Key finding : Government agency choices regarding fuel treatment locations are influenced by where wildfire is most salient.

After communities experience a salient natural disaster, they may press government officials to prevent similar future disasters. SERI Fire examines how salient wildfire events shape wildfire risk management policies using data from over ten years of fuel reduction projects and fire occurrences across the western U.S. Using panel data econometric methods, we find that government land managers are more likely to place fuels reduction projects, such as forest thinning or controlled burns, near communities that have recently experienced wildfires (findings).

Choosing where to place fuel reduction projects according to where wildfire risk is most salient may result in less effective projects—fuel projects are likely to have smaller impacts in areas where fires have already removed substantial fuels. Further, salience driven management may have implications for inequality. If the placement of fuels projects on public lands is driven by constituent-demands, constituents with greater political influence may disproportionately benefit from risk reduction projects (future link). On-going work examines whether government responses to salience-driven constituent demands vary by demographic characteristics of communities.