Description

Wildfires have been increasing in severity and cost over the last several decades due to increasing exurban development in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). The WUI is the intersect between wildland uses and urban land uses. Radeloff et al. (2005) estimated that the United States (U.S.) WUI covers 719,156 km2 and contains 44.8 million housing units. The expansion of homes and associated commercial development in the WUI places property, assets, and human lives at risk from wildfires (Bhandary & Muller, 2009; M. A. Reams, Haines, Renner, Wascom, & Kingre, 2005). At the same time, federal costs to suppress wildfires are drastically increasing; expenditures were $239,943,000 in 1985 and $1,902,446,000 in 2012 (Center, 2013). The total Federal cost for wildfire suppression between 1985 and 2012 was $25,370,157,000 (Center, 2013). While the socio-demographic and socio-economic drivers of WUI development may differ in other parts of the world, the expansion of the WUI into high-risk wildfire zones is not unique to the U.S. (Brummel, Nelson, & Jakes, 2012; Carmo, Moreira, Casimiro, & Vaz, 2011; Dondo Bühler, de Torres Curth, & Garibaldi, 2013; Harris, McGee, & McFarlane, 2011; Holland, March, Yu, & Jenkins, 2013). Additionally, wildfire risk worldwide is being compounded by climate change as well as increased development in the WUI. (Baker, Peterson, Brown, & McAlpine, 2012; Bedsworth & Hanak, 2010; Group, Northwest, Diego, & Jolla, 2009; Picketts, Curry, & Rapaport, 2012; Rayner, McNutt, & Wellstead, 2013).

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA) was the culmination of a decade of changing wildfire mitigation research and wildland fire policy reforms that were in response to the growth of WUI development, danger from catastrophic WUI wildfires, and a decline in WUI ecosystem health (Steelman, 2008). HFRA called for communities to implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) (Grayzeck-souter, C, Brummel, Jakes, & Williams, 2009). CWPPs are implemented at the county or community (i.e., municipality, borough, town, city or local fire district) scale; hence the term ‘County’ or ‘Community Wildfire Protection Plan.’ CWPPs are a required collaboration between local fire departments, the state agency responsible for forest management, and relevant local government in consultation with surrounding community residents and adjacent federal land management agencies (Grayzeck-souter et al., 2009).

CWPPs have several key benefits and objectives for achieving a more effective wildfire mitigation strategy. The development of CWPPs should include priority areas for fuel reduction and provide ignitability assessment throughout the community (Congress, 2003). Communities benefit from having CWPPs because it allows for a flexible and contextually defined, localized WUI boundary; localized fuel treatment prioritization; prioritization of funding; and integration into local land use policies (P. J. Jakes et al., 2011; Steelman & Burke, 2007). Robustly implemented CWPPs allow land managers to reestablish natural fire regimes while minimizing the risk to people to rehabilitate and restore fire-adapted ecosystems, which minimize ongoing wildfire risks in the long-term (Steelman & Burke, 2007). Researchers have only begun to assess the effectiveness of CWPPs in achieving these goals.

The purpose of this research is to understand CWPP effectiveness. To understand CWPP effectiveness requires an understanding of the process that created the CWPP and CWPP implementation. This connection is based on planning evaluation literature. Planning evaluation literature suggests several basic principles that should guide planning evaluation: 1) planning practice should be evaluated as well as plan documents; 2) the design of an assessment methodology must be clearly linked with planning evaluation theory; 3) the evaluation methodology should suit the object under appraisal; 4) the main elements of planning practice—policies, plans, programs, processes, and physical environmental changes on the land must be subject to an integrated evaluation; 5) evaluation and planning processes should be developed together; 6) the evaluation methodology must have a balanced development in time; and 7) the presentation of evaluation results and the analysis of their use within the planning system should be evaluated (Alexander & Faludi, 1989; Guyadeen & Seasons, 2016; Vitor Oliveira & Pinho, 2010; Vítor Oliveira & Pinho, 2009). In order evaluate CWPP planning and index will need to be created for effective CWPP process and implementation.

Specifically, my research questions are:

  • Create an index that defines the level of effectiveness of CWPP process (inputs);
  • Create an index that defines the level of effectiveness of CWPP implementation (outputs); and
  • What social, economic, demographic and geographic factors predict the level of effectiveness of CWPP inputs and outputs?

Committee

  • Austin Troy (Advisor)
  • Rafael Moreno
  • Gregory Simon

Details

  • Client

    University of Colorado Denver

  • Skills

    • Resiliency
    • Literature Review
    • Comprehensive Exams
    • ArcGIS
    • QGIS
    • Spatial Analysis
    • Policy Analysis
    • Spatial Statistics
    • Statistics