UM Study Shines New Light on the Meaning of Wildfire Resilience to US Communities

A team of 23 multi-disciplinary researchers, fronted by University of Montana (UM) faculty members, released a new study on a common disaster phenomenon in the US: wildfires.

The study, titled “Integrating Subjective and Objective Dimensions of Resilience in Fire-Prone Landscapes,” was published online in BioScience. It is the culmination of a 2017 workshop held on the university’s grounds and part of a grant from the Joint Fire Science Program.

According to the study’s authors, a better scientific understanding of how fires work and a grasp of what a US community values are the keys to attaining social-ecological resilience in instances of wildfire damage.

The 23 co-authors sought to explore the meaning of “resilience” in wildfire response. The UM study proves that definitions matter. The UM-led research team hopes to contribute to a community-wide scientific understanding of fire ecology, deeper conversations on the issue of fire management, and greater efforts to identify the human values that drive wildfire resilience.

Philip Higuera, UM’s associate professor of fire ecology and a lead author of the paper, explained that fire management is all about identifying the important aspects of the land around a community and learning how to value it, which leads to its people wanting to protect it even more.

Alex Metcalf, fellow author and UM assistant professor of human dimensions, also added that they were able to develop a framework to help people live well with the reality of wildfire.

About Wildfires in America

According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), wildfires are “unplanned and unwanted fires, including lightning-caused fires, unauthorized human-caused fires, and escaped prescribed fire projects.” The same organization revealed that as of November 2018, 51,898 wildfires had erupted throughout the United States and had destroyed up to 8.51 million acres of land.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (FS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) assume leadership over wildfires that happen in the country’s forest reservations, national parks, and public lands. The UM study is a flagship effort for enhanced public participation in wildfire response.

(via University of Montana)

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