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February 21, 2024

A comprehensive OECD Environmental Policy Paper on wildfire risk, policy, and strategy in the United States explains how to incorporate climate change in wildfire adaptation efforts.

Extreme wildfire events like the 2018 Camp Fire, the 2020 August Complex, and the 2021 Dixie Fire are part of a larger trend of increasing wildfires in the western United States that have been exacerbated by climate change.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released an Environment Policy Paper examining wildfire risk, policy, and strategy in the United States. The report, “Taming wildfires in the context of climate change: The case of the United States,” contains input from U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, and was authored by the U.S. Geological Survey National CASC Chief Scientist Shawn Carter and former National CASC AAAS fellow Emily Orzechowski. Carter and Orzechowski are part of the OECD Working Party on Biodiversity, Water, and Environment working group and Carter is also a former Chair and regular U.S. representative to this Working Party. 

The report summarizes the history and risks of wildfire in the United States and outlines the nation’s organizational structures, policy frameworks, and management tools that are advancing wildfire adaptation efforts through this report. 

Specifically, the report provides an outline of the roles, approaches, and main policy objectives of various federal agencies that deal with wildfire (for example, the U.S. Forest Service focuses primarily on fuel management), and explores current measures, practices, and challenges regarding wildfire risk reduction including risk assessments, preventative actions, emergency responses, post-fire recovery, and financing. 

The report highlights the importance of integrating preventative actions across government sectors. While emergency responses to wildfire in the U.S. are highly coordinated (e.g., the National Interagency Fire Center that organizes responses across jurisdictions and agencies), broader wildfire management and preventative approaches are slightly more disjunct and are managed by multiple agencies. Given the many ways climate change effects wildfire regimes and the far-reaching impacts on human safety and public health, economies, and ecosystems, the report notes that addressing climate change simultaneously addresses wildfire adaptation. 

The OECD Environment Policy Papers are written for a broad audience and are meant to concisely summarize contemporary environmental policy issues and practical implementation strategies to help inform policy development and decision-making. 

The report can be cited as: OECD (2024), “Taming wildfires in the context of climate change: The case of the United States”, OECD Environmental Policy Papers, No. 40, OECD Publishing, Paris,


Interested in learning more?  

Join the Upcoming OECD Meeting on Wildfire: 

Register to attend a public event on February 29, 2024, at 10:00-11:30 EST, that is meant to gather representatives from different public agencies (at both federal and subnational level) to encourage policy discussion about wildfire policy.  

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