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

Wildland Fire Beliefs, Norms and Management Preferences

Because public values and norms about wildfire management often drive agency policies and landowner or recreationist behaviors (e.g., defensible space, campfires) a model for understanding and predicting public acceptance of wildland fire management is being developed. Using cognitive hierarchy as an underlying theoretical framework, fire-specific measures of visitors' value orientations (patterns of basic beliefs), and norms were developed and pretested.

More than 3,000 visitors to three geographically dispersed western urban-interface National Forests were sampled. Six separate scales were developed for notions of responsibility, biocentrism, anthropocentrism, freedom, trust, and the benefit- harm of wildfire. Second, social norms data (acceptability of management practices in different situations) were measured using eight scenarios with combinations of various types of situational factors (e.g., fire origin, recovery time) across three fire management choices (let burn, contain fire, put out immediately).

Analyses demonstrate the reliability and construct validity of the measurement model and provide insight regarding public support for different fire management activities. It also provides a general model of situational-specific ways to assess public acceptance of fire management choices. In this case, the effect of human origin, quick recovery and loss of property are notable influences on support. This study was supported by National Fire Plan research funds.

Research conducted by:
Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 11:04:06 AM