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Risk and cooperation: managing hazardous fuel in mixed ownership landscapes

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Managing natural processes at the landscape scale to promote forest health is important, especially in the case of wildfire, where the ability of a landowner to protect his or her individual parcel is constrained by conditions on neighboring ownerships. However, management at a landscape scale is also challenging because it requires cooperation on plans and actions that cross ownership boundaries. Cooperation depends on people's beliefs and norms about reciprocity and perceptions of the risks and benefits of interacting with others. Using logistic regression tests on mail survey data and qualitative analysis of interviews with landowners, we examined the relationship between perceived wildfire risk and cooperation in the management of hazardous fuel by nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) owners in fire-prone landscapes of eastern Oregon. We found that NIPF owners who perceived a risk of wildfire to their properties, and perceived that conditions on nearby public forestlands contributed to this risk, were more likely to have cooperated with public agencies in the past to reduce fire risk than owners who did not perceive a risk of wildfire to their properties. Wildfire risk perception was not associated with past cooperation among NIPF owners. The greater social barriers to private-private cooperation than to private-public cooperation, and perceptions of more hazardous conditions on public compared with private forestlands may explain this difference. Owners expressed a strong willingness to cooperate with others in future cross-boundary efforts to reduce fire risk, however. We explore barriers to cooperative forest management across ownerships, and identify models of cooperation that hold potential for future collective action to reduce wildfire risk.

P.A. Fischer; S. Charnley

Fischer PA, Charnley S. Risk and cooperation: managing hazardous fuel in mixed ownership landscapes. Environmental Management. 2012 ;49.