USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics

Recreation: Social Aspects of Fire

Recreation and Fire Management

A study was undertaken by Kelly Bricker (adjunct West Virginia University), Bill Hendricks (California Polytechnic State University), and Debbie Chavez (PSW) to understand the perceptions of USDA Forest Service (USFS) public land managers in relation to fire management and recreational use in Urban National Forests. This research was made possible through National Fire Plan funding. An on-line survey was used to understand managers' perceptions of how the presence of recreational activities and experiences are a constraint to fire management; how fire management and suppression activities influence the quality of a visit to a recreation site; and the relationships between fire management and recreation constraints. A total of 62 district rangers within Urban National Forests were contacted to participate in the online survey. Thirty-three responded; a response rate of 53 percent.

Overall, respondents were well educated, and had worked with the USFS for many years (96% over 20 years). Most respondents were male (84%) and attended at least one fire training session per year. The most common activities in the developed recreational area(s) of each district were hiking, camping, picnicking, walking trails, hunting and recreational shooting, wildlife viewing, fishing, sightseeing, driving corridors, mountain biking, and photography.

Most respondents perceived urban development and the occurrence of wildland fires as severely impacting their fire management decisions. Others felt that some recreational related events (such as campfires in non-designated areas) moderately impacted their decisions concerning fire management. Respondents perceived moderate to slight conflicts with day-use areas, trails, campgrounds and access roads. More than half of the respondents reported that visitors were not limited by campground closures from smoke, visible evidence of wildland fires, natural ecologically beneficial fires, fires from logging brush, and out of control fire from logging operations.

Overall, these managers perceive that most of the actions they take with regards to fire do not limit or only slightly limit visitors' pursuit of recreational opportunities. Findings also suggest that managers surveyed did not perceive their actions related to fire management as limiting visitor's pursuit of recreational experiences. Implications of this research suggest the need for managers to include physical and facility features in fire management plans. They should incorporate considerations of smoke from prescribed burns and management actions that can reduce campfires in non-designated areas that may impact their ability to manage fires. There is also a need to compare manager perceptions with visitor perceptions about fire and fire management.

Publications and Products related to this subject:

Bricker, K.S.; Chavez, D.J.; Hendricks, W.; Millington, S.J. 2005. Recreation and fire management in urban national forests: A study of manager perspectives. Unpublished report. Riverside, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. 69 p.

Research conducted by:
Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 11:04:23 AM