Communicating the wildland fire message : an investigation of agency outreach strategies Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/x920g076h

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  • Wildfire impacts have increased in recent years. The management response outlined by recent policy initiatives (e.g., the National Fire Plan, Healthy Forests Restoration Act) emphasizes the use of prescribed fire and mechanized thinning to reduce the risk of future fire events. These policies also call for an unprecedented level of collaboration with outside stakeholders, including citizens in forest communities. Accordingly, resource professionals need tools to help them communicate the fire message and encourage others to share the responsibility of fire management. Agency outreach activities will play an important role in these efforts. In many locations federal agencies already have focused their outreach efforts on increasing citizen understanding of, and support for, fuel reduction activities. Traditional, unidirectional formats (e.g., brochures, public meetings, interpretive programs) have been in use for years, while interactive forms of information exchange (e.g., field tours, demonstration sites) have recently begun to emerge. However, agency personnel have limited resources for outreach programs and must make informed choices about how to allocate their time and efforts. This dissertation is intended to help inform these decisions. Findings are presented in three distinct manuscripts. The first manuscript uses principles from adult learning theory (based on the concept of andragogy) to explore citizen evaluations of eleven commonly used outreach methods in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah. Findings suggest interactive formats were more effective than methods consisting of a one-way flow of information. The second manuscript evaluates the outcomes of two communication strategies in Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks in central California and the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon. Results support the importance of interaction; participants in interactive activities were more likely to experience knowledge and attitude change. However, both interactive and unidirectional programs influenced participants with low initial understanding of fire management or less supportive attitudes toward fuel practices. The third manuscript draws on the findings presented above as well as a review of related literature to develop a framework for implementing public communication strategies. The framework provides guiding principles and organizing questions to help managers develop and implement outreach activities that meet their communication objectives.
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