Events & Media

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Part of the first Strategic Environmental Research Initiative (SERI)

"The Public and Fire Management: Conventional Wisdom vs. Reality"

Sarah M. McCaffrey
Research Forester
United States Forest Service

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
11:30 -12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Dr. McCaffrey provides a fascinating account of how people think about fire and risk, and debunks many of the myths. This talk has implications for how we communicate about wildfire and the implications of that communication for management strategies." — Sarah Anderson, Faculty Host

As more people live in areas with high fire hazard, active involvement of the public is crucial to improving forest health and decreasing wildfire risk. One barrier to effectively engaging the public may be that many traditional communications about wildfire the public are based on conventional wisdoms that may or may not hold true today. Developing an accurate understanding of public views of fire and forest management is therefore critical in designing policy and outreach that effectively engages the public and ensures that limited resources address the issues that are of actual, rather than perceived, public concern. This talk will summarize findings from over sixty social science studies on fire, with particular emphasis on the accuracy of various accepted truths about the public and fire management. It will also discuss the variables that actually influence approval of different fire management practices and what has been learned about how to most effectively foster changes in behavior and social norms.

Sarah McCaffrey is a research forester with the "People and Their Environments: Social Science Supporting Natural Resource Policy and Management" unit of the United States Forest Service. She received her BA in International Relations from Stanford University and her MS and PhD from UC Berkeley's Wildland Resource Science. McCaffrey is currently responsible for a National Fire Plan grant examining the social acceptability of fuels treatment methods. She has initiated over twenty studies in a variety of ecological and geographical settings across the country, examining a range of topics including what shapes acceptability of prescribed fire and forest thinning, why people do or do not implement defensible space practices, and social issues around post-fire restoration.

Learn more about the Bren School Strategic Environmental Research Initiative (SERI).

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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