Global fire partnership established

Posted on September, 10 2003

IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, and WWF launched a Global Fire Partnership at the 5th World Parks Congress to help prevent destructive forest fires.
Durban, South Africa – IUCN-The World Conservation Union, The Nature Conservancy, and WWF today announced that they are joining efforts to establish a Global Fire Partnership that will help prevent the kind of destructive forest fires currently raging throughout North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. The partnership was launched at the 5th World Parks Congress currently underway in Durban, South Africa, highlighting the three organizations’ commitment to finding solutions to unwanted wildfires which impact human lives, degrade the environment and threaten the success of conservation activities worldwide. The announcement comes at a time when incidences of destructive fire throughout the world appear to be on the rise. A preliminary evaluation suggests that the year 2000 alone saw 92 million hectares of forest burned worldwide, an area the size of France and Spain combined and equal to about 2.4 per cent of global forest cover. In the year 2003 again, large tracts of forests are burning. "A coherent, shared global approach to fire issues is needed," says Dr Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. "The intent of the partnership is to provide an integrated strategy that can serve as guidance for fire managers, governments and communities". "While too much fire is often the major issue, fire suppression and lack of fire in ecosystems that burn naturally is also a problem to be addressed by the partnership," says Steve McCormick, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "Many ecosystems, plant, and animal species depend on natural fire cycles, and in the absence of fire, crucial biological and ecological processes like regeneration and nutrient cycling are interrupted", he said. The partnership will focus on tasks such as involving key stakeholders in fire management planning, fostering community-based fire programmes, promoting natural fire regimes, restoring impacted areas, building awareness of fire issues, and increasing research, monitoring and recording systems. Economic losses to fires can be significant. In 1997/1998, losses were estimated at US$9 billion worldwide, equivalent to 20 per cent of current total global spending on overseas development aid (US$50 billion). In Ghana, 2 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product is estimated to be lost to forest fires each year — over 80 per cent of forests in the country are degraded or partially degraded. This means that the country loses US$100 million each year — almost half of what the country spends annually on education. "Bad fire management can create significant costs that negatively impact the livelihoods of rural communities," states Dr William Jackson, Director of the Global Programme at IUCN. "Good fire management, on the other hand, can deliver tangible benefits". For more information: Xenya Chernya IUCN Communications Tel: +41 22 999 0127 Mobile: +41 79 729 0924 E-mail: Tanya Petersen WWF Communications Tel: +41 22 364 9565 Mobile: +41 79 662 7485 Email: Nancy Gillis The Nature Conservancy Communications Tel: +1 703 841 4184 Mobile: +1 703 328 1493 Email:
Forest fire, July 2003, south France.
© WWF / Michel Gunther