and darkness.

             •   LIDAR sensors emit a light beam and analyze the reflected and
                 scattered light that is returned to the collection instrument. This
                 measured change enables LIDAR to penetrate a forest canopy to
                 map the floor and can aid in the determination of topographic
                 elevations.


                 Page 57                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                            Remote sensing systems can be placed on satellite and aerial
                            platforms. These platforms can be government-owned or
                            commercial. Currently, there are numerous government-owned and
                            commercial remote sensing systems—used on both satellite and
                            aerial platforms. Table 2 identifies characteristics of several
                            different remote sensing systems that are currently operational.
                            Key characteristics that help distinguish one system from another
                            include image resolution (the size of the objects that can be
                            depicted in an image) and revisit rate (the rate at which a platform
                            returns to an area).

Table 2: Characteristics of Selected Remote Sensing Systems

                                                                           Image
                                                                           resolution
Sensor               Platform         Sensor type                          (meters)     Revisit rate
Thematic Mapper      NASA             Multispectral                        30–120       16 days
                     Satellite:       (Observed spectral bands:                         (offset 8 days
                     Landsat-5        visible, near infrared, short                     from Landsat-7)
                                      wave infrared, and thermal
                                      infrared)
Enhanced             NASA             Panchromatic, multispectral          15–60        16 days
Thematic Mapper+     Satellite:       (Observed spectral bands:                         (offset 8 days
                     Landsat-7        visible, near-infrared, short-                    from Landsat-5)
                                      wave infrared, and thermal
                                      infrared)
Advanced Very        NOAA             Multispectral                        1,100        0.5 days
High Resolution      Satellites:      (Observed spectral bands:
Radiometer           Polar-orbiting   visible, near-infrared, and
                     Operational      thermal infrared)
                     Environmental
                     Satellites
Advanced             NASA             Multispectral                        15–90        16 days
Spaceborne           Satellite:       (Observed spectral bands:
Thermal Emission     Earth            visible, near-infrared, short-
and Reflection       Observing        wave infrared, and thermal
Radiometer           System/Terra     infrared)
Moderate             NASA             Multispectral                        250–1,000    1–2 days
Resolution Imaging   Satellites:      (Observed spectral bands:
Spectroradiometer    Earth            visible, near-infrared, short-
                     Observing        wave infrared, and thermal
                     System/Aqua      infrared)
                     and Terra
Panchromatic         Indian           Panchromatic, Multispectral          5.8–188      5–24 days
Multispectral,       Satellite:       (Observed spectral bands:
Low Resolution       IRS-1C,          visible, near-infrared, and short-
                     IRS-1D           wave infrared)




                            Page 58                                             GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                                                                                                  Image
                                                                                                  resolution
Sensor                            Platform                   Sensor type                          (meters)      Revisit rate
High Resolution                   French                     Panchromatic, multispectral          2.5–20        1–4 days
Geometric, Visible                Satellites:                (Observed spectral bands:
and Infrared                      SPOT 4 and 5               visible, near-infrared, and short-
                                                             wave infrared)

High resolution                   Private sector             Panchromatic, multispectral          0.6–4         Varies by vendor:
imaging sensors                   satellites                 (Observed spectral bands:                          3–5 days
                                  (Ikonos,                   visible and near-infrared)
                                  Quickbird)
High resolution                   Aircraft                   Panchromatic, multispectral          Varies by     As warranted
imaging sensors                                              (Observed spectral bands:            vendor:
                                                             varies by vendor)                    often 0.5–1
Phoenix infrared                  National                   Multispectral                        0.25–1        As warranted
scanner                           Interagency                (Observed spectral band:
                                  Fire Center                thermal infrared)
                                  aircraft
Sources: Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center, GAO.




                                             Page 59                                                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix V: Examples of Applications with Geospatial
Components Supporting Wildland Fire Management


                                 The following tables provide examples of different applications
                                 with geospatial information components that are used in support
                                 of wildland fire management activities. Table 3 provides examples
                                 of operational applications, and table 4 provides examples of
                                 developmental applications.

