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Principal Investigator(s):
  • Troy E. Hall
    University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, Department of Conservation Social Sciences
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
  • Jarod J. Blades
    University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, Department of Conservation Social Sciences
  • Cathryn L. Knock
    University of Idaho
Completion Date: May 8, 2014

Climate driven changes to fuel loads, fire regimes, and the potential for uncharacteristically large and severe wildfires in forests of the western United States have created the need for active management to mitigate fire hazards. Prescribed fire is an important tool in managing forests, but smoke impacts to air quality, human health, and lifestyles can lead to substantial public concerns. Our proposed research through the Graduate Research Innovation (GRIN) program represents a unique opportunity to complement and link two existing JFSP-funded studies of public perceptions and tolerance of smoke (2010-1.3) with an NSF-funded study of climate driven changes in forest health, fire regimes, and rain/snow transition in the northern Rockies. We are proposing a mixed-methods investigation of participatory deliberation, focusing on how stakeholders process and use technical biophysical and social data related to forest health, fire, and smoke to inform management recommendations or support. Participatory processes that present balanced information and provide the opportunity for engaged discussion with managers and experts are anticipated to result in carefully considered and higher quality public opinions. There is a current need to explore how public knowledge and understanding of complex and uncertain issues (such as future climate and forest health scenarios) is affected by scientific knowledge and group deliberations. Coupling the proposed deliberative process research with our current quantitative survey (JFSP 2010-1.3) will provide greater insight into peoples reasoning and determine how scientific information affects their knowledge and attitudes about forest management alternatives. Results from these workshops will help land managers evaluate whether and how such workshops contribute to the effective transfer of science through collaborative learning. The study will focus on the northern Rocky Mountains, a region identified as particularly vulnerable to climate driven changes to the size and number of large fires and greater smoke emissions. Five communities, including urban and rural wildland urban interface communities, will be targeted that have strong smoke-related attitudes (as determined by our current JFSP 2010-1.3 research), and which are located in areas identified as the most sensitive to climate change effects (as determined by the NSF IGERT team). Citizen participants will be recruited from the JFSP 2010-1.3 research and offered a small honorarium for participation in day-long workshops. The proposed workshops will follow processes that our research team has successfully used before, beginning with presentations of scientific findings from social and ecological research, followed by facilitated small group discussions. Participants will develop questions for an expert panel; our existing professional relationships with land managers and resource experts in the northern Rockies and the west will help ensure their participation in the proposed workshops. Participants will then have the opportunity for further deliberation about alternative management scenarios. Workshops will end with a post-test survey containing the same knowledge and attitude questions as on the pre-test. The small group deliberations will be recorded, and qualitative techniques will be used to explore how citizens used the scientific information in reaching their opinions. Analysis of covariance and regression will be used to explore and explain changes in knowledge and attitudes. Findings will be presented in Ph.D. dissertation chapters, refereed publications, conference papers, a final project report, and a non-technical informational flyer for land managers.

Cataloging Information

  • forest management
  • information sharing
  • public opinion
  • public perception
JFSP Project Number(s):
  • 11-3-1-33
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
Record Last Modified:
FRAMES Record Number: 17442