What is a CWPP?

A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) is a written plan describing wildfire hazards and mitigation measures for a community.  Implementing a CWPP is an important means for Marin residents to address wildfire threats.  CWPPs are authorized and defined in Title I of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 2003.  Marin’s CWPP was last updated in 2005.

The purpose of a CWPP is to “reduce wildfire risk to communities, municipal water supplies, and other at-risk land through a collaborative process of planning, prioritizing, and implementing hazardous fuels reduction projects.”  The CWPP offers residents the opportunity to take a prominent role in reducing the wildfire threat to their communities.

The Marin County CWPP is a community plan, not a government agency plan, and is developed with active community involvement where government agencies are partners in the process.  The CWPP process permits communities to develop plans to fit local, social, and ecological contexts, at a scale where they can make something happen.  The Marin County CWPP is a "countywide" document that will primarily address hazards and risks at a "landscape" scale, and local communities are encouraged to undertake the implementation more focused, community or neighborhood scale CWPPs.

Key Points About CWPPs

  • Though CWPPs are generally developed by local government with assistance from state and federal agencies and other interested “stakeholders,” all community members concerned about the wildfire threat are encouraged to participate in the process.

  • There is no prescribed format to which a CWPP must conform, which means each community can take a variety of approaches to planning.  The plans may be either complex or simple, depending on the objectives and desires of the community.

  • CWPPs should effectively address local forest and range conditions, values-at-risk, and priorities for action.

Requirements for a CWPP

There are three requirements for a CWPP:

  • Collaboration.  A CWPP must be collaboratively developed. Local and state officials must meaningfully involve nongovernmental stakeholders and federal agencies that manage land in the vicinity of the community.

  • Prioritized Fuel Reduction.  A CWPP must identify and prioritize areas for hazardous fuel-reduction treatments on both federal and nonfederal land and recommend the types and methods of treatment that, if completed, would reduce the risk to the community.

  • Treatment of Structural Ignitability.  A CWPP must recommend measures that homeowners and communities can take to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the plan area.

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The benefits of preparing and implementing a CWPP include:

  • The opportunity to increase community capacity by working collaboratively.

  • The CWPP process has proven effective at:

    • Building leadership in communities and organizations.

    • Strengthening relationships among agencies.

    • Providing visibility for organizations and individuals.

    • Gaining access to networks and coordinating efforts.

    • Enhancing stewardship and community buy-in for projects.

    • Facilitating social learning.

    • Producing successful projects that spawn other projects.

  • The CWPP process helps communities form relationships with fire departments and resource management agencies tasked with hazardous fuels reduction.

  • Helps establish and define boundaries for the wildland-urban interface, used to identify areas where federal funding may be applied.

  • Fuel-reduction projects that are identified in a CWPP are to receive priority for funding and implementation by federal agencies.

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures for federal agencies implementing fuel-reduction projects identified in a CWPP can be expedited.  If a federal agency is planning a fuel-reduction project to implement a recommendation in a CWPP that lies within the interface and is located no farther than 1½ miles from the community boundary, the federal agency does not need to analyze any other alternatives.

  • The U. S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are to spend not less than 50 percent of the funds allocated for hazardous fuel-reduction projects in the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI), as defined in a CWPP.

  • CWPPs can identify community-level projects, e.g.: establishing a biomass collection site to drop off unwanted flammable vegetation; or developing plans for fuel breaks around a community.

  • Building effective working relationships between agencies and the public is an important outcome of the CWPP process.

  • Reducing the structural ignitability of houses (such as replacing wood shake roofs, removing pine needles, and enhancing building construction with fire resistant materials) is a CWPP objective.

Fuels and Fire Modeling

The updated Marin County CWPP will provide Marin’s Fire and Land Managers with a new tool to evaluate potential fuel reduction projects using state of the art computer modeling to simulate wildfires both before and after fuel treatments.  

The Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS) is a web-based application for fire behavior modeling and analysis.  Sonoma Technology, Inc (STI) of Petaluma, our partner in preparing the CWPP Update, collaborated with state and federal agencies to design and develop IFTDSS.

STI is developing a highly accurate model of Marin’s vegetation fuels, to be validated “on the ground” before being used to greatly improve the accuracy of computer fire modeling, and will provide a framework for using the IFTDSS tools to evaluate potential fuel reduction projects identified during the CWPP process.

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