WWETAC Projects

Project Title: Integrating ecological risk assessment and economics in environmental decision-making: Fire management case study

Principal Investigator: Peter Woodbury and David Weinstein, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Key Issues/Problems Addressed:

A management strategy for an environmental problem can be effective and efficient only to the extent that it addresses all contributing stressors as well as the sources and driving forces of the issue. Current ecological risk assessment processes require modification in order to facilitate a more integrated approach that evaluates the ecological, economic, and social consequences of ecosystem management alternatives.

Setting and Approach:

A retrospective case study applied eight questions which define the steps of a process called integrated problem formulation (IPF) to compare two recent phases of the Fire Program Analysis (FPA) system development (a planning and budgeting system for the management of wildland fire throughout publicly managed lands in the United States).  The IPF approach was refined and evaluated in a series of discussions pertaining to wildland fire management and comprehensively reviewed in a workshop held October 22–25, 2006 in Racine, Wisconsin.

Key Findings:

  • An early use of the IPF process may have exposed and clarified that the two FPA development approaches contained objectives that differ from one another in form and lack a basis for commensurability.
  • The IPF process discovered that the two respective phases of FPA development appear to have diverged significantly in their approach to ‘‘valuation and integration.’’
  • The IPF process showed that climate change and growth of wildland urban interface are additional drivers of critical importance which are inadequately linked within current wildfire management decision-making frameworks.


The integrated problem formulation (IPF) process provides an integrated and comprehensive approach to ecological risk assessments by evaluating the ecological, economic, and social consequences of ecosystem management alternatives.


Bruins, R.J., and 13 others. 2010. A New Process for Organizing Assessments of Social, Economic, and Environmental Outcomes: Case Study of Wildland Fire Management in the USA. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 6(3):469-483 (PDF, 359 KB)

WWETAC Project ID:  FY06TS11