Table 3: Examples of Operational Applications

Name and description                 Lead entities         Users                   For more information
Automated Flight Following:          Forest Service (FS)   Bureau of Indian        https://aff.nifc.gov
transmits geographic positions of                          Affairs (BIA)
aircraft for graphical display                             Bureau of Land
                                                           Management (BLM)
                                                           Forest Service (FS)
                                                           Fish and Wildlife
                                                           Service (FWS)
                                                           National Park Service
                                                           (NPS)
Automated Lightning                  FS                    BIA                     http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/planning
Mapping System: downloads                                  BLM                     /nist/alms.htm#ALMS
and maps near-real-time                                    FS
lightning location information                             FWS
from the BLM lightning data                                NPS
server
California Fire Plan                 California            California              http://www.fire.ca.gov/
Assessment System: assesses                                                        fireemergencyresponse/fireplan/
weather, fuels, and assets at                                                      chapter3.html
risk to identify areas to target
for mitigation projects
Coarse Scale Spatial Data for        FS                    Multiple users          http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/fuelman
Wildland Fire and Fuel                                     (including federal,
Management: provides                                       state, and local
nationwide coarse-scale                                    governments as well
vegetation and fire regime                                 as the public)
mapping
Ecosystem Management                 Canada
Model: simulates ecosystem
processes and evaluates
resource management actions
before their implementation
Fire and Fuels Extension to          FS                    FS (regional use)       http://forest.moscowfsl.wsu.edu/
Forest Vegetation Simulator:                                                       4155/ffe-fvs.html
simulates effects of treatment
alternatives on fuel dynamics
and fire potential into the future




                                 Page 60                                               GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Name and description                Lead entities          Users                 For more information
Fire Area Simulator                 FS                     BLM                   http://www.farsite.org
(FARSITE): simulates and                                   FS
maps fire growth and behavior                              NPS
under complex terrain, fuels,                              State governments
and weather conditions                                     Local governments
Fire Potential Index: provides      FS                     Multiple users        http://www.fs.fed.us/land/wfas/
national fire potential mapping     U.S. Geological        (including federal,   experment.htm
based on vegetation and             Survey (USGS)          state, and local
weather data                                               governments as well
                                                           as the public)
FirePac: provides tools for a       NPS                    BIA                   http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/gis/
variety of fire management                                 BLM                   incident-support/firepac.htm
applications, including fire                               FS
perimeter mapping                                          FWS
                                                           NPS
Forest Vegetation                   BLM                    BLM                   http://www.blm.gov/nstc/
Information System: stores,                                                      resourcenotes/rn48.html
retrieves, and analyzes data
used to inventory and monitor
vegetation on forested lands
FX-Net: provides portable           National Oceanic and   BIA                   http://www-id.fsl.noaa.gov/
weather forecasting                 Atmospheric            BLM                   fxnet.html
                                    Administration         FS
                                    (NOAA)                 FWS
                                                           NPS
                                                           National Weather
                                                           Service
GeoMAC: provides Internet-          USGS                   BIA                   http://www.geomac.gov
based national fire monitoring                             BLM
and perimeter mapping                                      FS
                                                           FWS
                                                           NPS
                                                           Public
Immediate Response Burn             FS                     BIA                   http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/rsac/
Severity Mapping for Burned                                BLM                   baer
Area Emergency Response                                    FS
Teams: provides preliminary
                                                           NPS
burn severity mapping to FS
fires and provides support to
other agency fires on request
Immediate Response Burn             USGS                   BIA                   http://edc2.usgs.gov/fsp/severity
Severity Mapping for                                       BLM                   /fire_main.asp
Emergency Stabilization and                                FWS
Rehabilitation Teams:                                      NPS
provides preliminary burn
severity mapping
Initial Attack Management           BLM                    BLM                   http://www.nifc.blm.gov/nsdu/
System: records, monitors, and      FS                     FS                    aviation
reports aviation hazards and
restrictions
Initial Attack Management           BLM                    BLM                   Alaska Fire Service version at
System Maps Viewer: provides                               FS                    http://fire.ak.blm.gov/scripts/
graphical representation of                                                      maps/maps.asp
various kinds of geographic data




