Building Wildfire Resilience and Community Dialogue in Alaska

The Alaska Wildfire Roundtable and Alaska Venture Fund's New Wildfire Resilience Program

Fire is an essential part of Alaska’s ecosystems, but rapidly changing fire patterns across boreal forests and tundra have created an urgent need for collaboration between Alaska’s communities directly impacted by wildfire, and the agencies, researchers and organizations developing wildfire resilience protocols and programs. 

Seeded by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Alaska Venture Fund is building a program to improve community resilience and safety in the face of increasing wildfire risk. The program is leveraging significant public and private funding for pre-fire and early fire preparedness and intervention to mitigate the risk of severe and catastrophic wildfire in Alaska.

In October, as an important first step, AVF brought together Tribal leaders, scientists, wildfire agency managers and researchers for the first Alaska Wildfire Roundtable to facilitate conversations and relationship building across a diverse range of voices and geographies, and to identify the most pressing needs in Alaska’s wildfire agencies and impacted communities. The roundtable was hosted by Alaska Venture Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund for two days in Fairbanks at the Tanana Chiefs Conference David Salmon Tribal Hall. Individuals shared their work in wildfire science and research, the cultural importance of wildfire in Indigenous communities, and current work to prevent, prepare for, detect and mitigate wildfires. 

Breakouts and presentations included the impact of Alaska’s rapidly changing fire regime, the importance of Yedoma permafrost as a carbon reserve and climate indicator, capacity and workforce development challenges across wildfire agencies, changing wildfire landscapes across the state and how significant the changes have been in Bristol Bay in recent years.

With participants representing a wide range of agency, community, research and nongovernmental perspectives, roundtable attendees will act as a thought leadership group to help improve Alaska’s wildfire knowledge base and our ability to address wildfire needs. 

By the end of the two days, the group coalesced around four major takeaways to explore and tackle together:

  1. Workforce development
  2. Data gaps in wildfire science
  3. Building wildfire-resilient communities
  4. Updating the Alaska Wildfire Management Plan 

In the few weeks since the roundtable, AVF has had the opportunity to support two Bristol Bay communities preparing applications for U.S. Forest Service Community Wildfire Defense grants, and facilitated conversations between regional Alaska Native organizations tackling workforce development challenges in the Interior, Southcentral and Bristol Bay. 

Based on enthusiastic participant feedback, AVF plans to develop and host additional virtual topic area workshops and will reconvene the Alaska Wildfire Roundtable in spring 2024.

For further information about the Alaska Wildfire Roundtable or AVF’s Alaska Wildfire Resilience Program, contact AVF’s Alaska Wildfire Resilience Team.

Published November 28, 2023

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