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Prescribed fire: what influences public approval?

Author(s): Sarah M. McCaffrey
Year Published: 2006

Except in remote areas, most prescribed fires will have some effect on members of the public. It is therefore important for land managers to work with the public before, during, and after a prescribed burn. To do this effectively, managers need to have an accurate idea of what people do and do not think about prescribed fire and they need to understand what shapes those opinions. This paper summarizes findings from recent research studies on the social acceptability of prescribed burns and identifies the key factors that people consider in forming their opinions of prescribed fire. Results indicate that there is a fairly high level of public acceptance for use of prescribed fire and that smoke, concerns about escape, and trust are key issues shaping that support. In addition, there is a clear link between understanding of the purpose and intended benefits of prescribed fire and approval of its use. The lesson for managers who wish to introduce prescribed fire in their communities is that they are most likely to gain public support if they: 1) increase familiarity with the practice; and 2) work to build trust between officials from the implementing agency and the public.

Citation: McCaffrey, Sarah M. 2006. Prescribed fire: what influences public approval? In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. Proceedings of the conference on fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers; 2005 November 15; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. GTR-NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p. 192-198.
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Public Perspectives of Fire Management, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Prescribed Fire-use treatments, Smoke & Air Quality, Smoke & Populations
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 8440
FRAMES RCS number: 2341
Record updated: Jul 2, 2018