[JMP] Wildfire and Visitation in U.S. National Parks


The recent rapid increase in wildfire activity due to climate change poses unprecedented challenges to park managers working to mitigate fire risk using limited resources. This paper estimates the effect of wildfires on visitation to 32 national parks across the western U.S. Using a comprehensive dataset on wildfire and smoke, I provide the first large-scale evidence of the negative relationship between wildfire activity and park visitation. I find that, on average, wildfires reduce national park visits by about 700,000 per year and this reduction is disproportionately larger for popular parks with a high level of fire activities. These effects can be explained by a lack of access due to emergency closures throughout the season. I also investigate the global externalities associated with wildfire smoke and find that travelers are not responsive to the smoke from distant sources to a significant degree. These results demonstrate the importance of local adaptation efforts in mitigating economic loss in tourism arising from wildfire avoidance.

Job Market Paper
Chang Cai
Chang Cai
PhD Student in Applied Economics

My research interests include parks, outdoor recreation, and adaptation to climate change and extreme events.