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Bridging scales for landscape-level wildfire adaptation: A case study of the Kittitas Fire Adapted Communities Coalition

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Federal-level strategies or guidance for addressing wildfire risk encourage adaptation activities that span progressively larger scales, often focusing on landscape-level action that necessitates coordination between decision-makers and socially diverse communities. Collaborative organizations are increasingly explored as one approach for coordinating local efforts that address wildfire risk and adaptation, offering a platform for scaling and adjusting federal and state guidance that align with the needs of local landscapes. We conducted semi-structured interviews with members and supporters of the Kittitas Fire Adapted Communities Coalition (KFACC) and later facilitated two workshops at the behest of the organization. The goal of our interviews and workshops were to better understand how organizations such as KFACC emerge, function, and evolve in complex social and ecological landscapes, with a focus on their role in addressing landscape-level wildfire adaptation. We use an existing theoretical analogy of fire adaptation that crosses institutional and physical scales to help conceive of lessons from in-depth analysis of KFACC functioning. We found that KFACC originated from a need to establish a shared local mission for fire adaptation and a recognition that federal and state initiatives surrounding wildfire management needed further contextualization to be effective among diverse local social conditions. Later organizational foci included identifying key audiences for targeted adaptation efforts, including the identification of key messages and communities where specific mitigation actions might be needed. KFACC members were effective in strategically advocating for fire adaptation resources and policies at broader scales that might increase adaptation within Kittitas County, including caveats to local planning efforts designed for wildfire risk reduction. Likewise, the organization had begun to focus on tailoring mitigation efforts to different communities in the landscape as an effective means of catalyzing sustained, realistic fire adaptation actions. We suggest that organizations like KFACC are well-positioned to act as “board hoppers” who can integrate community-based needs into wildfire management, but caution that the functioning and ‘niche’ of such organizations may require strategic development or regular reflection on organizational goals.
Catrin M. Edgeley, Travis B. Paveglio
Catrin M. Edgeley, Travis B. Paveglio, Bridging scales for landscape-level wildfire adaptation: A case study of the Kittitas Fire Adapted Communities Coalition, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 351, 2024, 119818