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David Flores, Rebekah L. Fox, Jody L. Jahn, Craig Conley, Satoris S. Howes, Joel O. Iverson, Steven J. Venette, Emily Haire, Cathelijine Stoof
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Decisionmaking & Sensemaking
Organizational Learning & Innovation
Management Approaches

NRFSN number: 26698
Record updated:

In early 2020 the US Forest Service (USFS) recognized the need to gather real-time information from its wildland fire management personnel about their challenges and adaptations during the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. The USFS conducted 194 virtual focus groups to address these concerns, over 32 weeks from March 2020 to October 2020. This management effort provided an opportunity for an innovative practice-based research study. Here, we outline a novel methodological approach (weekly, iterative focus groups, with two-way communication between USFS staff and leadership), which culminated in a model for focus group coordination during extended crises. We also document the substantive challenges USFS wildfire employees discussed, including: conflicting policies and procedures; poor communication; ill-defined decision space; barriers to multi-jurisdictional resources; negative impacts on work-life balance; and disruption of pre-season training. USFS focus groups were effective for knowledge sharing among employees and elevating issues to top levels of the USFS management structure.


Flores, David; Fox, Rebekah L.; Jahn, Jody; Conley, Craig; Howes, Satoris S.; Iverson, Joel O.; Venette, Steven J.; Haire, Emily R.; Stoof, Cathelijne R. 2024. Using focus groups for knowledge sharing: Tracking emerging pandemic impacts on USFS wildland fire operations. Society and Natural Resources 37(6).

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