A recent briefing paper from the Ecosystem Workforce Program highlights research implications from the analysis of 113 Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

Topic: Planning Type: Tools / Resources

Briefing Paper: CWPPs in the American West

Authors: Molly Mowery

The Ecosystem Workforce Program (EWP) recently released a briefing paper that examined 113 Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) in ten western states affected by large wildfires between 2004 and 2011. The research primarily focused on analyzing these CWPPs to better understand plan variability.

The analysis found a wide range of plans and strategies that varied in terms of structure (e.g., length), content (e.g., risk reduction, institutional and implementation strategies) and development (e.g., consultant involvement or community-driven).  For example, plans ranged from nine to 339 pages in length and the number of stakeholders involved also varied considerably.

There were also commonalities: the majority of CWPPs identified fuel reduction strategies, such as the creation of defensible space, creation of fuel breaks, and forest stand thinning. Other common features were that many plans (89 percent) offered guidance on altering homeowner behavior through outreach and education to encourage voluntary actions. The research also showed that most of the CWPPs focused on professionalized fire response rather than developing homeowner or volunteer capacity.

Perhaps most importantly, the research revealed opportunities for consideration to improve the CWPP development process. Of the CWPPs analyzed:

  • Only one-quarter included plans for residential fire-resistant landscaping;
  • Very few (less than 5 percent) discussed homeowner certification standards for fire mitigation;
  • Less than one-quarter encouraged community volunteer development.

Research implications also offered insight into the implementation process. In general, they found that plans were lacking the necessary elements to implement proposed strategies. Consultant-led plans were more likely to included implementation resources, schedules and costs as opposed to non-consultant-led plans (it should be noted that the research also indicated that consultant involvement has the potential to strengthen OR undermine the overall value of plans, depending on other factors). The briefing paper’s closing statement offers FAC practitioners this opportunity: “As CWPPs are revised and updated, there is ample room for diversification, improvement and community engagement.”

More information on this research and other wildfire resilience projects, including a recent briefing paper on FAC and the importance of social diversity, can be found on EWP’s website: http://ewp.uoregon.edu/wfresilience.

More about the Ecosystem Workforce Program: EWP was founded in 1994 to support the development of a high-skill, high-wage ecosystem management industry in the Pacific Northwest. Since that time, EWP has fostered forest-based sustainable rural development in forest communities by developing restoration workforce training curriculum and supporting local quality jobs programs in forest communities. EWP supports community-based forestry programs through applied research projects, such as understanding the distribution of benefits from federal forest management and the working conditions of forest workers. They also support community-based forestry by working collaboratively with forest communities to educate national policy makers about impacts of forest policy on forest communities and landscapes.