The Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture unveiled projects it says will contribute to the management and recovery needed after prolonged wildfire seasons in recent years.

USDA figures show more than 10 million acres have been burned by wildfires throughout the United States since 2015. To combat that rise, the Biden administration announced a 10-year mitigation strategy earlier this year that included several roundtables headed up by the Forest Service.

NIFA research is currently going toward several other avenues aimed at addressing the proliferation of wildfires. Carl Boettiger, a researcher at UC Berkeley, and a team of researchers “hope to provide wildfire managers in California with an effective, open-source and AI-enabled tool that will change how they understand and respond to wildfires,” NIFA said. There’s also an Oregon State study analyzing post-fire land management strategies that explores soil nutrients and vegetation regrowth.

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Another NIFA project would support the development of unmanned aerial systems – commonly called drones – to start prescribed burns rather than using manned aircraft.

Other efforts, including language in the 2021 infrastructure bill, also seek to reduce the impact of wildfires after the National Interagency Fire Center said 58,985 fires spread throughout the United States in 2021.

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