Barriers and enablers for prescribed burns for wildfire management in California

Rebecca K. Miller, Christopher B. Field, Katharine J. Mach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Prescribed burns to reduce fuel can mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires. However, multiple barriers limit their deployment, resulting in their underutilization, particularly in forests. We evaluate sociopolitical barriers and opportunities for greater deployment in California, an area recurrently affected by catastrophic fires. We use a mixed-methods approach combining expert interviews, state legislative policy analysis and prescribed-burn data from state records. We identify three categories of barriers. Risk-related barriers (fear of liability and negative public perceptions) prevent landowners from beginning the burn planning process. Both resource-related barriers (limited funding, crew availability and experience) and regulations-related barriers (poor weather conditions for burning and environmental regulations) prevent landowners from conducting burns, creating a gap between planning and implementation. Recent policies have sought to address mainly risk-related challenges, although these and regulations-related challenges remain. Fundamental shifts in prescribed-burn policies, beyond those currently under consideration, are needed to address wildfires in California and worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-109
Number of pages9
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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