Wildfire Mitigation Scenarios for the Okanagan: Assessing social-ecological tradeoffs

Residents of the Okanagan are aware of the profound impact wildfires can have on our landscape and community. Large high-severity fires can threaten infrastructure, agriculture, water resources, tourism, and much more. Over the past century, western fire mitigation strategies have focused almost exclusively on fire suppression, causing an accumulation of fuels that further increases the risk of large high-severity wildfires. Little research has been devoted to exploring the social and ecological impacts of alternative wildfire mitigation efforts. Determining mitigation strategies that maximize ecological benefits and achieve desired outcomes (e.g., decreased fire risk) while also satisfying stakeholder interests and concerns can be challenging when there is uncertainty about future ecological states and outcomes. This project aims to address the lack of knowledge concerning the wide range of effects stemming from alternative wildfire mitigation techniques.

The goal of my project is to develop a spatial model of the Okanagan landscape that can be used to explore the social, ecological, and economic tradeoffs of different fire mitigation strategies for our communities.  Insights will be provided on the effectiveness of fire mitigation strategies for the Okanagan by creating models that will allow quantification of their social and ecological impacts. Recently collected LiDAR data for the Okanagan will be used to quantify fuel loads in the region as well as burn probability surfaces using tools such as Burn-P3. I will seek expert and stakeholder input into what mitigation strategies might be acceptable, and what key concerns exist regarding the impacts of wildfire.

There is a growing need for landscape-scale wildfire management strategies that are adapted to the “new normal” of wildfire regimes and that consider multiple social and ecological values. My research will contribute to developing such management strategies for landscapes in Western Canada. The information gathered from this project will provide meaningful information about wildfire management in the Okanagan to local stakeholders.

Research Questions:

My research will be guided by the following questions:

  1. 1) What do local stakeholders’ value on the Okanagan landscape?
  2. How can wildfire management strategies be optimized by considering multiple social and ecological values?
  3. What are the social and ecological trade-offs associated with different wildfire management strategies?
  4. How can we assess the impacts of wildfire mitigation on social and ecological values?
  5. What strategies have the greatest overall stakeholder agreement?

Study Area

Study Area

Figure 1. Okanagan Basin in British Columbia. Produced by Mike Scinocca

Project Support

Funding for this project is supported by the New Frontiers Research Fund.

This project is supervised by Dr. Lael Parrott and Dr. Mathieu Bourbonnais at UBC Okanagan.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact me: