International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The importance of affect, perceived risk and perceived benefit in understanding support for fuels management among wildland–urban interface residents

Timothy J. Ascher A , Robyn S. Wilson A B and Eric Toman A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The Ohio State University, 210 Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email: wilson.1376@osu.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(3) 267-276 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF12026
Submitted: 18 February 2012  Accepted: 6 September 2012   Published: 22 October 2012

Abstract

One factor that is critical to human judgments about risk, and was often overlooked in past research on public support for fuels treatment, is affect or the largely unconscious negative or positive feelings invoked by a stimulus (in this case, fuels management). This study aims to test a model for public support based on individual knowledge, exposure, affective response, perceived risk and perceived benefit associated with fuels management. Data collection occurred in residential communities throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin, located in the intermountain western region of the United States. Path analyses indicated that support for both prescribed burning and mechanical thinning is driven largely by the perceived benefits of the technique and affective responses (negative or positive reactions to the images automatically associated with a specific technique). Affect also has a significant influence on perceived risk for prescribed burning, whereas perceived risk, in turn, has a significant influence on support for prescribed burning. The results suggest that communication efforts aimed at building support should focus on the benefits to forest health and future fire risk reduction, as these were the most prevalent positive affective associations and the primary benefits of the techniques. For prescribed burning, emphasising the degree of control that managers have over the technique could also counteract negative affective associations and decrease perceived risk.

Additional keywords: communication, exposure, mechanical thinning, prescribed burning.


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