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The Agricultural and Applied Economics Association presented its top national thesis award to a 2014 University of Wyoming master’s graduate for her research into fire suppression costs.
Anna Scofield’s thesis suggests the spatial pattern of development in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) can be just as effective reducing fire suppression costs as policies that restrict all development, says Don McLeod, associate professor in the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and Scofield’s adviser.
“Such results provide important fodder for the ongoing policy debates surrounding the WUI, especially in the West where private property rights are closely guarded,” he says.
The U.S. Forest Service bears most of the responsibility for fire suppression but has no control over residential development, which is the responsibility of local governments.
McLeod says Scofield’s work provides theoretical and empirical models that relate fire suppression efforts to residential development in new ways.
Scofield worked 10 years as a wildland firefighter before pursuing her graduate degree.
“She brought a wealth of personal experience and technical on-the-ground knowledge to the research,” McLeod says. “It was her unique perspective that led us to focusing on the spatial pattern of development.”
Scofield, who now lives in Klamath Falls, Ore., received several awards while a student in the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She received the 2013 Vanvig Graduate Fellowship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and the Wyoming chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta honor society’s master’s student award in 2014. She presented information at the Association of Fire Ecology in 2012 and is co-author of a 2013 book chapter.
Her thesis work -- with help from committee members, Associate Professors Ben Rashford, Roger Coupal and McLeod, and research scientists Scott Lieske and Shannon Albeke -- is being formatted into a journal article for submission this summer.