The National Park Service (NPS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been operating under a “Service First” agreement for fire management services in several NPS units in the Midwest Region since 2008. The Mid-Plains Interagency Fire Management Zone recently received the NPS Midwest Regional Office Fire Management Award.

“By streamlining administrative tasks and developing common business practices, we have shown over the past few years that these agreements can be a cost-saving alternative to both agencies.” Jim McMahill, regional fire and aviation management officer for the NPS Midwest Region

A firefighter walks near a wildland fire engine while a fire burns in grass in the distance.
An engine from Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge assists with a prescribed fire at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in 2009.

Interagency Collaboration

Two men stand with drip torch award.
Deon Steinle (left), assistant fire management officer at Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge, accepts the “drip torch” trophy from Jim McMahill (right), Midwest Region fire and aviation management officer.

The National Park Service (NPS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been operating under a “Service First” agreement for fire management services in several NPS units in the Midwest Region since 2008.

Since the agreement was signed, the USFWS fire management staff who are members of the Mid-Plains Interagency Fire Management Zone, based out of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford, Kansas, have shown excellence in collaboration, efficiency, and teamwork. The number of fuels treatment projects and total acres restored using prescribed fires at the park units located in Kansas has increased. For the years 2008-2014, this partnership has allowed for the successful treatment of 32,610 acres, conducted in 44 fire management units at three NPS sites located in Kansas.

Service First

Smoke rises from low hills and a path winds through burned grasses and vegetation.
Large-scale prescribed fires are conducted in the spring and fall across Kansas. This 6,389-acre fire at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was conducted in October 2014.

Tony Ifland / FWS

A “Service First” agreement, reflecting the public law on which it is based, allows the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to exchange resources and share equipment across jurisdictional boundaries. As part of this Service First agreement, the USFWS fire management staff of the Mid-Plains Interagency Fire Management Zone provide fire management oversight and guidance to five National Park Service units located in Kansas: Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Fort Larned National Historic Site, Fort Scott National Historic Site, Nicodemus National Historic Site, and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Four national wildlife refuges are located in Kansas: Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge, Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Their proximity to the NPS sites allows for efficient use of government resources. The Mid-Plains Interagency Fire Management Zone also includes a wetland management district in Nebraska and six national wildlife refuges in Colorado.

The Service First statute authorizes agencies within the US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Agriculture to conduct shared or joint management activities to achieve mutually beneficial land and resource management goals. The three primary goals of Service First are to improve customer service to the public; increase operational efficiencies among the agencies; and improve coordination and implementation of land and resource management activities across agency jurisdictional boundaries.

The philosophy underlying the Service First authority is for the agencies to meet public and resource needs regardless of their organizational and land management jurisdiction. The goal of the Service First statute is for the agencies to pool resources to design, develop, and implement joint projects that will provide a greater benefit to citizens and resources than any individual agency could achieve. It authorizes the agencies to form and promote partnerships across agency boundaries to develop joint solutions to common problems and to address federal land management issues in an integrated way.

Because of the attention to detail the Mid-Plains Interagency Fire Management Zone has shown, and their willingness to focus on the needs of the entire landscape, they were named the recent recipients of the NPS Midwest Regional Office Fire Management Award. This award is presented to the park unit or group in the 13-state NPS Midwest Region that shows success in “outstanding fire management accomplishments.” This is the first time in the 12-year history of the trophy that it has been given to an interagency partner.

Jim McMahill, regional fire and aviation management officer for the NPS Midwest Region stated, “The fuels and topography of each [USFWS] refuge and NPS site vary, but their location to each other within the state allows for effective resource sharing and collaboration from all the parks.” McMahill added, “By streamlining administrative tasks and developing common business practices, we have shown over the past few years that these agreements can be a cost-saving alternative to both agencies.”

Contact: Mike Johnson, fire communication and education specialist
Email: j_michael_johnson@nps.gov
Phone: (402) 661-1760