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Institutional Effects on Decision Making on Public Lands: An Interagency Examination of Wildfire Management


Derek Reiners is visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of Florida. He earned his doctoral degree at Indiana University, where he studied in the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. His research examines the institutional and cognitive dimensions of decision making in public policy.


A significant increase in catastrophic wildfires in the interior West of the United States has left public land agencies scrambling to reduce dangerous fuel loads and manage forests according to an ecological understanding of fire and forest health. However, this has not translated into standardized on-the-ground fire and fuel management in public land agencies. Different on-the-ground management practices raise questions about the extent to which ecosystems management is being utilized and how well land agencies are adapting to their new responsibilities. This study employs an institutional analysis and development framework to examine how and why on-the-ground decisions and outcomes differ. Decisions and outcomes are discussed as a function of the multiple layers of institutions that guide and constrain the decision processes of line officers who are responsible for developing and executing fire and fuel management projects.