Funded Research Projects: SOCIAL SCIENCES

Communicating and Reaching out About Forest Fires and Smoke: A Social Marketing Approach to Attitude Change

Research Sponsored By: US Forest Service
Principal Investigator: Stanley Asah
Project Description
This proposal will expand our understanding of public perceptions of the tradeoffs between fuel treatments, smoke, and wildfire risk in diverse community settings. Dr. Stanley Asah of the University of Washington is currently conducting focus groups with managers, Yakima Tribal members, and public stakeholders in communities around the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF. The results will be used to identify how different segments of the public view prescribed fire, wildfire, and smoke, and to develop targeted messages, workshops, and other outreach methods to help improve fire managers’ consideration of public perceptions and attitudes. But the social and political acceptability of fire is context dependent (Wigand 2012). This focus area project will replicate the study on the Mt. Hood NF to allow us to identify and compare a broader array of manager and stakeholder perceptions and outreach needs. We propose the Mt. Hood because it is an urban forest that conducts fuel treatments in both wet and dry forest types. This will enable comparisons between urban and rural perceptions of fire and smoke, and expand our design and execution of attitude and behavior change strategies. Comparing results from the Mt. Hood with the Okanagan-Wenatchee presents a unique opportunity to a compare a diverse mosaic of different types of urban, suburban, agricultural, and amenity-based communities. The Mt. Hood also abuts the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, which will enable comparisons with Forest Service managers, and also with Yakima tribal natural resource managers who were interviewed for the Okanogan-Wenatchee focus groups. This will be the first study of this type ever conducted. It meets several fire focus area goals. Results will provide an in-depth understanding of key social and ecological contexts of fire settings found in the Pacific Northwest, and addresses the need for an “all lands” approach to fire management in complex social-ecological systems. Training and outreach materials will help managers increase collaboration and trust with landowners and communities, and help deliver fire knowledge and tools.