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Influencing public perceptions of smoke management and prescribed burning programs: an analysis of opportunities existing in communication tactics, community-based partnerships and interagency decision making

Author(s): Danielle K. Mazzotta
Year Published: 2012
Description:

Historical fire suppression efforts have led to the alteration of forest structure and fuel conditions across the United States. Correspondingly, managers are now faced with higher fuel loads and denser vegetation as well as growing forest communities and wildland-urban interface. While managers recognize the ecological benefits of fire and work to implement techniques that introduce fire back onto the landscape, lack of public acceptance and concerns have become a prominent management challenge. The principal objectives of this project were to: 1) Examine factors that were considered influential on public perceptions of smoke and 2) Identify management strategies that were regarded as useful for improving public acceptance and support for fire and smoke management. This was the first phase of a three year on-going study which will examine in-depth how communication programs and fire and fuel-related partnerships influence public perceptions and acceptance of smoke management practices. Phase one was designed as an opportunity to gain familiarity with research locations, meet and learn from individuals who had experience and knowledge relating to smoke and fire management, and gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities managers faced with public acceptability of smoke. Analysis of Thirty-five semi-structured interviews with fifty-five participants conducted across four U.S. locations: the Fremont-Winema N.F. (south-central Oregon), the Kootenai N.F. (northwestern Montana), the Shasta-Trinity N.F. (north-central California), and the Francis Marion N.F. (central coast South Carolina) revealed common factors that contribute to public perceptions of smoke. Three broad categories emerged that were regarded as useful to managers for building awareness of smoke and fire management programs and improving tolerance of smoke emission. These categories include: 1) communication strategies, 2) local partnership involvement, and 3) interagency collaboration. The central conclusion from this study was that in order to improve acceptance and support for forest management, genuine dialogue and interactions with both the public and between managers needed to occur.

Citation: Mazzotta, Danielle. 2012. Influencing public perceptions of smoke management and prescribed burning programs: an analysis of opportunities existing in communication tactics, community-based partnerships and interagency decision making. Master of Science. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 72 p.
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Public Perspectives of Fire Management, Smoke & Air Quality, Smoke & Populations
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest
Document Type: Dissertation or Thesis
NRFSN number: 13507
FRAMES RCS number: 17816
Record updated: Mar 23, 2020