Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Decisionmaking & Sensemaking
Environmental regulations frequently mandate the use of 'best available' science, but ensuring that it is used in decisions around the use and protection of natural resources is often challenging. In the Western US, this relationship between science and management is at the forefront of post-fire land management decisions. Recent fires, post-fire threats (e.g. flooding, erosion), and the role of fire in ecosystem health combine to make post-fire management highly visible and often controversial. This paper uses post-fire management to present a framework for understanding why disconnects between science and management decisions may occur. We argue that attributes of agencies, such as their political or financial incentives, can limit how effectively science is incorporated into decision-making. At the other end of the spectrum, the lack of synthesis or limited data in science can result in disconnects between science-based analysis of post-fire effects and agency policy and decisions. Disconnects also occur because of the interaction between the attributes of agencies and the attributes of science, such as their different spatial and temporal scales of interest. After offering examples of these disconnects in post-fire treatment, the paper concludes with recommendations to reduce disconnects by improving monitoring, increasing synthesis of scientific findings, and directing social-science research toward identifying and deepening understanding of these disconnects.