Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rural land use policies curb wildfire risks -- to a point

Date:
October 8, 2013
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
Using Montana's fast-growing Flathead County as a template, a Washington State University researcher has found that moderately restrictive land-use policies can significantly curb the potential damage of rural wildfires. However, highly restrictive planning laws will not do much more.

Paveglio built a model predicting future wildfire-related losses based on current development trends, fire patterns and projected climate change up to the year 2059.
Credit: Ingus Evertovskis / Fotolia

Using Montana's fast-growing Flathead County as a template, a Washington State University researcher has found that moderately restrictive land-use policies can significantly curb the potential damage of rural wildfires. However, highly restrictive planning laws will not do much more.

"Effective land-use planning can reduce wildfire risk," says Travis Paveglio, a clinical assistant professor in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication whose research focuses on wildfire, environmental hazards and natural resource management. "However, it's one of a suite of influences and you have to take all of those influences together to understand its impact."

Paveglio's study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appears in the latest Journal of Environmental Management.

Working with colleague Tony Prato at the University of Missouri and others, Paveglio built a model predicting future wildfire-related losses based on current development trends, fire patterns and projected climate change up to the year 2059. The county has grown dramatically in the past two decades, with many people drawn to environmental amenities like Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, national forests and ski resorts.

"You can be in a portion of Flathead County and be as rural as you would expect anywhere in the Northwest," says Paveglio, "but you can also be up by Whitefish and be around one of the early financiers of Google."

Rural residents have been threatened by blistering wildfires, including two 50,000-acre-plus fires in 2003 and the 99,090-acre Chippy Creek Fire in 2007.

Paveglio and his colleagues focused on current land-use policies and built a model estimating potential wildfire-related residential losses. The model predicted that, under the land-use policies of 2010, residential losses would increase 17-fold by 2059 with cumulative losses of more than $79 million.

Under increased but still "moderately restrictive" policies, residential losses from wildfire increased 10-fold. Highly restrictive policies showed a nine-fold increase in losses -- less than with the other two policies, but not much improvement over the moderately restrictive ones.

The findings apply only to Flathead County, not other parts of the West, says Paveglio. But the researchers' model can be applied to other places using data specific to those regions, he says.

Paveglio says the researchers focused on the county's overall land-use policies with an eye toward building a flexible tool that can consider wildfire risk in concert with more typical planning criteria like environmental concerns and aesthetics.

"For any planner, there are going to be a lot of trade-offs," he says. "Fire is just one of the things that they have to deal with. So this is one tool that they can look at, but ultimately they're going to be making a decision based on a lot of things."

If communities want to concentrate on just the impact of wildfire, they will need to look at a different set of tools besides conventional land-use planning.

"This is an effective first step in showing that land-use policies can help," he says. "Now we need to explore how much fire-specific policies contribute to reducing residential losses."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Travis B. Paveglio, Tony Prato, Michael Hardy. Simulating effects of land use policies on extent of the wildland urban interface and wildfire risk in Flathead County, Montana. Journal of Environmental Management, 2013; 130: 20 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.08.036

Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "Rural land use policies curb wildfire risks -- to a point." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131008091723.htm>.
Washington State University. (2013, October 8). Rural land use policies curb wildfire risks -- to a point. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131008091723.htm
Washington State University. "Rural land use policies curb wildfire risks -- to a point." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131008091723.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Health officials say 2,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to weather, but it's excessive heat and cold that claim the most lives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins