The National Academies

NCHRP 25-71 [Pending]

Prevention and Control of Wildfires Through Roadside Vegetation Management

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Contract Time: 24 months
Staff Responsibility: Mike Brooks


The wildland urban interface (WUI) is an area where human development meets or intermingles with undeveloped wildland and vegetative fuels that are both fire-dependent and fire-prone. Wildfires near roadways have increased in scale, frequency and intensity due to factors such as drought and invasive species. Some wildfires are the consequence of vehicle operations such as accidents or sparking causing wildfire ignition within roadside vegetation. The risk of wildfire ignitions within roadside vegetation is compounded by increased traffic volumes in the WUI. State departments of transportation (DOTs) have adopted innovative solutions in roadside vegetation management to reduce the number and intensity of wildfires impacting WUI communities. A study of known wildfire risk factors, wildfire risk management, staffing, training, coordination, and effective roadside vegetation management practices is needed to establish an ongoing national adaptive roadside management strategy to address wildfire related challenges at the WUI.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide for state DOTs on roadside vegetation management strategies that reduce the risk of wildfires. At minimum, the guide will highlight effective practices and areas of concern within roadside vegetation operations, areas of possible improvement, and suggestions for future study.


PHASE I: Planning and Initial Outreach

Task 1. Conduct a review of relevant literature and resources. The review should include regional climate characteristics; vegetation profiles by right-of-way managed zone; data collection, including after-fire reports; and identification of wildfire risk factors unique to roadside right-of-way (based on available regional wildfire severity mapping).

Task 2. Design a strategy for targeted outreach to state and Canadian provincial DOTs, with the goal of ascertaining the state of current vegetation management practice and known wildfire risk factors. Submit a technical memorandum summarizing Tasks 1 and 2 for NCHRP approval. Approval from NCHRP is required before work on subsequent tasks may begin.

Task 3. Conduct targeted outreach with the DOTs identified in Task 2 utilizing the strategy approved by NCHRP.

Task 4. Propose a methodology to achieve the research objective, to be fully developed in Phase II. At minimum, the methodology should include the following: 

  • An annotated outline for a compendium of historical wildfire case studies considering urban, suburban, and rural context and examining relevant contributing factors such as fire proneness of the present vegetation mix; presence of non-native or invasive species; contributing right-of-way characteristics such as presence of fire breaks and topography; maintenance practices such as invasive species/noxious weed management and fuel reduction practices; land use; and emergency response/evacuation.
  • A description of the data needs for a numerical rubric evaluating the contribution of the above factors in each case study.
  • An annotated outline of a guide for state DOT decision-makers and other interested organizations that should include the key research findings, effective practices, areas of concern, possible areas for improvement, suggestions for future research, and sensitive considerations such as budgetary constraints, jurisdictional conflicts, presence of threatened and endangered species, and other operational factors.

Task 5. Prepare an interim report that documents Tasks 1 through 4 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phase II.


PHASE II: Execute the Methodology and Final Deliverables

Task 6. Execute the research methodology from Task 4, according to the approved interim report.

Task 7. Develop the case study compendium, including the numerical evaluation rubric and the guide. Prepare draft language for consideration by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to incorporate the research results in the next update of the AASHTO Guidelines for Vegetation Management (herein called AASHTO Deliverable). The draft compendium and guide shall be submitted no later than 6 months before the contract end date.

Task 8. Prepare the final deliverables, which shall include the following:

  • A research report that documents the entire research effort.
  • A case study compendium and guide.
  • An executive memorandum summarizing key findings.
  • A PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes.
  • A standalone technical memorandum entitled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” 
  • The AASHTO Deliverable.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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