A Modern Overview of Wildfire Law
21 Fordham Environmental Law Review 445 (2011)
29 Pages Posted: 22 May 2012 Last revised: 1 Apr 2017
Date Written: May 21, 2012
Wildfire presents an unprecedented and growing threat to America's forests. A variety of factors have combined to create some of the worst and largest wildfires in modern history. The negative effects from wildfires stretch beyond environmental concerns; wildfire suppression costs are also an enormous drain on increasingly-tight public funds. Yet, the destructiveness of wildfire, unlike other natural disasters, can be substantially lessened and contained through suppression or firefighting, activity. Public policies, enacted by legislatures and carried out by government agencies and private actors, have the potential to dramatically reduce wildfire's incredible ecological costs and drain on public resources.
Despite the potential for policy changes to produce profound benefits, little legislative effort has been made to understand or stem the causes of wildfire spread and funding increases. Similarly, legal literature has historically ignored the topic of wildfire. Wildfire has only gained note in academia recently, and still only in limited areas concentrated around clusters of administrative and environmental law. The current level of minimal attention is shocking given the helpful policy suggestions legal academics could contribute.
This article seeks to overcome the reticence of legal thinkers to engage in this unfamiliar but important area by providing a brief background of the aspects of wildfire most pertinent to legal analysis. In particular, this article assesses the incentive structures that guide the actions of government firefighting suppression agencies, wildland urban interface owners, and private institutional landowners, who often have conflicting views on the appropriate treatment of wildfire suppression efforts.
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