Wildfire: Economics, Law & Policy

Friday, November 12, 2010 - 12:00am - 12:00pm

Wildfire:  Economics, Law & Policy will be a two day symposium held on November 12, 2010, at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 

The symposium is co-sponsored by the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago Law School and Program on Economics Law and the Environment at the University of Arizona. Dean Lueck and Karen Bradshaw are co-directing the event.

Symposium Description

The apparent increasing incidence and intensity of wildfires over the past two decades have produced enormous expenditures for suppression efforts by state and federal governments, and substantial and often incalculable environmental and fiscal costs to an assortment of stakeholders.  The power and volatility of wildfires have understandably captured the attention of the media, public, and politicians.  Yet, law and economics scholars have historically been slow to engage with the topic; a trend that is quickly reversing.  Recent publications in top law journals and popular books on the topic suggest that the topic of wildfire is quickly gaining traction among law and economics scholars.  This focus on wildfire law will only increase as wildfires and the attendant public attention on managing them continues to grow. 

There is substantial need for scholarly attention to and analysis of wildfire law and policy.  The issues are complex and rapidly-emerging; ranging from historic tort problems to far-reaching concerns about how wildfires are being used by terrorists and drug lords.  This symposium will bring together law and economics scholars to discuss important public issues.  How can public policy address the effects of climate change on wildfire, and wildfire on climate change?  Are the environmental and fiscal costs of ex ante prevention measures justified?  What are the appropriate levels of prevention and suppression responsibility borne by private, state, and federal actors?  Can tort liability provide a solution for realigning the grossly distorted incentives that currently exist for private landowners and government firefighters?  The larger question is - do the existing incentives in wildlife institutions provide incentives for efficient private and collective action and how might they be improved?

The wildfire law symposia will provide a first-ever forum for influential law and economics scholars to apply the analysis and methodologies of their field to this important area of law in an unprecedented show of scholarly attention to an important public problem.  The goal of the symposium is not only to produce new research on this important topic but also stimulate research after the symposium. The interaction among scholars and literature produced will benefit other issues, including climate change, other natural disasters, and the growing nexus of environmental law and law and economics.

The symposium is open by invitation only and is currently filled.  If you have any questions about the event, contact Karen Bradshaw at kbradshaw@uchicago.edu or Dean Lueck at lueck@email.arizona.edu. The symposium articles will be published in 2011 as an edited volume (Karen Bradshaw and Dean Lueck, co-editors) "Wildfire Policy: Law and Economics Perspectives" by Resources for the Future Press.

Paper Topics (papers are password protected):


  • Sarah Anderson, Assistant Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara*
  • Terry Anderson, Executive Director PERC*
  • Jeff Bennett, Professor of Economics, Australian National University
  • Karen Bradshaw, Clerk to the Honorable E. Grady Jolly, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals*
  • David Dana, Professor of Law Northwestern University
  • Kirsten Engel, Professor of Law and Co-Director Program on Economics, Law and the Environment, University of Arizona*
  • Richard Epstein, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, Director, Olin Program in Law and Economics, University of Chicago Law School*
  • Lee Fennell, Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  • George Frisvold. Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Arizona*
  • Jason Johnston, Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law &
    Nicholas E. Chimicles Research Professor of Business Law and Regulation, University of Virginia School of Law*
  • Dean Lueck, Cardon Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Co-Director Program on Economics, Law and the Environment, University of Arizona*
  • Tom W. Merrill, Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law, Columbia School of Law*
  • Claire Montgomery, Professor of Forestry, Oregon State University
  • Sheila Olmstead, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
  • Stephen J. Pyne. Regents Professor of Environmental History, Arizona State University**
  • Carol M. Rose, Lohse Chair in Water and Natural Resources, University of Arizona College of Law
  • Arden Rowell, Bigelow Fellow, University of Chicago Law School 
  • Roger A. Sedjo, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
  • Henry E. Smith, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Tom Swetnam, Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Tree-ring Research, University of Arizona**
  • C.C. Van Kooten, Professor of Forestry, University of British Columbia
  • Jonathan Yoder, Associate Professor, Washington State University School of Economic Sciences*

* Author
**  Speaker


Richard A. Epstein
Lee Fennell