Rural Perceptions of Wildfire Interaction with Grassland Conservation Incentive Programs

Authors: Audrey Joslin*, Kansas State University, Marcellus Caldas, Kansas State University, Jason Bergtold, Kansas State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Perception, Rural Geography
Keywords: wildfire, conservation, grasslands, perception
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Successively in 2016 and 2017, megafires burned across southern Kansas and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. In both cases, ranchers in the region were devastated. The wildfires burned infrastructure, killed thousands of livestock, and left pastures in ashes. One response of the US Department of Agriculture was to authorize grazing and haying within enrolled Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands. In the wake of wildfires, the CRP-enrolled grasslands appear as a tool for wildfire relief for ranchers by providing lands for emergency grazing and haying without penalties. Yet, popular media articles, ranching blogs, and limited research report anecdotes of local agricultural producers blaming the CRP for fueling both the frequency and extent of wildfires and calling for reforms CRP land management practices. This study draws upon over 70 interviews conducted across counties southern Kansas and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas to examine how wildfire interacts with the incentive mechanisms with the CRP program. Specifically, this research assesses the experience and range of perceptions regarding CRP land interactions with wildfire and outcomes to broader land management practices in and around CRP lands.

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