Firescapes of the Mid-Atlantic are understudied compared to other ecosystems in the United States, and little is known about the acceptance of prescribed fire as a forest management tool. Yet, this region harbors high levels of wildland-urban interface (WUI), has a close intermingling of land ownerships, and reflects substantial regional heterogeneity in burning histories and fire hazards. As prescribed fire is increasingly applied in the Mid-Atlantic as a critical tool to meet various land management objectives, research is needed to help managers understand community perceptions of prescribed fire implementation. Through intercept surveys of forest recreationists and online surveys of fire managers, this study investigates perceptions about prescribed fire use in the Mid-Atlantic, in addition to the critical contributing factors of public support toward prescribed fires. Two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were selected as case studies to explore regional differences in social perception due to their contrasts in fire history, policy, management objectives, and social exposure. Our results show moderate social awareness of local prescribed fires, moderate to high familiarity with prescribed burning, high agency trust, and strong community support toward prescribed fires. However, the perceived concerns and benefits differed between managers and forest recreationists and between recreationists from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The factors influencing the support of prescribed burning practices included forest management beliefs, concern about prescribed fire effects, familiarity with prescribed fires as a forest management tool, and awareness of local prescribed fires. Collectively, these results highlighted needs in public outreach to strengthen education, build broader community awareness, engage critical stakeholder groups such as forest recreationists, and re-align public outreach messages based on community-level concerns and perceived benefits. Additionally, it will be vital for the scientific community to help monitor critical shifts in forest value orientations and fill in significant research gaps regarding prescribed fire benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116100
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Nov 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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