Project


Title

Public Perceptions of Values Associated with Fire Protection and WUIs Using Mixed Methods
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Donald Hodges
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
  • James C. Finley
    Pennsylvania State University
  • Al E. Luloff
Contact(s):
  • Cynthia L. Nichols
    University of Tennessee
  • Sharon A. Foy
    University of Tennessee
Completion Date: July 10, 2015

Cataloging Information

Keyword(s):
  • public opinion
  • public perceptions
  • VAR - values-at-risk
JFSP Project Number(s):
11-1-9-12
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: December 13, 2016
FRAMES Record Number: 20769

Description

Fire prevention and fuel treatments have enjoyed renewed and enhanced support. However, the use of fire prevention measures for enhancing ecosystem services has not found purchase in either the publics acceptance or involvement in this new role of and for fire. This is especially true of the forests within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), where fire protection is directed not only at the forests but also the homes and structures that are becoming much more prevalent in the WUI. Coupled with public uncertainty of fires role in the ecosystem, resistance to many recommended fuel treatments within and in close proximity to the WUI further complicates fire managers roles. This resistance arises from two primary factors: (1) many of the prescribed fuel treatments do not reflect forest owners understanding of vegetation management; and (2) treatments are developed with little recognition of the multiple values owners and the general public place on the forests and the WUI. This projects major goals are to identify and define the various values at risk from wildfire events both within and outside the WUI and to quantify the extent of these values. To do this, we use data incorporating both qualitative and quantitative research gathering techniques, each of which link back to Task Statement 9 of the RFA (Fuel Treatments and the Wildland Urban Interface). These data will relate to the role of sociodemographic characteristics, biophysical conditions, and sociocultural differences as factors influencing public response. That is, this study will allow us to gauge responses across the full range of questions raised in the RFP relating to fuel treatments and WUIs in a national, comparative framework. Data developed by this project will help field managers and other end users better understand public perceptions of issues surrounding the full range of values associated with WUIs. Such an understanding is critical to developing educational outreach programs and strategies for increasing acceptance of fire as an important management tool in reducing risk to these values while improving the health of the nations forests. The definition of public is as dynamic as the forest, and it is land managers responsibility to recognize public concerns and tailor their message to them. We will have eight sites within four broad regions of the nation (Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, and Southwest). To gain insight into the publics values, opinions, attitudes, concerns, and behaviors with respect to fuel treatments and the WUI we will conduct key informant interviews in each region with individuals knowledgeable about related issues and local affairs. We then will conduct facilitated group discussions in each of the eight study sites. The results of both the key informant interviews and facilitated groups will be content analyzed, and the findings from these analyses will be used to: (a) provide more in-depth insight into issues related to the publics values, opinions, attitudes, concerns, and behaviors with respect to fuel treatments than would be possible from a survey alone; and (b) develop questions for the subsequent national mail survey that will provide the opportunity for generalization. Data produced by this project could lead to further national investigations of the human dimensions of fire. Moreover, its findings could serve as a springboard for fire and fuel treatment message development and contribute to evaluation processes capable of use in areas where public education campaigns are being used, are required, or are appropriate.