The role of community policies in defensible space compliance

Greg Winter, Sarah McCaffrey, Christine A. Vogt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Recently enacted federal and state policies provide incentives, including financial assistance, for local jurisdictions to manage risks associated with wildland fire. This has led to an array of local-level policies designed to encourage homeowners to create fire-safe landscapes. This qualitative study collected data from focus group interviews with homeowners in three diverse communities and used the theory of reasoned action to interpret dimensions of local-level wildland fire policies that are associated with homeowner acceptance of or compliance with defensible space guidelines or regulations. Common factors emerged in two policy evaluation categories: acceptance and compliance. WUI homeowners are more accepting of policies that are seen as fair and part of a more comprehensive risk reduction strategy. Topics that shaped acceptance of voluntary versus mandatory approaches included perceived risk severity, views about the proper roles of government, and beliefs about alternatives to regulatory approaches (e.g. private insurance, education, ignition source reduction). Program characteristics that were found to be related to beliefs about defensible space and acceptance included provision of one-on-one expert consultation, direct mail communication modes, needs-based financial assistance, and enhanced yard waste disposal options. Homeowner compliance is related to the feasibility in terms of household costs and yard waste disposal options, neighborhood norms, competing land use objectives, insurance considerations, and whether or not the policy is mandatory. These findings led to a proposed conceptual model of vegetation management policy acceptance and compliance that local governments can use to develop or amend defensible space vegetation management policies to increase policy acceptance and compliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-578
Number of pages9
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Defensible space
  • Homeowner practices
  • Mandatory policy
  • Vegetation management
  • Voluntary incentives
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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