Strategic Partnerships to Leverage Small Wins for Fine Fuels Management

TitleStrategic Partnerships to Leverage Small Wins for Fine Fuels Management
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsArispe, SA, Johnson, DD, Wollstein, KL, Hulet, A, K. Jensen, S, Schultz, BW, Sprinkle, JE, McDaniel, MF, Ryan, T, Mackenzie, M, Cunningham, S
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
Date Published11/2022
Keywordsfuels management, Invasive annual grass, Partnerships, Small wins, technical reports and journal articles

Rangeland wildfire is a wicked problem that cuts across a mosaic of public and private rangelands in the western United States and countless countries worldwide. Fine fuel accumulation in these ecosystems contributes to large-scale wildfires and undermines plant communities’ resistance to invasive annual grasses and resilience to disturbances such as fire. Yet it can be difficult to implement fuels management practices, such as grazing, in socially and politically complex contexts such as federally managed rangelands in the United States. In this Research-Partnership Highlight, we argue that private-public partners in such settings must be strategic in their selection of tasks to generate “small wins” in order to build the trust, competency, and legitimacy needed to advance an approach for landscape-scale fine fuels management. We highlight a fine fuels reduction partnership consisting of public and private entities in southeastern Oregon that established a research and education project and applied dormant season grazing on three pastures within the Vale District Bureau of Land Management. We describe the impetus for the partnership, antecedents, strategic tactics, and ongoing learning and reflection used to revise processes. In this example, implementing dormant season grazing as a research and education project allowed the partners to assess the efficaciousness of the treatment, as well as the operational logistics and administrative competencies necessary to apply the treatment to manage fine fuels at broader scales. Because dormant season grazing may, in some instances, conflict with established practices and norms, small-scale projects such as this allow partners to refine understandings of the social and administrative conditions that make implementation possible. Generating small wins through projects such as this is a critical precursor for partnerships seeking to take on larger, more complex endeavors that involve increasing ecological, economic, and social uncertainty.