                                 Page 61                                             GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Name and description                Lead entities          Users                 For more information
Integrated Forest                   FS                     FS (regional use)     http://www.fs.fed.us/foresthealth
Management System:                                                               /technology/products/informs/INF
integrates vegetation/fuels data                                                 overview.html
and tools for fuels reduction
analysis
Landscape Fire Model:                                      BLM (Alaska)
provides for land use planning
Landscape Simulation Model:         FS                     FS (regional use)     http://www.firelab.org/fep/
provides spatially explicit                                                      research/sufm/studyplan/ls.htm
landscape dynamics simulation
modeling for southern Utah
Lightning Data: displays real-      BLM                    BLM                   http://www.nifc.blm.gov/nsdu/
time lightning information and                             FS                    lightning/
provides tracking capability
Meteorology for Fire Severity       FS                                           http://met.rfl.psw.fs.fed.us/met/
Forecasting: provides monthly                                                    MFWF.html
forecasts of weather-induced fire
potential for the continental
United States
MODIS Active Fire Mapping:          FS                     BIA                   http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us
provides coarse-scale mapping       National Aeronautics   BLM
of current wildfire locations and   and Space              FS
fire perimeters                     Administration         FWS
                                    (NASA)                 NPS
                                                           Public
Multi-Resource Analysis and         FS                     Multiple users        http://www.forestry.umt.edu/
Geographic Information:                                    (including federal,   magis
schedules treatments to meet                               state, and local
resource and management                                    governments as well
objectives and computes trade-                             as the public)
offs associated with the
treatment schedule
National Fire Danger Rating         FS                     Multiple users        http://www.fs.fed.us/land/wfas/
System: uses fuels, topography,                            (including federal,   wfas23.html
and weather to derive national                             state, and local
maps of potential fire occurrence                          governments as well
and behavior                                               as the public)
National Fire Plan Maps:            USGS                   BIA                   http://www.fireplan.gov
provides Internet-based                                    BLM
mapping of hazardous fuels                                 FS
program projects in relation to                            FWS
wildland urban interface                                   NPS
communities
National Fire Plan Operations       Department of the      BIA                   http://www.nfpors.gov
& Reporting System                  Interior               BLM
(NFPORS): provides Internet-        FS                     FS
based mapping and data                                     FWS
collection for restoration and                             NPS
rehabilitation, hazardous fuels
reduction, and community
assistance projects




                               Page 62                                               GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Name and description                 Lead entities          Users                 For more information
National Wildland Fire               National Interagency   Multiple users        http://www.nifc.gov/
Outlook: provides seasonal and       Coordination Center    (including federal,   firemaps.html
monthly maps and narratives of                              state, and local
the national wildland fire outlook                          governments as well
                                                            as the public)
NFSPUFF: models smoke                FS                     FS (western U.S.)     http://www.frames.gov/tools/html
dispersion for complex terrains                                                   /NFSPUFF.detailed.html
in the western United States
Normalized Difference                USGS                   Multiple users        http://www.fs.fed.us/land/wfas/
Vegetation Index: provides                                  (including federal,   wfas11.html
national vegetation greenness                               state, and local
mapping                                                     governments as well
                                                            as the public)
NPS-USGS National Burn               NPS                    NPS                   http://edc2.usgs.gov/fsp/severity
Severity Mapping: provides           USGS                                         /fire_main.asp
extended assessment burn
severity mapping for long-term
monitoring of fire effects
Personal Computer Historical         FS                     BIA                   http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/planning
Analysis: analyzes historical                               BLM                   /nist/pcha.htm
wildland fire occurrence for                                FS
wildland fire planning
Phoenix Digital Signal               FS                     BIA                   http://nirops.fs.fed.us
Processor: provides infrared                                BLM
fire detection and mapping                                  FS
                                                            FWS
                                                            NPS
Real-time Observation                BLM                                          http://www.met.utah.edu/roman
Monitor and Analysis                 University of Utah
Network: provides current fire
weather conditions nationwide
Resources Ordering and               FS                     BIA                   http://ross.nwcg.gov
Status System: automates                                    BLM
resource ordering, dispatching,                             FS
and reporting; geospatial                                   FWS
component is planned                                        NPS
                                                            Federal Emergency
                                                            Management Agency
                                                            State governments
Risk Assessment and                  BLM                    BIA                   http://www.nifc.blm.gov/nsdu/fire
Mitigation Strategies:                                      BLM                   _planning/rams
provides a process for
developing prevention and fuels
management programs
SAM Sensitive Area Program:          NPS                    NPS                   http://www.nps.gov/gis/
provides spatial analyses for                                                     applications/new_apps.html
mapping complex resource
issues for overflight planning
Southern State Fuel Hazard           FS                     FS (regional)
Mapping: provides a map of                                  FWS
fuel hazards and a fuel model for                           State governments
all southeastern states                                     Local governments




