Skip to main content

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

There is increasingly contentious scientific debate over how much high-severity fire should be considered “natural” in dry conifer forests across the western U.S. In many policy and management arenas this debate is a frustrating roadblock to effectively integrating science into decision-making, often promoting inaction. Inaction is not a solution to conservation problems. Fire is widely seen as one of the most important conservation uncertainties, and it directly affects the health and well-being of people living near fire-prone landscapes. Resources go toward legal battles instead of toward prioritized activities based on good science. To sustainably coexist with fire in the context of climate change, identifying common ground among fire researchers is crucial. At the same time, there is growing concern over how to best manage fire-prone landscapes in the face of an uncertain future. This working group will: 1) highlight the core research questions and datasets needed to make progress on these debates; 2) identify and articulate the consensus that already exists among fire scientists on the role of high severity fire in western coniferous forests, particularly in the context of ecosystem resilience under climate change; and 3) focus on policy and management decisions that do not hinge on resolving specific aspects of debate and provide recommendations for how to proceed on issues that do.

Principal Investigator(s)

Max A. Moritz, Craig D. Allen, Paul F. Hessburg, Penelope Morgan , Dennis C. Odion, Chris Topik, Thomas T. Veblen

Project Dates

Start: January 1, 2015

End: December 31, 2017



Craig D. Allen
Fort Collins Science Center, USGS
Julian R. Griggs
Dovetail Consulting Group
Paul F. Hessburg
USDA Forest Service
Ian McCullough
University of California, Santa Barbara
Penelope Morgan
University of Idaho
Max A. Moritz
University of California, Berkeley
Dennis C. Odion
University of California, Santa Barbara
Whitney Palanci
The Nature Conservancy
Chris Topik
The Nature Conservancy
Thomas T. Veblen
University of Colorado, Boulder


  1. Report or White Paper / 2016

    Project charter: Fire research consensus project

  2. Report or White Paper / 2017

    Summary of fire research consensus project phase 2 questionnaire responses

  3. Journal Article / 2018

    A Statement of Common Ground Regarding the Role of Wildfire in Forested Landscapes of the Western United States

Are you part of a working group or visiting NCEAS for another opportunity? Check out our page of resources for you.

Learn More