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Project ID: 16-1-02-8

Year: 2016

Date Started: 10/01/2016

Ending Date:  09/30/2019

Title: Policy Barriers to Prescribed Fire: Identifying Opportunities and Mechanisms for Change

Project Proposal Abstract: Currently, land managers are unable to apply prescribed fire at the necessary levels to achieve land management objectives. Past survey research has identified a suite of barriers, many of which reside in law and policy, that fire management officers and other on-the-ground staff believe restrict their ability to implement prescribed fire. The fire management community generally understands existing policy barriers and their relative importance. What is less clear is when an actual law or federal policy is acting as the barrier, and when the barrier is a result of habit, culture, individual discretion, state-level policy interpretations, or lack of political will that is being attributed to federal policy. The goals of this project are to clearly identify the origin and range of interpretation of perceived policy barriers (i.e. whether these reside in law, regulation, agency guidance, culture, or individual discretion), characterize the opportunities and mechanisms that are available to overcome barriers at various scales, and educate stakeholders about which policies present the most ready opportunities for change and the available mechanisms for accomplishing needed change. This study will utilize a mixed methods approach involving: spatial analysis to identify the extent to which weather and air quality alone explain prescribed fire outcomes; legal analysis to characterize in detail the legal-administrative framework that governs prescribed fire application and understand where it leaves room for discretionary interpretation; key informant interviews with high-level policy makers, regulators, and land managers to understand precisely where there are opportunities for policy change and how these opportunities can be realized; and case studies to understand where field units have increased their accomplishments how they have overcome long-standing barriers. Our research will allow us to identify opportunities for change within the existing framework, as well as develop recommendations for changes to regulatory or policy guidance provisions to address perceived barriers. Our science delivery goals are to provide senior fire and land managers, policy makers, environmental regulators, and their key stakeholders with information to foster policy change at multiple scales to increase the use of prescribed fire. We will develop eight written deliverables, including publications, working papers, and policy briefing papers, and share our findings broadly through policy briefings in Washington, DC, conferences, webinars conducted in concert with the fire science consortia, and workshops conducted in partnership with the consortia and prescribed fire councils. Our research responds directly to the task statement by identifying the nature of policy barriers to prescribed fire, how their interpretation varies across regions and agencies, and how these can be overcome. We will present the fire management community with a clear understanding of where opportunities for change exist within all levels of government and a compendium of strategies, based on our legal analysis, interviews and case studies, and the policy and organizational change literatures, to effect both policy and behavioral change to meet land management objectives. This research is unique in focusing on the opportunities, bringing perspectives from both high-level regulators and land managers, and identifying strategies for overcoming policy barriers at multiple levels of government. Our diverse experience in conducting spatial analysis, legal research, interviews, and case studies, communicating with stakeholders and managers in the field, and interacting with high-level policy makers provides us with the unique skills needed to respond to this task statement with data from multiple sources and scales and deliver innovative and impactful results.

Principal Investigator: Courtney A. Schultz

Agency/Organization: Colorado State University

Branch or Dept: Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Kristine L. Miller

Colorado State University

Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Kristine L. Miller

Colorado State University

Sponsored Programs

Co-Principal Investigator

Adell L. Amos

University of Oregon

Law School

Co-Principal Investigator

Christopher E. Bone

University of Oregon

Department of Geography

Co-Principal Investigator

Cassandra Moseley

University of Oregon

Institute for a Sustainable Environment

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


Southern Rockies









Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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