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Project ID: 10-3-01-33

Year: 2010

Date Started: 07/01/2010

Date Completed: 06/29/2012

Title: Wildland Fire Suppression and Land Development in the Wildland/Urban Interface

Project Proposal Abstract: This project will test the hypothesis that public fire suppression in forested areas increases the fraction of developed land in these areas, drawing people and structures into the wildland/urban interface. To test this hypothesis, we will construct statistical models that analyze U.S. land-cover trends as a function of fire suppression policies and expenditures, controlling for other factors. Fire suppression may act as a subsidy, tipping land use in favor of residential and commercial development. Land owners do not bear the full cost of their choice to build on land in fire-prone areas, since they do not pay for suppression, though they reap all of the benefits of development, resulting in inefficient levels of development. U.S. land in developed uses is expected to continue to increase over the next three decades, with the largest fraction converted from forests. Identifying the potential role of fire suppression policy in this process is a critical endeavor. In addition, U.S. fire suppression expenditures have increased rapidly since 1970. Natural and social science research has identified some contributors to this trend, including increases in large fire incidence due to climate change and the effects of decades of suppression on the accumulation of fuel. When combined with the known effects of climate change and fuel buildup, the effects induced land development from suppression, itself, may also play an important role.

Principal Investigator: Sheila M. Olmstead

Agency/Organization: Resources for the Future

Branch or Dept:

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Carolyn M. Kousky

Resources for the Future

Co-Principal Investigator

Roger A. Sedjo

Resources for the Future

Federal Cooperator

Krista M. Gebert

Forest Service

RMRS-Intermountain Fire Sciences Lab

Federal Fiscal Representative

Susan T. Major

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network




Great Basin

Great Plains

Lake States

Oak Woodlands

Northern Rockies




Southern Rockies









Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   82 Book In Harm’s Way: Homeowner Behavior and Wildland Fire Policy
view or print   1528 Government Publication Induced Development in Risky Locations: Fire Suppression and Land Development in the American West
  go to website 1529 Government Publication Unnatural Disasters?
view or print   6295 Book or Book Chapter In Harm’s Way: Homeowner Behavior and Wildland Fire Policy

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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