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

Estimating US federal wildland fire managers’ preferences toward competing strategic suppression objectives

David E. Calkin A D , Tyron Venn B , Matthew Wibbenmeyer C and Matthew P. Thompson A

A USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, PO Box 7669, Missoula, MT 59807, USA.

B University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

C Collins Consulting, PO Box 7669, Missoula, MT 59807, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email: decalkin@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(2) 212-222 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF11075
Submitted: 1 June 2011  Accepted: 9 May 2012   Published: 3 October 2012

Abstract

Wildfire management involves significant complexity and uncertainty, requiring simultaneous consideration of multiple, non-commensurate objectives. This paper investigates the tradeoffs fire managers are willing to make among these objectives using a choice experiment methodology that provides three key advancements relative to previous stated-preference studies directed at understanding fire manager preferences: (1) a more immediate relationship between the instrument employed in measuring preferences and current management practices and operational decision-support systems; (2) an explicit exploration of how sociopolitical expectations may influence decision-making and (3) consideration of fire managers’ relative prioritisation of cost-containment objectives. Results indicate that in the current management environment, choices among potential suppression strategies are driven largely by consideration of risk to homes and high-value watersheds and potential fire duration, and are relatively insensitive to increases in cost and personnel exposure. Indeed, when asked to choose the strategy they would expect to choose under current social and political constraints, managers favoured higher-cost suppression strategies, ceteris paribus. However, managers indicated they would personally prefer to pursue strategies that were more cost-conscious and proportionate with values at risk. These results confirm earlier studies that highlight the challenges managerial incentives and sociopolitical pressures create in achieving cost-containment objectives.

Additional keywords: choice experiment, fire management, incentives, suppression cost.


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