Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

James Burchfield

Commitee Members

Ronald Wakimoto, William Borrie, Cameron Lawrence, Irene Appelbaum


Forest Service Fuels Managment Planning, Wildland Fire Policy


University of Montana


This dissertation investigates the history and development of wildland fire and fuels management policy in the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the implementation of this policy in fuels management project planning at the national forest and ranger district levels. The policy guiding fuels management is broad and ambiguous but may be summarized as: 1) reducing the risks posed by wildland fire and 2) restoring or maintaining ecosystem health and sustainability. Wildland fire management policy is interagency in scope, including input from state governments and is dispersed among a multitude of policy and strategy documents, such as the 1995/2001 Federal Wildland Fire Policy, successive fire policy implementation guidelines as well as the various documents collectively known as the National Fire Plan. To these policy documents have been added the legislation and regulatory enactments of the Healthy Forest Initiative. The relationship between these policy and strategy documents and these legislative and regulatory enactments is not well defined nor are concepts such as risk, restoration and ecosystem health or sustainability. There is no clear guidance for determining environmental conditions or management actions that contribute to risk or sustainability or for adjudicating conflicts between them. This research examined three national forests in the Forest Service Northern Region; the Bitterroot, Helena and Kootenai, to understand how fuels management project proposals are developed and to identify the key factors that affect this development. The results suggest that fuels management project proposals are developed within a loosely defined process called NFMA analysis. It is an iterative process of negotiation with specialists from other resource management programs in which a project’s objectives and treatments are refined and defined. This research suggests that the key factors that affect the development of project proposals are fuels management acreage targets and the budget associated with this target and the costs associated with data collection and analysis estimated by managers to be necessary for regulatory and policy compliance and to mitigate the threat of litigation. Some recommendations are offered in the context of current efforts to develop a cohesive wildfire management strategy and new forest planning regulations.



© Copyright 2010 Erik K. Hakanson