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State lines, fire lines, and lines of authority: Rangeland fire management and bottom-up cooperative federalism

Abrams, Jesse, Wollstein, Katherine, Davis, Emily Jane
Land use policy 2018 v.75 pp. 252-259
decision making, environmental governance, federal government, fire science and management, governmental programs and projects, issues and policy, land management, landowners, landscapes, local government, models, public lands, rangelands, teams, Idaho, Oregon
Environmental governance on federal lands in the US West has been transformed by the increasing authority of state and local governments and nongovernmental actors in decision-making and policy implementation. Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs), state-authorized volunteer fire response teams made up of resource users in remote rangeland landscapes, are emblematic of recent innovations in federal land management that involve enhanced authority and responsibility on the part of non-federal actors. RFPAs are a model of community-based fire management that meets local landowners’ interests in property protection while providing fire control and conservation benefits to state and federal land management agencies. This study examines the role of state agencies and policies as mediators between communities and federal agencies by comparing the design and implementation of RFPA programs in the states of Oregon and Idaho. We find that small differences in these state programs led to potentially important distinctions in agency-resource user relationships and in the resulting patterns of policy implementation. The RFPA experience suggests that state policy design and institutionalization can strongly shape the evolution of intergovernmental and agency-community dynamics.