Wildfire perceptions largely positive after hiking in a burned landscape

March 26, 2020

When hikers returned to UC Davis
Among the survey responses: "This area is restoring itself." "Awe-inspiring." "Nature is always changing, sometimes sad. Today I felt hopeful."

Results of the survey,
International Journal of Wildland Fire, indicate that people understand and appreciate the role of fire in natural landscapes more than is perceived.

"People can have really largely positive experiences hiking in a place that has burned," said lead author Alexandra Weill, who conducted the survey while a graduate student researcher in Professor Andrew Latimer's lab in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. "They engage in it and find it very interesting and surprisingly beautiful. That can be used as a tool in education and outreach as places around us recover from wildfire."

GETTING THE PRESCRIBED BURN MESSAGE

Survey responses were gathered from about 600 people between May 2016 and June 2017. Responses indicate that most participants -- about 70 percent -- were getting the message that prescribed burns can benefit ecosystems and reduce the threat of catastrophic fire.

Survey participants were highly familiar with the narrative of the West's history of fire suppression and fairly familiar with fire topics related to conifer forests. But they were less knowledgeable about fire's history and role in the shrublands and woodlands that dominate much of Northern California.

Several of the state's most devastating recent fires -- the Camp Fire in Paradise, Tubbs and Kinkade fires in Santa Rosa, the Mendocino Complex fire -- were in environments including oak, woodland and chaparral, such as at Stebbins Cold Canyon. Fires in these areas burn differently than those in conifer forests.

This disconnect could indicate a gap in fire outreach and education. Weill suggested that educators and agencies adjust the narrative to reflect people's local landscape.

NUANCED VIEWS

While positive responses were far more common than expected, most people held mixed views regarding effects of the fire. For example: "I know it's good, but it's sad when it's out of control and people lose homes." "I understand [it] needs to happen -- but devastating!"

Such wariness is not surprising but it is illuminating, Weill said.

"People have more nuanced opinions than we give them credit for in understanding positive and negative effects of fire, but also difficulty in reconciling what they know about good fire versus what they see in the news or personal experiences," said Weill.
-end-
ABOUT STEBBINS COLD CANYON NATURAL RESERVE

Stebbins Cold Canyon is part of the University of California's Natural Reserve System and is operated by UC Davis.

The reserve is currently closed to the public following state and county stay-at-home directives related to COVID-19. (Read the

Thank you!" full closure statement on the reserve's website.)

Located about 20 miles west of main campus, university researchers and citizen scientists use the reserve as a field site and outdoor classroom. Seasonal springs provide watering areas for wildlife. When open, a public hiking trail leads roughly 50,000 hikers each year past grasslands, blue oaks, woodlands and chaparral, and up a ridgeline that offers sweeping views of Lake Berryessa. In July 2015, the Wragg Fire burned about 8,050 acres before it was fully contained two weeks later.

This study was funded by the UC Natural Reserve System.

Additional co-authors include Andrew Latimer and Lauren Watson in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

University of California - Davis

Related Hikers Returned Articles from Brightsurf:

Faster COVID-19 testing with simple algebraic equations
A mathematician from Cardiff University has developed a new method for processing large volumes of COVID-19 tests which he believes could lead to significantly more tests being performed at once and results being returned much quicker.

Camera traps show impact of recreational activity on wildlife
The COVID-19 pandemic has fired up interest in outdoor activities in our parks and forests.

As domestic violence spikes, many victims and their children have nowhere to live
COVID-19 has left many victims of domestic violence facing difficulties feeding their children and accessing services for safe housing, transportation and childcare once they leave shelters, according to a Rutgers study published in the journal Violence Against Women.

Independent search engines respect your privacy but give more visibility to misinformation
Anti-vaccine websites, which could play a key role in promoting public hesitancy about a potential COVID vaccine, are far more likely to be found via independent search engines than through an internet giant like Google.

Why hydration is so important when hiking in the heat of summer
A recent study showed that compared to moderate weather conditions, hikers' performance during hot weather was impaired, resulting in slower hiking speeds and prolonged exposure to the elements, thus increasing their risk of heat-related illness.

Study on firms' return policies offers guidance on pricing, returns, refunds
A new study examined the decisions around the pricing and return policies of a retailer with both stores and online sales to help explain why some firms opt to fully refund customers for their returns while others charge a fee for online returns.

Wildfire perceptions largely positive after hiking in a burned landscape
Results from pre- and post-hike surveys of a burned landscape indicate that people understand and appreciate the role of fire in natural landscapes more than is perceived.

When it comes to conservation, ditch the 'canary in the coal mine'
With habitat loss threatening the extinction of an ever-growing number of species around the world, many wildlife advocates and conservation professionals rely on the proverbial 'canary in the coal mine'--monitoring and protecting a single representative species--to maintain healthy wildlife biodiversity.

Siri, help me quit -- what does your smart device say when you ask for help with addiction?
A new study published in Nature Partner Journal's Digital Medicine finds that the leading intelligent virtual assistants fail to understand questions about where to find help for substance misuse.

Jackdaws learn from each other about 'dangerous' humans
Jackdaws can learn from each other to identify 'dangerous' humans, new research shows.

Read More: Hikers Returned News and Hikers Returned Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.