Dana Skelly

Deputy Fire Staff-Fuels, U.S. Forest Service, Malheur NF


Dana has worked in wildland fire for 20 years, beginning with an AmeriCorps*NCCC fire crew based in Colorado. The majority of her career has been in fuels and fire ecology and has spanned three federal agencies to date. She has been a member of the National Park Service Fire Ecology Steering Committee and spent several years with the Zion, Great Smoky Mountains, Everglades, and Natchez Trace sub-regional fire effects monitoring crews. After that she went to the Forest Service working in fuels and fire operations in Utah and northern Arizona. From 2010-2014 she had the unique opportunity to manage a small, complex fire program for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Florida Keys. Her professional passion has been implementing, studying, and promoting progressive and accountable fire management. Today, she is pleased to be on the Malheur National Forest as part of an outstanding team with those same core values.

Dana has cross-trained with the US Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force for all risk incident management. She has worked for the USFS Washington Office Fuels Program conducting fuels treatment effectiveness assessments and testing the national fuels treatment effectiveness assessment database. Her published fire-related works, both in her maiden name of Cohen as well as her married name Skelly, focus on lightning-caused fires and their management. Her 2007 publication about wildland fire use at Great Smoky Mountains National Park was recently recognized as one of the top 13 papers of the first 10 years of the journal Fire Ecology.

She received her bachelor’s in History from Rutgers College, and prior to working in natural resources was an editor and graphic designer at an art magazine in New York City.

Presentation Topic

Prescribed Fire At Scale

Presentation Description

The Malheur National Forest, at the southern edge of the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon, is dominated by forest types which historically had very frequent, low-severity fires. Current research shows a fire return interval of 12-28 years even in moist mixed conifer stands. Dry forest types account for approximately 1 million acres on the Malheur and have been at the frequent end of this range. Freely extrapolating, this translates to treating 83,000 acres per year in dry forest types alone to approximate the historic range of variability (HRV). Yet we average just under 6,000 acres of burning each year, and approximately 13,000 footprint acres treated in total per year. This will not do.

This scenario is not uncommon across forests in the western US. It begs two questions. How do we complete the landscape scale burning we have committed to in our NEPA? Meet forest plan and national cohesive wildland fire strategy—pay me now to avoid the pay-me-later scenario?

In this presentation, we will explore efficiencies we have begun to implement on the Malheur as well as explore examples from other regions that offer ideas for constructive paths forward.