The Kathy and Steve Berman 

Western Forest and Fire Initiative

at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability

As the forested landscapes of the US West experience more and more wildfires, smoke events, and power shut-offs, it is becoming clear that human and ecological communities must adjust their way of functioning to reduce risk. 

We aim to improve understanding of human and ecological adaptation to wildfire risk as a complex system with the goal of informing policy and management interventions to break these pathological positive feedback loops and improve the suitability of human and ecological communities to the changing environment. 

What's unique about the WFFI?


We acknowledge that one of the features of wildfire risk that makes it so difficult to adapt to is that there are synergistic relationships between problems and solutions. The social, ecological, and technical causes and consequences of wildfire risk interact to form positive feedbacks that exacerbate undesirable aspects of wildfire risk.

Knowledge Co-production

Our team believes that the purpose of academic research should be to advance the well-being of society. We also believe that people who are grappling with how to manage wildfire risk in practice on a day-to-day basis hold critical knowledge about the nature of the problem and how it can and ought to be solved. 

Project Spotlights

WFFI in the News

Wildfire Smoke is Reversing Years of US Air Quality  - Sept 20, 2023 -  A new study published in Nature found that since 2016, wildfire smoke has undone 25 percent of air quality improvements achieved since 2000....Read more 

USDA Forest Service Forms Northwest Forest Plan Federal Advisory Committee - July 7, 2023 - Heidi Huber-Stearns, the Theodore Roosevelt Associate Visiting Professor of Practice at the SEAS, has been appointed to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Advisory Committee to provide advice on modernizing landscape management across national forests within the Northwest Forest Plan area in Washington, Oregon and Northern California... Read more 

SEAS Prof Kyle Whyte Contributes to Historic Executive Order on Environmental Justice Signed by Pres. Biden        - April 24, 2023 - The executive order Biden signed...adds to the environmental justice agenda he set forth in his first week in office, advancing the administration’s efforts to help communities that have faced persistent environmental injustices... Read more 

The WFFI is generously funded by a donation from Steve and Kathy Berman