Challenges and Opportunities for Increasing Prescribed Fire on Federal Lands in the West

Challenges and Opportunities for Increasing Prescribed Fire on Federal Lands in the West: Lessons from Case Studies and Broader Implications for Improving US Fire Management


Extensive wildfires across the US West and their dramatic effects for ecosystems, human health, and livelihoods have focused national attention on the need to dramatically improve in the immediate future both forest management and community preparedness. For the management of fire-adapted forests, the message from the scientific community is clear: we must learn to live with fire, pursue accelerated fuels reduction and forest restoration through thinning and prescribed burning, focus our work in the WUI and also consider changes to building codes and land use patterns, and, during incident response, move away from an emphasis on suppression when possible. Yet, changes to fire management outcomes have been elusive, necessitating investigation into the policy, politics, and governance of fire management to understand how to advance change. In this talk, I will discuss our work over the last several years understanding the barriers and opportunities specifically for increasing prescribed fire application on federal lands, focusing on lessons learned from case studies of forests that have grown their prescribed fire programs in recent years. I will look at cross-case themes as to the factors that impede the application of prescribed fire and facilitate its use. I use these lessons to draw broader implications about the path forward for improving fire management.

Courtney Schultz

Assistant Professor of Forest & Natural Resource Policy

Director of the Public Lands Policy Group at CSU

Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship

Colorado State University


I am an associate professor of forest and natural resource policy at Colorado State University. I investigate topics at the intersection of science and policy, and my recent work has focused on policy innovations to support collaborative landscape restoration, effective fire management, and climate change adaptation on US forestlands. I direct the Public Lands Policy Group (PLPG), a research group focused on US public lands policy and governance. We produce original research to inform the practice of natural resource management and advance understanding of policy developments that affect public lands.

Seminar Recording