UNH News Release: UNH Receives Grant to Study Climate Change Adaptation in Wildfire-Prone Area
May 7, 2014
UNH Receives Grant to Study Climate Change Adaptation in Wildfire-Prone Area

DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture to study climate change adaptation in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, an area that is prone to wildfires and drought that have impacted the area’s economy.

Building on previous community and environment research through the Carsey Institute at UNH, the grant is a partnership between Joel Hartter from the University of Colorado, Mark Ducey from the UNH Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Larry Hamilton from the UNH Department of Sociology, Michael Palace from the Earth Systems Research Center at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, Forrest Stevens from the University of Florida, Paul Oester from Oregon State University College of Forestry Extension, and Nils Christoffersen of Wallowa Resources in Enterprise, Oregon. 

Rural communities in the American West are facing new realities. Traditional livelihoods in ranching, farming, and forest products have changed because of new markets, policies, and new people moving to the area resulting in diversified management of working lands. At the same time, there is a build-up of fuel loads in forests because of forest management policies. A changing climate further increases forest vulnerability to fire.

“The goal of this four-year study is to understand how people manage their lands for changing weather, local economies, and wildfire risk,” said Hartter. “It will help landowners and community members understand how their local area has been impacted by climate change and identify land management and resource allocation strategies to deal with the increased chances of droughts, wildfires, insect-related issues, and other weather-related impacts that can have a significant effect on the local economy.”

The researchers will engage landowners about land use, ecological changes, risks, and economic opportunities. They will also use small unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite imagery along with extensive field measurements of forests to evaluate forest conditions. Researchers then will work closely with Wallowa Resources and extension agents from Oregon State University to develop educational programs for K-12, college students, and the general public.

“By providing an integrated social and biophysical assessment of vulnerability to climate change and variability in the Blue Mountains, we hope that landowners, community members and civic leaders will be better prepared for the uncertainties of future conditions and be able to better prioritize management decisions when it comes to their lands and forests,” Ducey said.

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,300 undergraduate and 2,200 graduate students.

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Media Contact: Erika Mantz | 603-862-1567 | UNH Media Relations | @unhnews

Secondary Contact: Joel Hatter | 303-492-9164 | University of Colorado
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