Understanding the Pre-Fire Planning Tools, Methodologies, and Governance Conditions that Facilitate Mitigation of Post-Fire Effects in Forest Ecosystems

In the western United States, the growing extent and severity of wildfires and consequent impacts on human and natural systems necessitate increased attention to minimizing undesirable post-wildfire effects. Ample literature exists on pre-fire management tools and governance conditions that support fire hazard reduction and suppression in general. However, relatively less work has focused on assessing the methodologies and governance conditions that address limiting specific post-fire effects on key aspects of forest ecosystems such as watershed function, sensitive species habitat, tree regeneration, or invasive species and disease encroachment. There also is much to be learned about the aspects of governance that specifically support pre-fire action across jurisdictions to mitigate post-fire effects. Our project addresses these knowledge gaps by investigating the governance conditions and pre-fire tools designed to mitigate undesirable post-fire effects across jurisdictions in the western states.

This study specifically addresses the following research objectives:

1) Identify the tools and methodologies used in forested ecosystems to mitigate post-fire effects to forest resilience, watershed function, and sensitive species and habitats; and

2) Investigate the governance arrangements and other underlying societal factors that facilitate effective pre-fire planning and implementation of management activities to limit undesirable post-fire effects.

Our work focuses on forested landscapes in the 11 contiguous western states. We are pursuing these objectives through literature reviews, state-level qualitative interviews to identify the array of approaches used across the western region, and sub-state level qualitative case studies to further understand facilitative governance conditions for cross-jurisdictional planning and utility of pre-fire methodologies to mitigate post-fire effects.

We anticipate that this research will have significant relevance to government agencies seeking to promote resilient forested ecosystems and for communities that are bearing the majority of long-term post-fire costs related to landscape rehabilitation, ecosystem service degradation, and depreciated property values. Moreover, our project will allow various stakeholders to more easily access through this website currently available tools and publications as well as emerging practices to preemptively minimize post-fire effects before wildfire incidents.