Arthur “Butch” Blazer

Firebreak Award
The International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) Firebreak Award is given to recognize and acknowledge sustained achievement in wildland fire management    This award was established to recognize achievements in the management of wildland fire programs.  It recognizes individuals who have made lasting contributions in program management, influenced practices and protocols, and inspired others through their creativity, innovation, leadership, application, guidance, and communications in response to challenging and controversial wildland fire management issues. While the Firebreak Award does not have a lengthy history, it has been awarded since 2016 and has been bestowed on four individuals to date.  Selection of the recipient is based on open nominations reviewed by a sub-committee comprised of previous award recipients, IAWF Board members, and IAWF general members.  Specific areas of sustained achievement in career service, management direction, program oversight, program influence and direction, and other achievements that improve the wildland fire management system are evaluated. This year’s recipient of the IAWF Firebreak Award has a storied career with many achievements that have influenced wildland fire program management from numerous organizational levels.  His primary interest focused on natural resources, forest management, watershed protection, and wildland fire management and his contributions are many and varied with countless ones continuing to guide and influence national program management. He has many innovative and creative achievements and some of the most notable include:
  • A lifelong Tribal member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico involved with wildland fire management, either directly in positions affecting fire management or indirectly while serving in consulting and program and policy making positions.
  • Appointed by former NM Governor Bill Richardson as the first Native American State Forester, he led change within the agency as well as the NM Department of Energy and Natural Resources directed at greater focus on the use of wildland fire and landscape restoration. He initiated and completed a reorganization of the State Forestry Division into a model management structure that managed the State Forestry Program and concentrated on increased program production and accountability resulting in improved statewide forest and watershed health with reduced threats from catastrophic wildfire.
  • Led the creation and implementation of the first truly comprehensive effort in New Mexico to bring together all affected stakeholders in wildland fire management for the purposes of community protection, ecosystem maintenance, and improved and sustained landscape resilience. – the New Mexico Healthy Forest and Watershed Plan. This yielded the first inclusive classification of all communities at risk, identified cooperative treatment projects and initiated advanced collaborative planning among local communities, counties, the State of New Mexico, federal land management agencies, private landowners, and the public.
  • Appointed In 2011 by then-President Barack Obama as Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He provided oversight and direction to the U.S. Forest Service and was responsible for overseeing USDA Natural Resources and the Environment – Forestry staff and operations.  He worked closely with U.S. Senators, senior Congressional staff, various corporations and environmental groups and influenced or directed the drafting of public statements on natural resource and wildland fire management issues within the jurisdiction of USDA. In 2016, he received one of the highest federal service honors and was presented the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism, signed by President Obama.
His achievements throughout his career have led to the establishment of influential and beneficial policies, programs, and practices highly instrumental in improving wildland fire management effectiveness today and will into the future. More recently, he served as the President of the Mescalero Apache Tribe located in southcentral New Mexico where he provided executive leadership to the Mescalero Apache People; served as Chairman of the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council, CEO of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and provided oversight to the wildland fire management program for the Tribe; a very important role as Tribal lands are situated in one of the highest at-risk areas in the state.  While his service has had substantial impacts on the wildland fire management community, it is also important to note that throughout his career, he has promoted and led the advancement of Native Americans as well as all others in fire management and natural resources. He was the first Native American State Forester in NM and the first Native American Undersecretary in the USDA.   His extensive experience in working with Federal, Tribal, and State entities, as well as non-profit organizations and experience in executive management and leadership positions over his 40+ years as a public servant has made him a leader in this field, and even more importantly, a well-respected and admired role model for Native Americans in wildland fire management, natural resources, and public service, and exceedingly deserving of the recognition of the IAWF Firebreak Award for Excellence in Fire Management. Ladies and gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to announce that the recipient of the 2021 IAWF Firebreak Award for Excellence in Wildland Fire Management is Arthur (Butch) Blazer, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Congratulations Butch!