Firesmart Forestwise Thesis: Managing Wildfire and Wildfire Risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface

This is a Master’s thesis by Alan Lawrence Westhaver, as part of the Firesmart – Forestwise project, which was a collaboration involving fRI Research (then the Foothills Model Forest), Jasper National Park, and others.


Preventing the occurrence of wildfires that threaten homes and communities is a growing priority in Canada. To reduce risk, a consistent set of standards for managing forest fuel has been adopted. However, these largely disregard concerns for wildlife and wildlife habitat. Managing fuels appropriately in the wildland/urban interface necessitates that knowledge of potential impacts and the requirements of wildlife be considered. This research combined literature evaluation with experimental manipulations to develop ecologically based approaches for managing fuel in ways that optimize conditions for wildlife, within constraints of current risk management standards. This research was conducted during a 30-month prototype project covering more than 200 hectares of forest surrounding the community of Jasper, Alberta. The study concludes that fuel management for the purpose of reducing wildfire risk can be compatible with wildlife conservation and presents a series of species-specific mitigations, guidelines, and best practices suited to communities or individual homes.