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Defining “Resilient Landscapes” From Multiple Stakeholder Perspectives in a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Area - Final Report for JFSP

Author(s): Jody L. Jahn, Hannah Brenkert-Smith
Year Published: 2019

Fuel treatment projects in wildland urban interface (WUI) areas are highly visible to public scrutiny, which can lead to intractable conflicts between land managers and the public that could block the implementation of those treatments. If agencies and publics are not able to reach adequate consensus regarding the definition of “resilient landscapes” then land management agencies will be prevented from performing important fuels management activities, amplifying already dire wildfire risks in high value areas. We investigated how land managers and publics defined a "resilient landscape” to discover where agencies and publics might find both common ground and points of resistance regarding land treatments. We accomplished this through tracking the re-implementation of the Forsythe II fuels treatment project near Nederland, Colorado on the USFS Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, Boulder Ranger District. Forsythe II was initially blocked by a vocal citizen group in 2014. Examining the project’s reimplementation and aftermath provided an opportunity to better understand specific perceptions of “resilient landscapes” in direct relation to a treatment project. Goals of the project included using mixed methods research to: 1) Contribute to social scientific understandings of intractable conflicts; and 2) facilitate outreach

Our Phase 1 qualitative study involved analyzing observation of and/or documentation from 21 meetings over three years, and conducting group and individual interviews with 31 residents. Findings showed that differing notions of “resilient landscapes” emerged throughout the course of an intractable conflict between the USFS and a vocal citizen opposition group (Magnolia Forest Group). In this case, certain valued landscapes anchored different sets of meanings about personal connections to the spaces and perceptions about how they should be managed. This project produced two related sets of findings. The first set of findings illustrated sets of issues that comprised two distinctive understandings for “resilient landscapes.” Specifically, notions of a “resilient landscape” were based on contrasting understandings of resilience (leaving the landscape alone vs. managing landscapes for human safety), wildfire risks (accepting wildfire risks vs. protecting against wildfire risks), and interpretations of past fuel treatments (as evidence of destruction vs. as proactive measures benefiting the community in the future). The second set of findings was grounded in the place attachment literature, and suggested how the USFS public comment process did not allow residents’ place attachment concerns to be recognized as legitimate, which possibly contributed to intractability between the USFS and the Magnolia Forest Group.

Findings from the qualitative study raised several questions we explored in the quantitative study, including: How representative in the Nederland community are the various attitudes toward Forsythe II that we observed at public meetings and in interviews? Therefore, the Phase 2 quantitative study involved a census survey of the town of Nederland (approximate population 1900), resulting in N=637 completed surveys (34% response rate). Findings demonstrate that despite the controversy surrounding Forsythe II, residents living in the project area report broad support for forest management practices to reduce risk to human habitation and to improve forest resilience. Consistent with these broad sentiments, the majority of survey respondents expressed support for the Forsythe II project. We close with recommendations for land managers.

Citation: Jahn JLS and Brenkert-Smith H. 2019. Defining “Resilient Landscapes” from Multiple Stakeholders in a Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Area - Final Report to JFSP for project 16-3-01-37. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, 44p.
Topic(s): Risk, Wildland Urban Interface, Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 20249
Record updated: Nov 5, 2019