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


Millions of people flock to U.S. national parks, and western national parks have become increasingly popular among visitors, providing an irreplaceable opportunity for enjoyment. Yet that most parks’ peak visitation season coincides with fire season, which is projected to last longer with more severe fires in the future. As burned area has tripled over the last three decades, intensifying fires pose unprecedented challenges to park managers on how risk from fires should be mitigated with limited resources during extended peak seasons. This paper estimates how visitors may respond to increasing wildfire activities at 32 western national parks. The monthly visitation loss is up to 0.5% per thousand acres burned and the impact carries over to the following month. The visitation impact is prominent for fires of large size and/or burning within the park boundary. I then explore the relative importance of possible channels through which visitors are likely to respond to contemporaneous wildfires, and find that lack of access due to emergency closures over the course of the season might be one of the main channels.

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Chang Cai
Chang Cai
PhD Student in Applied Economics

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