5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Wednesday, 19 November 2003: 1:30 PM
Characteristics and location of the wildland-urban interface in the United States
Susan I. Stewart, USDA Forest Service, Evanston, IL; and V. C. Radeloff and R. B. Hammer
Poster PDF (426.2 kB)
The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is an area with great significance for resource management. The WUI is “the area where structures and other human developments meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland,” and is widely referenced in wildland fire policy. Rapid housing development during the 1990s at the urban fringe and in rural areas — commonly called sprawl—almost certainly put more homes and property in the Wildland-Urban Interface. Yet despite its significance in strategic planning and management, we know little about its actual location and characteristics and virtually nothing about its change over time.

Using U.S. Census data and the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD), we mapped, analyzed and summarized the size and extent of the WUI in the lower 48 states for the year 2000. Our analysis reveals which communities, how many homes, and how much land lies within both intermix- and interface-type WUI. We also developed methods using historic housing density data to reconstruct the WUI over the past 6 decades and to project the future location and extent of the WUI. These methods have been successfully applied in the North Central region and WUI projections for other regions are scheduled for upcoming years. In this presentation we will display our results using national, regional, and multi-county maps and summary statistics. We will discuss forecasting, sensitivity analysis, and future research plans, and the implications of WUI dynamics for the future of this critical area.

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