Montana’s state forester and a Montana-based researcher have been appointed to a presidential commission on mitigating wildfire.
Sonya Germann, forestry division administrator at the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Kimiko Barrett, PhD senior wildfire researcher and policy analyst for Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics, will serve on the Presidential Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.
Germann has served as state forester since 2018, overseeing a division that includes the state’s wildland firefighting and mitigation programs. She was out of the office Monday and could not be immediately reached for comment.
DNRC Director Amanda Kaster called it “imperative” that Montana be part of the national wildfire dialogue.
“We are pleased Sonya has been selected to serve on the Commission,” Kaster said in a statement. “She is an effective and well-respected leader with a commitment to finding solutions to address our forest health crisis. She will do an excellent job advocating on behalf of Montanans.”
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Barrett has managed Headwaters’ Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program for six years, where she has worked in more than 80 communities across the country, according to her bio.
Barrett says she specializes in creating homes and communities better adapted to wildfires, and doing so includes research on the economic, social and community costs of wildfires.
“It’s a great honor to be selected,” she said. “I’m eager to get to work with my colleagues on the Commission to make sure people, homes and communities are better prepared for the worsening wildfire problem in Montana, and around the nation.”
The commission was established as part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and will “pursue a whole-of-government approach to wildfire risk reduction and resilience,” the Department of the Interior said in a news release. The law also includes funding for wildfire mitigation and firefighter training.
“(The commission’s) creation comes at an important time as shifting development patterns, land and fire management decisions, and climate change have turned fire ‘seasons’ into fire ‘years’ in which increasingly destructive fires are exceeding available federal firefighting resources,” the federal agency said.
The commission will analyze and make recommendations on federal policy, including programs to better prevent, mitigate and suppress wildfires, as well as policies to restore lands post-wildfire.
More than 500 applications were received for the commission, which will include 11 federal agency representatives and 18 non-federal representatives.
For local information on wildfires, click here.
Tom Kuglin is the deputy editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. His coverage focuses on outdoors, recreation and natural resources.