USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
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Research Topics

Recreation: Social Aspects of Fire

Agency Fire Management Options in the Southwest - Public Opinion in 4 States

General opinions about wildland and wilderness fire management and management interventions for the Forest Service are the focus of this summary. Results are drawn from a telephone survey of 1,811 residents in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Portions of this study were discussed in other issues of our research update.

The respondents were about equally divided among males and females, with the vast majority completing the survey in English. More than one-third had a Bachelor's degree or more education. A majority were white, with between one-tenth and one-fourth Latino depending on the state of residence. Asians, Blacks, and Native Americans were among the respondents as well. Most had visited National Forest lands in their states, and more than half participated in outdoor recreation on at least a monthly basis.

The majority (63%) of respondents agreed that "we probably have to let some fires burn, but must protect residences"; while about one-fourth (26%) agreed that "all fires must be extinguished regardless of cost." Few (8%) agreed that "fires must be allowed to take their natural course when burning in wildland or wilderness areas, even if structures are involved."

Respondents indicated their approval or disapproval of six management interventions, and how effective or ineffective they thought each would be for fire management. Approval ratings ranged from an average of 7.4 to 5.7 on an 8-point scale, with 8=strongly approved. Effectiveness ratings ranged from an average of 6.3 to 5.5 on an 8-point scale, with 8=highly effective. Therefore none of the interventions was rated especially low on approval or effectiveness.

On the high end of approval and effectiveness were signs at recreation sites and closure of some areas to recreation use. Restrictions on recreation use and controlled burns fell into the mid-range of ratings. Lowest in ratings were chipping and other mechanical means of fuel reduction, and banning mechanically based recreation uses of forest lands. This result echoes findings from other unit studies indicating that bans of specific recreation uses are the least-preferred management option.

Trust in the Forest Service, concern about fires, age, education, and gender, were significant in predicting intervention ratings.

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Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 11:04:01 AM