While most large-scale and catastrophic fires are in the western United States, numerous communities east of the Mississippi are at high-risk of damage from wildfire. In Wisconsin, communities near the Lakewood-Laona District on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest have the potential for fires greater than 1,000 acres because of fire suppression, decreased precipitation, and high vegetation density. Departures from historical landscape conditions have also altered wildlife species composition and diversity. Forest managers were interested in understanding how stakeholders near the District felt about various forest management activities the forest staff might use to decrease wildfire risk and restore historical plant and wildlife species.
Social scientists from the Northern Research Station partnered with managers to survey landowners about the acceptability of forest management goals and treatments, specific project outcomes, and level of trust in USDA Forest Service staff. While many landowners were uncertain about long-term outcomes related to restoration activities, over 60 percent agreed that actions like prescribed fire and logging were acceptable to achieve goals. Similarly, more than 60 percent indicated that they trusted local staff to make decisions related to prescribed fire, timber management, and oversight of logging operations—all necessary for engaging in restoration activities. Local forest staff have a supportive stakeholder base and are well-positioned to continue their work protecting public natural resources while meeting the needs of nearby communities.