                                  Page 63                                             GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Name and description                  Lead entities     Users                 For more information
Tool for Exploratory                  FS                FS                    http://www.eessa.com/downloads
Landscape Scenario Analysis:                                                  /telsa
helps resource managers and
planners assess the
consequences of alternative
management scenarios at the
scale of landscape units
Utah Wildfire Initial Attack          Utah              BIA (regional use)
Dispatch Application Cedar                              BLM (regional use)
City Support Center: provides                           NPS (regional use)
dispatching of fire personnel and                       Utah
geospatial information system
capabilities
Ventilation Climate                   FS                Multiple users        http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/fera/
Information System: assesses                            (including federal,   vent
risks to values of air quality and                      state, and local
visibility from historical patterns                     governments as well
of ventilation conditions                               as the public)
Wildfire Hazard Identification        Boulder County,   Local government      http://www.co.boulder.co.us/lu/
and Mitigation System:                Colorado                                wildfire/whims.htm
combines wildfire hazard
assessment, prevention, and
suppression expertise with fire
and forest management
knowledge
Wildland Fire Assessment              FS                Multiple users        http://www.fs.fed.us/land/wfas
System: provides Internet-                              (including federal,
based national fire potential and                       state, and local
weather mapping                                         governments as well
                                                        as the public)
Wildland Fire Management              BLM               BLM                   http://www.nifc.blm.gov
Information System: provides
Internet-based weather,
lightning, fire reporting, and
aviation information
Sources: NWCG, FS, BLM, GAO.




Table 4: Examples of Developmental Applications

Name and description                  Lead entities     Planned users         For more information
Fire Behavior Mapping and             FS                FS (local use)        http://fire.org/cgi-bin/
Analysis: is to map potential                                                 nav.cgi?pages=JFSP&mode=11
fire behavior characteristics and
environmental conditions using
topography and fuels data layers
Fire Effects Assessment               NPS               NPS                   http://ftp.nps.gov/incoming/fire/
Tools: is to provide fire ecology                                             feat_cbi
and vegetation data collection,
data handling, and data analysis
Fire Effects Monitoring and           FS                —                     http://fire.org/firemon
Inventory Protocol: is to             USGS
provide standards for
implementing a monitoring
program before and after a burn



