Fire Policy & Law
Recovery after fire
To better understand the implications of the word resilience for western forest and fire management, this study explores its emerging use in a large body of policy and management documents produced between 1980 and 2016. We performed a computer-aided content analysis on 1487 scientific journal articles and 139 western U.S. Forest Service USFS planning documents to answer three questions: 1) how has the use-rate of the word resilience changed over time? 2) are changes in the use-rate of the word resilience correlated with shifts in terminology associated with environmental values, complex systems theory, or environmental change? and, 3) how does the use of the word resilience compare between science and management documents? To ground our interpretations in the context of the word’s technical use, we conducted 25 semi-structured interviews with scientists and managers working across the region. We found that the word resilience has been used in these documents since the 1980s but that its use sharply increased in both contexts between 2009 and 2011. The use-rate trends differ between science and management documents and do not appear to be associated complex systems terms but do seem associated with increases in the use of terms “climate change” and “adapt” and biocentric values. Finally, although there are differences in how resilience is used between science and management documents, the shared meaning of the term is a hopeful framing for adapting forests to changing conditions. Understanding the emerging use of the word resilience is of critical importance for land use policies that rely on it to signify a central concept, strategy or goal.