Local Capacity to Engage in Federal Wildfire Suppression Efforts: An Explanation of Variability in Local Capture of Suppression Contracts

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Forest Science

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The US National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy emphasizes the importance of resilient forests and local community capacity in preparation for and response to wildfires. Despite this emphasis, it is unclear whether local business capacity is a predictor of local participation in federally managed wildfire response. Drawing on concepts from economic geography, we hypothesize that the local capture of federal contracting during large wildfire suppression events will be greater in counties that have more firms experienced with federal natural resource management contracting. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the contracting patterns of 135 large wildfire suppression efforts and found that local capture of suppression contracting was higher for fires that occurred in counties where there were more vendors involved in federal, non-fire-related contracting. Counties with more diversified economies were also more likely to capture suppression contracting opportunities than counties with more specialized economies. Our findings suggest that the resilient forests and fire-adapted community goals envisioned by the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy can be supported by the development of natural resource management capacity that is nationally decentralized and locally diversified.


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