                                  Page 64                                         GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Name and description                 Lead entities       Planned users     For more information
Fire Internet Map Server: is         BLM                 BIA               http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/gis/
to provide a spatial display of                          BLM               Documents/FIMS_FINAL_RPT.doc
current fire intelligence                                FS
information                                              FWS
                                                         NPS
Fire Program Analysis: is to         FS                  BIA               http://fpa.nifc.gov
conduct analyses for fire                                BLM
management planning and                                  FS
budgeting                                                FWS
                                                         NPS
FireSat: is to provide national      USGS (1997)         —
wildland fire detection (formerly    NOAA (2001)
called the Hazard Support            Federal Emergency
System and the Integrated            Management Agency
Hazard Information System)           (late 2002)
Incident Based Automation:           FS                  BIA
is to automate management                                BLM
activities during a fire incident                        FS
                                                         FWS
                                                         NPS
Landscape and Fire                   FS                  BIA               http://www.landfire.gov
Management Planning Tools            USGS                BLM
(LANDFIRE): is to provide                                FS
nationwide vegetation/fuels                              FWS
mapping and predictive models                            NPS
needed for fuel treatment and
restoration projects
National Land Cover Data             Environmental       —                 http://landcover.usgs.gov/
2001: is to provide nationwide       Protection Agency                     nationallandcover.html
intermediate-scale land cover        FS
mapping                              NOAA
                                     USGS
National Park Service                NPS                 NPS               http://biology.usgs.gov/npsveg
Vegetation and Fuels                 USGS
Mapping: is to provide
vegetation/fuels mapping of NPS
lands
Southern Wildfire Risk               Southern state      Southern states   http://corp.spaceimaging.com/
Assessment: is to provide tools      governments         FS                swra/
to help analyze mitigation
options and estimate their
impact on wildland fire risk for
13 southern states
Sources: NWCG, FS, BLM, GAO.




                                  Page 65                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix VI: Comments from the Departments of
Agriculture and the Interior




              Page 66                   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Page 67   GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Appendix VII: GAO Contacts and Acknowledgments



GAO Contacts
               David A. Powner, (202) 512-9286, (303) 572-7316 or
               pownerd@gao.gov

               Colleen M. Phillips, (202) 512-6326 or phillipsc@gao.gov


Acknowledgements
               In addition to those named above, Barbara Collier, Neil Doherty,
               Joanne Fiorino, Richard Hung, Chester Joy, Anjalique Lawrence,
               Tammi Nguyen, Megan Secrest, Karl Seifert, Lisa Warnecke, and
               Glenda Wright made key contributions to this report.




               Page 68                                    GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Glossary


                      The following terms are used in the geospatial and wildland fire
                      communities.

Aerial Photography    Taking photographs from the air, such as a photograph of part of
                      the Earth’s surface, with a camera mounted in an aircraft; usually
                      involves taking strips of overlapping prints for mapping purposes.

Burn Severity         A qualitative assessment of the heat pulse directed toward the
                      ground during a fire. Burn severity relates to soil heating, large fuel
                      and duff consumption, consumption of the litter and organic layer
                      beneath trees and isolated shrubs, and mortality of buried plant
                      parts.

Burned Area           The full range of postfire activities to rehabilitate and restore fire-
Rehabilitation        damaged lands, including protection of public health and safety.

Digital Aerial Data   A computer representation of imagery acquired from an aircraft.
                      This type of data is produced either by digitizing aerial
                      photographs or through direct acquisition by electronic sensors
                      such as digital cameras or Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) thermal
                      imaging sensors.

Duff                  The layer of decomposing organic materials lying below the litter
                      layer of freshly fallen twigs, needles, and leaves and immediately
                      above the mineral soil.

Fire Prevention       Activities, including education, engineering, enforcement and
                      administration, that are directed at reducing the number of
                      wildfires, the costs of suppression, and fire-caused damages to
                      resources and property.

Fire Suppression      All work and activities connected with fire-extinguishing
                      operations, beginning with discovery and continuing until the fire
                      is completely extinguished.

Fuel                  Combustible material.

Fuel Condition        Relative flammability of fuel as determined by fuel type and
                      environmental conditions.




                      Page 69                                       GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Fuel Reduction         Manipulation or removal of fuels to reduce the likelihood of
                       ignition, to lessen the potential damage and resistance to control,
                       or both (e.g., lopping, chipping, crushing, piling, and burning).

Fuel Treatment         (See fuel reduction.)

Geographic or          Information about a phenomenon that can be referenced to a
Geospatial Information specific location relative to the earth’s surface.

Geographic             A system of computer software, hardware, and data used to
Information            manipulate, analyze, and graphically display a potentially wide
System (GIS)           array of information associated with geographic locations.
                       Typically, a GIS is used for handling maps of one kind or another.
                       These maps might be represented as several different layers, where
                       each layer holds data about a particular kind of feature (e.g.,
                       roads). Each feature is linked to a position on the graphical image
                       of a map.

