Case Study

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Social and historical dimensions of wildfire research and the consideration given to practical knowledge: A review

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We carried out a systematic literature review involving both a global and a case study approach (Portugal) to investigate the configuration of the social dimensions of wildfires in academic literature. We advance two interlocking claims: (i) human dimensions of wildfires are often simplified into shallow indicators of anthropogenic activities lacking social and historical grounding, and (ii) fire knowledge of Indigenous peoples and/or other forest and fire users and professionals remains overlooked. These arguments were manifest from the global-scale review and were confirmed by the case study of Portugal. The individual perceptions, memories and cultural practices of forest and fire users and professionals and the historical co-developments of fires, people and forests have been missing from wildfire research. Including and highlighting those perspectives will both add to existing knowledge and inform policies related to fire management by making them socially meaningful.

Synthesis/Technical Report icon

Social and historical dimensions of wildfire research and the consideration given to practical knowledge: A systematic review

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Researchers carried out a systematic literature review involving both a global and a case study approach (Portugal) to investigate the configuration of the social dimensions of wildfires in academic literature. We advance two interlocking claims: (i) human dimensions of wildfires are often simplified into shallow indicators of anthropogenic activities lacking social and historical grounding, and (ii) fire knowledge of Indigenous peoples and/or other forest and fire users and professionals remains overlooked. These arguments were manifest from the global-scale review and were confirmed by the case study of Portugal. The individual perceptions, memories and cultural practices of forest and fire users and professionals and the historical co-developments of fires, people and forests have been missing from wildfire research. Including and highlighting those perspectives will both add to existing knowledge and inform policies related to fire management by making them socially meaningful.

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Managing invasive annual grasses, annually: A case for more case studies

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Four case studies shared at the 2020 Invasive Annual Grass workshop provide lessons learned and opportunities to advance future management efforts to inform the direction for new science. Tackling the complex problem of invasive annual grass management will require an expansion of science-based case studies of real-world management efforts, strong science and management partnerships, and a platform for continuous learning and communication, such as a comprehensive database to document management outcomes along with Open Access journals that allow publishing of negative and null outcomes.

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Scientist engagement with boundary organizations and knowledge coproduction: A case study of the Southwest Fire Science Consortium

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Overall, scientists more engaged with SWFSC reported involvement in a wider variety of knowledge coproduction activities. However, some knowledge coproduction activities, especially those requiring greater time investment or facing institutional barriers (e.g., research collaboration) were less common among all participants. Most scientists involved in knowledge coproduction believed that SWFSC increased their participation in these activities outside the boundary organization context, in part because SWFSC provided opportunities to interact with and understand the needs of managers/practitioners, as well as build research collaborations. Findings indicate that boundary organizations, such as SWFSC, can foster knowledge coproduction, but that they may need to further explore ways to address challenges for knowledge coproduction activities that involve greater time commitment or institutional challenges.

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Organizational influence on co-production of fire science: Challenges and opportunities 

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To better understand how research organizations enable and constrain co-production, this study examined seven co-produced wildland fire projects associated with the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS), through in-depth interviews with scientists, managers and community members. Results provide insights into how organizational structures and cultures influence the co-production of fire science. Research organizations like RMRS may be able to institutionalize co-production by adjusting the way they incentivize and evaluate researchers, increasing investment in science delivery and scientific personnel overall, and supplying long-term funding to support time-intensive collaborations. These sorts of structural changes could help transform the culture of fire science so that coproduction is valued alongside more conventional scientific activities and products.

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Network governance in the use of prescribed fire

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We conducted 53 interviews across four case studies in the western United States where federal land management agencies and cooperative actors are working together to accelerate the implementation of prescribed fire to understand the range of actors and associated roles they play. We found that interviewees identified 67 different organizations spanning local to national scales that played a variety of roles to support prescribed fire implementation, mainly communications, prescribed burn labor, fundraising, burning expertise, and burning on neighboring lands. Many actors did not serve in intentional bridging roles, but they filled key roles in the governance networks necessary to implement prescribed fire.

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Local social fragmentation and its potential effects on adapting to wildfire

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The case study research presented in this article evaluates social characteristics present in a WUI community that faces extreme wildfire risk to both people and property. It explores social processes that impede the ability of community members to work together collectively to solve problems (e.g., wildfire risk) and offers an alternative perspective about the nature of residency status (i.e., full-time and non-full-time) and its role in influencing wildfire mitigation efforts.

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Exploring the use of ecosystem services conceptual models to account for the benefits of public lands

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This study describes an approach for identifying and monitoring the types of resource benefits and tradeoffs considered in National Forest planning in the United States under the 2012 Planning Rule and demonstrates the use of tools for conceptualizing the production of ecosystem services and benefits from alternative land management strategies. Efforts to apply these tools through workshops and engagement exercises provide opportunities to explore and highlight measures, indicators, and data sources for characterizing benefits and tradeoffs in collaborative environments involving interdisciplinary planning teams. Conceptual modeling tools are applied to a case study examining the social and economic benefits of recreation on the Ashley National Forest.

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Wildfire and climate change adaptation of western US forests: A case for intentional management

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Hagmann et al. (in press) review a century of observations and multi-scale, multi-proxy research evidence that details widespread changes in forested landscapes and wildfire regimes since the influx of European colonists. Over the preceding 10 millennia, large areas of wNA were already settled and proactively managed with intentional burning by Indigenous tribes. Prichard et al. (in press) then review the research on management practices historically applied by Indigenous tribes and currently applied by some managers to intentionally manage forests for resilient conditions. They address ten questions surrounding the application and relevance of these management practices. Here, we highlight the main findings of both papers and offer recommendations for management. We discuss progress paralysis that often occurs with strict adherence to the precautionary principle; offer insights for dealing with the common problem of irreducible uncertainty and suggestions for reframing management and policy direction; and identify key knowledge gaps and research needs.

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Beyond planning tools: Experiential learning in climate adaptation planning and practices

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Here, we describe a training approach that we developed to help managers effectively plan to execute intentional, climate-informed actions. This training approach was developed through the Climate Change Response Framework (CCRF) and uses active and focused work time and peer-to-peer interaction to overcome observed barriers to using adaptation planning tools. We evaluate the effectiveness of this approach by examining participant evaluations and outlining the progress of natural resources projects that have participated in our trainings. We outline a case study that describes how this training approach can lead to place and context-based climate-informed action. Finally, we describe best practices based on our experience for engaging natural resources professionals and helping them increase their comfort with climate-informed planning.

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