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The US Fire Learning Network: Springing a Rigidity Trap through Multiscalar Collaborative Networks

William Hale Butler, Florida State University
Bruce Evan Goldstein, University of Colorado, Denver

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Abstract

Wildland fire management in the United States is caught in a rigidity trap, an inability to apply novelty and innovation in the midst of crisis. Despite wide recognition that public agencies should engage in ecological fire restoration, fire suppression still dominates planning and management, and restoration has failed to gain traction. The U.S. Fire Learning Network (FLN), a multiscalar collaborative endeavor established in 2002 by federal land management agencies and The Nature Conservancy, offers the potential to overcome barriers that inhibit restoration planning and management. By circulating people, planning products, and information among landscape- and regional-scale collaboratives, this network has facilitated the development and dissemination of innovative approaches to ecological fire restoration. Through experimentation and innovation generated in the network, the FLN has fostered change by influencing fire and land management plans as well as federal policy. We suggest that multiscalar collaborative planning networks such as the FLN can facilitate overcoming the rigidity traps that prevent resource management agencies from responding to complex cross-scalar problems.

Key words

collaborative planning; ecological fire restoration; fire management; FLN; learning networks; multiscalar networks; resilience; rigidity trap; U.S. Fire Learning Network
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087