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What Is Limiting More Flexible Fire Management—Public or Agency Pressure?

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Abstract:

Conventional wisdom within American federal fire management agencies suggests that external influence such as community or political pressure for aggressive suppression are key factors circumscribing the ability to execute less aggressive fire management strategies. Thus, a better understanding of external constraints on fire management options is essential. This entails validating or refuting the perceptions of fire managers about the relative constraints that external pressures place on their ability to implement more flexible fire management options. In the summer of 2008, our research team traveled to two fires—the Gap in California and Gunbarrel in Wyoming—each of which used a different strategy for managing the fire. At each site, we interviewed key agency individuals and asked them about internal and external factors that influenced their fire management decisions. We also interviewed community members to understand whether they sought to influence fire management. Internal factors included procedural requirements and agency beliefs and attitudes. External factors included political and community pressures from the public who are often perceived to demand an aggressive suppression response. This article details how these internal and external factors influence flexibility in fire management. Our findings did not wholly support conventional wisdom and suggest that internal pressures are as important as external pressure in shaping fire management strategy.

Keywords: community pressure; fire management; fire suppression; political pressure; wildfire costs; wildfire policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.
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