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The Northwest Fire Science Consortium works to accelerate the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science. We connect managers, practitioners, scientists, and local communities and collaboratives working on fire issues on forest and range lands in Washington and Oregon.

Learn more about NWFSC...

JFSP Regions


NWFSC is one of
fifteen regional exchanges
sponsored by the Joint Fire Science Program.

Hot Topics

Forest landscapes as social-ecological systems and implications for management

Authored by A.P. Fischer; Published 2018

Many of the most pressing threats to forests result from complex interactions between multiple stressors and require management on large spatial and temporal scales. For this reason, many ecosystem managers have begun to recognize the need to consider the broader context of decisions, and how outcomes of past, present and future decisions in one location may interact with outcomes of such decisions in other locations nearby. The landscape has been put forth as an appropriate unit for such holistic approaches to management. However, as there are differing definitions of landscapes, it can be difficult to develop frameworks for management. Moreover, many definitions do not fully account for the many ways social and ecological conditions and processes interact within landscapes. Building on emerging theoretical and empirical literature, I offer a perspective on temperate forest landscapes as social-ecological systems: nested sets of coevolving social and natural subsystems connected through feedbacks, time lags, and cross-scale interactions. This interdisciplinary framing emphasizes the biogeophysical and socio-cultural influences on landscapes and the need to consider these influences – and the interactions among them – in management. I discuss challenges to managing forest landscapes as social-ecological systems that stem from mismatches in the temporal and spatial scales on which ecological and social systems typically function, as well as opportunities for policies, formal organizations, and governance networks.

Full costs of wildfire

As wildfires increase in size and severity, the costs to protect homes and lives similarly rise. Yet protecting communities represents a relatively small portion of the total costs of a wildfire—other short- and long-term impacts yield a variety of costs that often go unrecognized. In an analysis of five case studies—the Hayman (2002), Old, Grand Prix, and Padua Complex (2003), Schultz (2010), Rim (2013), and Loma fires (2016)—suppression costs averaged nine percent of total wildfire costs; additional short-term expenses and long-term damages accounted for 91 percent of total wildfire costs. Nearly half of all wildfire costs are paid at the local level by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and homeowners. The remaining wildfire costs are paid at the state and federal level, or are paid by a combination of local, state, and federal organizations... Click here to read more, or to register!

Cross-boundary cooperation for landscape management: Collective action and social exchange among individual private forest landowners

Authored by A.P. Fischer; Published 2018

The landscape is an ideal spatial extent for managing forests because many ecological processes and disturbances occur on such scales. Moreover, landscape-level decision-making processes can improve the efficiency of forest management, as when many owners of small parcels increase the economy of scale of their operations by jointly hiring labor or selling products. Despite the potential benefits of managing at the landscape level, cooperation on management activities across property boundaries is rare among private landowners and poorly understood. We used a comparative case study approach to explain cooperative management among eight sets of individual private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest, USA. We characterized how private forest owners cooperated on management and the outcomes they associated with cooperating, and we identified factors that influenced cooperation. We investigated whether cooperative management among private landowners may be constrained by social risks and whether formal institutions may be needed to facilitate cooperation. In the cases we investigated, owners jointly planned and implemented integrated management decisions on their collective forest properties. They perceived a number of beneficial social and ecological outcomes of cooperation. The key factors that fostered the emergence and continuity of cooperative management included shared concern, especially about risks to their properties and the health of their forests; pre-existing networks; trust; external expertise and resources; local leadership; and formal institutions. These factors are consistent with collective action and social exchange theory. Our findings shed light on social conditions that foster cooperative landscape management.

Prescribed Fire Policy Barriers and Opportunities: A Diversity of Challenges and Strategies Across the West

Authored by C. Schultz; Published 2018

We are conducting a project investigating policies that limit managers’ ability to conduct prescribed fire on US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the 11 Western states. The goals for this phase of our work were to understand the extent to which various policies are limiting prescribed fire programs, strategies to maintain and increase prescribed fire activities, and opportunities for improving policies or policy implementation. To understand the diversity of challenges faced and strategies in use across the West, we conducted a legal analysis of the laws and policies that affect prescribed fire programs on Forest Service and BLM lands (available online at http://ewp.uoregon.edu/publications/working) and approximately 60 interviews with land managers, air regulators, state agency partners, and several NGO partners.

