Studying fire mitigation strategies in multi-ownership landscapes: Balancing the management of fire-dependent ecosystems and fire risk

Brian R. Sturtevant, Brian R. Miranda, Jian Yang, Hong S. He, Eric J. Gustafson, Robert M. Scheller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Public forests are surrounded by land over which agency managers have no control, and whose owners expect the public forest to be a "good neighbor." Fire risk abatement on multi-owner landscapes containing flammable but fire-dependent ecosystems epitomizes the complexities of managing public lands. We report a case study that applies a landscape disturbance and succession model (LANDIS) to evaluate the relative effectiveness of four alternative fire mitigation strategies on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (Wisconsin, USA), where fire-dependent pine and oak systems overlap with a rapidly developing wildland-urban interface (WUI). We incorporated timber management of the current forest plan and fire characteristics (ignition patterns, fire sizes, and fuel-specific fire spread rates) typical for the region under current fire suppression policies, using a combination of previously published fire analyses and interactive expert opinion from the national forest. Of the fire mitigation strategies evaluated, reduction of ignitions caused by debris-burning had the strongest influence on fire risk, followed by the strategic redistribution of risky forest types away from the high ignition rates of the WUI. Other treatments (fire breaks and reducing roadside ignitions) were less effective. Escaped fires, although rare, introduced significant uncertainty in the simulations and are expected to complicate fire management planning. Simulations also show that long-term maintenance of fire-dependent communities (that is, pine and oak) representing the greatest forest fire risk requires active management. Resolving conflict between the survival of fire-dependent communities that are regionally declining and continued rural development requires strategic planning that accounts for multi-owner activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-461
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was a collaborative effort between the authors and personnel from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, conducted through a series of workshops and personal interviews and funded by the National Fire Plan, to inform landscape-scale fire and fuel mitigation strategies for the Lakewood subdistrict. Key participants in the discussions and workshops include: Joel H. Skjerven, Jim Grant, Mary Lucas, Jay Saunders, John Lampereur, Al Harrison, Mark Theisen, and Geoff Chandler. We thank Robert Costanza (US Forest Service) for his assistance with model calibration and output summary. We are also grateful to Sue Stewart (US Forest Service), Roger Hammer (Oregon State University), Volker Radeloff (University of Wisconsin), and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript.


  • Fire regime
  • Fire risk mitigation
  • Forest management
  • Forest succession
  • Rural development
  • Simulation modeling
  • Wildland-urban interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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