Geographic or          A broad term encompassing all forms of technology to gather,
Geospatial Information display, sample, and process geographic or geospatial information,
Technology             including in particular GIS, remote sensing, and use of the Global
                       Positioning System.

Global Positioning     A system of navigational satellites operated by the U.S. Department
System (GPS)           of Defense and available for civilian use. The system can track
                       objects anywhere in the world with an accuracy of approximately
                       40 feet.

Hyperspectral Imaging Type of imaging that records many tens of bands of imagery at
                      very narrow bandwidths.

Infrared Imaging       Producing images using the thermal infrared spectral band; used
                       for fire detection, mapping, and hotspot identification.

Initial Attack         The actions taken by the first responders to arrive at a wildfire to
                       protect lives and property, and prevent further extension of the
                       fire.

LIDAR                  (From “light detection and ranging.”) An instrument capable of
                       measuring distance and direction to an object by emitting timed
                       pulses of light in a measured direction based on the time between
                       when a pulse is emitted and when its echo is received. Three-
                       dimensional information is computed by relating these distances
                       and direction measurements to the location and orientation of the
                       instrument. Airborne LIDAR instruments are used to develop three-
                       dimensional data, such as digital elevation models, tree and
                       building heights, and feature geometry.


                       Page 70                                      GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
Multispectral Imaging   Acquiring optical images in more than one spectral band.

Preparedness            Condition or degree of being ready to cope with a potential fire
                        situation.

Prescribed Fire         Controlled application of fire to wildland fuels, in either their
                        natural or modified state, under specified environmental
                        conditions, which allows the fire to be confined to a predetermined
                        area and produces the fire behavior and fire characteristics
                        required to attain planned fire treatment and resource
                        management objectives.

Presuppression          Activities in advance of fire occurrence to ensure effective
                        suppression action. Includes planning the organization, recruiting
                        and training, procuring equipment and supplies, maintaining fire
                        equipment and fire control improvements, and negotiating
                        cooperative or mutual aid agreements.

Prevention              Activities directed at reducing the incidence of fires, including
                        public education, law enforcement, personal contact, and reduction
                        of fuel hazards (fuels management).

Radar                   (From “radio detection and ranging.”) An instrument that emits a
                        narrow beam of electromagnetic pulses (radio waves) in a specific
                        direction and measures the time, intensity, or other characteristics
                        of the energy that returns from targets or objects. Radar imagery
                        can be obtained at night or through clouds and smoke. Radar
                        images provide a unique visual impression, and advanced analysis
                        of radar imagery usually requires specific experience, knowledge,
                        and facilities.

Rehabilitation          The activities necessary to repair damage or disturbance caused by
                        a wildfire or the wildfire suppression activity.

Remote Sensing          Process of determining properties of objects without contact,
                        usually by measuring and recording images based on the
                        electromagnetic energy that has interacted with the objects.
                        Remote sensing also involves the manipulation of images to derive
                        useful information. Remote sensing traditionally involves aerial
                        photography but now includes many electronic sensors on both
                        airborne and space-based platforms.

Satellite               A space-based platform for sensors that measure, image, receive,
                        and transmit data from an orbital path above the earth.

Spatial Resolution      Spatial resolution is a measure of the size of the smallest feature
                        that can be distinguished in an image. That is, in a 30-meter


                        Page 71                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
                  resolution image, one could discern objects 30 meters and larger.
                  Images with smaller discernable objects are considered to have
                  higher resolutions.

Suppression       All the work of extinguishing or confining a fire, beginning with its
                  discovery.

Thermal Imaging   (See infrared imaging.)

Wildfire          A fire occurring on wildland that is not meeting management
                  objectives and thus requires a suppression response.

Wildland          An area in which development is essentially nonexistent, except for
                  roads, railroads, power lines, and similar transportation features,
                  and structures, if any, are widely scattered.

Wildland Fire     Any fire occurring on the wildlands, regardless of ignition source,
                  damages, or benefits.




(310353)




                  Page 72                                     GAO-03-1047 Wildland Fires
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