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Table 3 Planning focus and decision processes as they compare between the National Forest System (NFS) and Fire and Aviation Management Program (FAM)

From: Forest Service fire management and the elusiveness of change


Land management (NFS)

Fire response (FAM)

Focus of planning

Consistent with land management plan (i.e., forest plan) goals and requirements

Through spatial fire planning and consistent with forest plan direction to provide information to assist operational response strategies and tactics

Generation and evaluation of alternatives

Required by the NEPA and includes assessment of proposed alternatives compared to ‘no action’

No reporting requirement, although the Red Book calls for units to “pre-determine” a range of response strategies

Decision timing

Decision processes unfold over years, except in cases of emergency response

Decision processes unfold over hours to days

Decision authority

Local manager responsible for decisions

Local manager responsible for expressing strategic direction through delegation of authority; however, incident commanders who may be external to the unit often responsible for tactical and operational decisions

Basis of decisions

Line officer priorities, based on staff input, budget allocations, stakeholder preferences, targets, and other factors, and often refined through a multi-year NEPA process

Expert judgment, based on perceived risk and value tradeoffs, suppression resource availability, and other factors