Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Professor Jody Jahn

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to understand communicative issues of trust between residents of wildland-urban interfaces and land managers, and how residents make sense of fuel treatments. Residents are often surprised by the large scale of fuel treatment activities, which can lead to opposition. This study explores the problem by using theorizing on sensemaking, which draws attention to the ways people construct a narrative account of situations they don’t understand. Using a small WUI community as a case study, this thesis examines the ongoing conflict around the implementation of a fuel treatment project, Forsythe II. Qualitative interviews and focus groups with N=31 residents were used, and cross coded for active sensemaking and trust. This study found that WUI residents construct narratives to make sense of fuel treatments, and those narratives were grounded in ways they enacted their personal identity within the forest and landscape (e.g., through recreation and lifestyle). Residents’ sensemaking narratives included plausible (but not necessarily accurate) comparisons between local and geographically-distant fuel treatments activities in order to justify their position on Forsythe II and evaluate land manager trustworthiness. Residents also made sense through extracted cues from the landscape: where residents perceived that the landscape was damaged by a fuel treatment, they were more likely to find the land managers to be untrustworthy. Through enactment of their personal identity in symbolically important landscapes, residents contribute to their own narrative sense about fuel treatments. Future recommendations for enabling trust includes empowering residents to volunteer, participate, and become invested in future projects, as well as better utilizing local resources to foster engagement.

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