In March, the Climate Action Reserve’s Climate Forward program approved SIG’s Reduced Emissions from Megafires (REM) forecasting methodology. This methodology provides a novel mechanism for funding essential forest health projects by generating Forecasted Mitigation Units (FMUs) for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions avoided by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Such funding will pave the way for reducing fuels and increasing forest resilience.
Wildfires are increasing in size and severity beyond historic norms as the climate changes. In the Western US, changes in the fire regime have been exacerbated by more than a century of fire suppression policy, leading to a build-up of fuels in fire-prone forests. The combined effects of a warmer, drier climate and high fuel loads across the Western US have produced wildfires unprecedented in size and severity – megafires. These wildfires negatively impact forest ecosystems, human communities, and public health.
Reducing megafire risk is a common management goal in the Western US. Fuel treatments are the primary way managers work to reduce the extent and severity of wildfires. Fuel treatments focus on the removal of smaller diameter trees and understory vegetation, reducing surface fuels through chipping, piling, prescribed fire, or a combination of these activities. Under the REM protocol, emissions are forecasted for project areas with and without treatment (the baseline scenario). By comparing projected emissions in the baseline and project scenarios, we can estimate the impact of treatment on GHG emissions and translate that reduction to an FMU value. The quantification of reduced GHG emissions from fuel treatments under this methodology includes accounting for forest carbon, emissions from fires, carbon in wood products, and mobile emissions, both within the treatment area and within the overall project area.
SIG’s Dave Schmidt presenting on Reduced Emissions from Megafires (REM) at the Sixth Forest Vegetation Simulator Conference in March 2023.
The REM protocol is the pinnacle of 15+ years of collaborative forest wildfire emissions research spearheaded by SIG. This achievement was only possible with the help of stakeholders and research partners such as Placer County Air Pollution Control District, Cal Fire, US Forest Service, Anew, and the Coalition of the Upper South Platte.
By providing a novel mechanism for funding forest health treatments that are typically difficult to finance, the REM protocol is a big step forward in increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration. This work also provides an array of additional ecosystem benefits. These include reduced chances of major negative impacts on human life and infrastructure, prevention of erosion and reduced water quality, protection of recreational resources, and reduced air pollution. To read the methodology in full, go here: https://climateforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Reduced-Emissions-from-Megafires-Forecast-Methodology-v1.0.pdf
SIG’s Jason Moghaddas working a prescribed fire at Blodgett Forest Research Station in 2002. The goal of this burn was to re-introduce fire within “reserve” stands, which had not experienced fire in over 80 years.