Social Vulnerability to Climate Change in Temperate Forest Areas: New Measures of Exposure, Sensitivity, and Adaptive Capacity

Authored by A.P. Fischer; Published 2018

Human communities in forested areas that are expected to experience climate-related changes have received little attention in the scholarly literature on vulnerability assessment. Many communities rely on forest ecosystems to support their social and economic livelihoods. Climate change could alter these ecosystems. We developed a framework that measures social vulnerability to slow-onset climate-related changes in forest ecosystems. We focused on temperate forests because this biome is expected to experience dramatic change in the coming years, with adverse effects for humans. We advance climate change vulnerability science by making improvements to measures of exposure and sensitivity and by incorporating a measure of adaptive capacity. We improved on other methods of assessing exposure by incorporating climate change model projections and thus a temporal perspective. We improved on other methods of assessing sensitivity by incorporating a variable representing interdependency between human populations and forests. We incorporated a measure of adaptive capacity to account for ways socioeconomic conditions might mitigate exposure and sensitivity. Our geographic focus was the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. We found that fifteen of the region's seventy-five counties were highly vulnerable to climate-related changes due to some combination of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Nine counties were highly vulnerable because they ranked very high in terms of exposure and sensitivity and very low in terms of adaptive capacity. The framework we developed could be useful for investigations of vulnerability to climate change in other forested contexts and in other ecological contexts where slow-onset changes might be expected under future climate conditions.

The Weather Conditions for Desired Smoke Plumes at a FASMEE Burn Site

Authored by Y. Liu; Published 2018

Weather is an important factor that determines smoke development, which is essential information for planning smoke field measurements. This study identifies the synoptic systems that would favor to produce the desired smoke plumes for the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE). Daysmoke and PB-Piedmont (PB-P) models are used to simulate smoke plume evolution during the day time and smoke drainage and fog formation during the nighttime for hypothetical prescribed burns on 5–8 February 2011 at the Stewart Army Base in the southeastern United States. Daysmoke simulation is evaluated using the measured smoke plume heights of two historical prescribed burns at the Eglin Air Force Base. The simulation results of the hypothetical prescribed burns show that the smoke plume is not fully developed with low plume height during the daytime on 5 February when the burn site is under the warm, moist, and windy conditions connected to a shallow cyclonic system and a cold front. However, smoke drainage and fog are formed during the nighttime. Well-developed smoke plumes, which rise mainly vertically, extend to a majority portion of the planetary boundary layer, and have steady clear boundaries, appear on both 6 and 7 February when the air is cool but dry and calm during a transition between two low-pressure systems. The plume rises higher on the second day, mainly due to lighter winds. The smoke on 8 February shows a loose structure of large horizontal dispersion and low height after passage of a deep low-pressure system with strong cool and dry winds. Smoke drainage and fog formation are rare for the nights during 5–8 February. It is concluded that prescribed burns conducted during a period between two low-pressure systems would likely generate the desired plumes for FASMEE measurement during daytime. Meanwhile, as the fire smolders into the night, the burns would likely lead to fog formation when the burn site is located in the warm and moist section of a low-pressure system or a cold front.

The full community costs of wildfire

Authored by H. Economics; Published 2018

This report summarizes the accumulated impacts and associated costs of wildfires at the local, state, and federal level. Drawing from existing literature and five case studies—the Hayman (2002), Old, Grand Prix, and Padua Complex (2003), Schultz (2010), Rim (2013), and Loma fires (2016)—we categorize wildfire impacts into short-term expenses including suppression costs spent on firefighting, and long-term damages including costs that accrue in the months and years after a wildfire.

8th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress

8th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress

November 18-22, 2019 | Loews Ventana Canyon Resort | Tucson, Arizona

Plan on joining us in Tucson, Arizona for a great program, including workshops, special sessions, and field trips! Save the date; more information is coming soon.