The Kathy and Steve Berman

Western Forest and Fire Initiative


at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability

With each wildfire season—as millions of acres of forestland and thousands of structures are lost—concerns grow about how human communities and forest ecosystems will continue to function and absorb the impacts of climate change and increasing fire risk. The challenge of adaptation is multi-faceted, with ecological, technical, economic, social, and political dimensions.

The Western Forest and Fire Initiative (WFFI) is an interdisciplinary working group of faculty, students, and postdoctoral fellows at University of Michigan. Our goals are to:

  • Improve understanding of the problematic relationship between wildfire, forests, and communities in a changing climate as a complex adaptive social-ecological system (SES).

  • Contribute to the development of better ways to manage this SES to reduce the risk of large wildfires, improve the vitality of human communities, and help society adapt to climate change.

We plan to pursue these goals in close collaboration with practitioners in the US West through transdisciplinary research; by working across disciplines to create new theories, methods, and applications.

WFFI in the News

Philanthropic Gift Establishes Berman Western Forest and Fire Initiative at SEAS - April 7, 2021 - The University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) announced today that it received a significant philanthropic gift to establish a program that will advance socially engaged, problem-oriented research on western forests, fires, and communities. Read More...

What is unique about WFFI?

Unlike many other research efforts, the WFFI approaches the problematic relationship between wildfire, forests, and communities in a changing climate as a complex adaptive social-ecological system (SES). Read more about our work.