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Daniel R. Williams

Daniel R. Williams

Research Social Scientist

240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Contact Daniel R. Williams

Current Research

(1) Enhancing adaptive capacity and improving climate resilience in resource-dependent communities using iterative public scenario building processes; (2) Developing a classification and assessment system which identifies the different needs and capacities of Wildland-Urban Interface communities to engage stakeholders in Community Wildfire Protection Planning (CWPP) to reduce and mitigate wildland fire risk; (3) Developing and applying collaborative processes to meet the needs of the new forest planning rule and improve the public understanding and application of science (particularly risks and stressors) in national forest planning; and (4) Applying the concepts of organizational learning to all aspects of the USDA Forest Service mission including fire management, forest planning, and leadership and training.

Research Interests

The practice of public sector natural resource management increasingly seeks more adaptive, integrated, and spatially multi-scaled management strategies that emphasize collaborative multi-stakeholder social learning and governance. My research addresses several social science problems that arise out of this context:

(1) How to improve and assess emerging collaborative governance practices in natural resource planning and decision making;

(2) How to apply social-geographic analysis to assess place specific meanings and values embedded in natural resource decision making and understand how these are shaped by and, in turn, shape social actions and ecological changes across the landscape;

(3) How to adapt the advances in philosophy and methods of social science for application to natural resource contexts and assess their implications for the interface between science and decision making; and 

Cutting across all three of these topics is a focus on geographic places, global scale social processes, and a longstanding interest in (4) How people experience and value outdoor recreation and nature contact.

Past Research

1. Developed a widely used social survey instrument for measuring place attachment, which has been applied in a variety fields including natural resource management, tourism development, community health surveys, environmental education, and disaster preparedness.

2. Synthesized the state-of-knowledge on the impact of outdoor environments on quality of life for the World Leisure Association's Global Declaration on Leisure and Human Well-being.

3. Identified best practices for community wildfire protection planning, an important planning tool for mitigating wildfire risks in the wildland-urban interface.

Why This Research is Important

Solving natural resource challenges involves engaging people in building and implementing solutions. The key is to get people involved in the collaborative governance or decision making over their shared interests in specific places or landscapes. The essential ingredient of democracy is a willingness to listen and learn from each other. Even if people value different things about their surroundings they often share a commitment or attachment to what they see as special places. This can form the basis of a willingness to work together despite differences in values and interests. Successful natural resource management requires inclusive and sincere participatory decision making. My research is devoted to improving collaborative decision making process, a problem that becomes more urgent as we face larger scale natural resource problems.


  • University of Nevada, B.S., Natural Resources, 1978
  • Utah State, M.S., Outdoor Recreation, 1980
  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D., Forest Resources, 1984
  • Professional Experience

    Associate Professor, Outdoor Recreation Management, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
    1994 to 1998

    Assistant Professor, Forestry and Outdoor Recreation, Virginia Tech
    1988 to 1994

    Assistant Professor, Outdoor Recreation Management, University of Utah
    1983 to 1988


    Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research, National Recreation and Park Assoc, 2015
    Presented once a year to an individual whose research has significantly advanced the field and whose dedication parallels the same commitment towards parks, recreation and conservation as the presidents for whom the award is named
    Distinguished Scientist Award, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2014
    This award recognizes the creative efforts and contributions of a scientist through their sustained research productivity contributions of major impact on science or technology, scientific leadership, application and benefits of the research, and service

    Featured Publications


    McKelvey, Kevin S.; Block, William M.; Jain, Terrie B.; Luce, Charles H.; Page-Dumroese, Deborah S.; Richardson, Bryce A.; Saab, Victoria A.; Schoettle, Anna W.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Williams, Daniel R., 2021. Adapting research, management, and governance to confront socioecological uncertainties in novel ecosystems
    Raymond, Christopher M.; Williams, Daniel R.; Di Masso, Andrew; Manzo, Lynne C.; von Wirth, Timo, 2021. Introduction: Senses of place in the face of global challenges
    Manzo, Lynne C.; Williams, Daniel R.; Raymond, Christopher M.; Di Masso, Andres; von Wirth, Timo; Devine-Wright, Patrick, 2021. Navigating the spaciousness of uncertainties posed by global challenges: A senses of place perspective [Chapter 25]
    Blahna, Dale J.; Kline, Jeffrey D.; Williams, Daniel R.; Rogers, Karla; Miller, Anna B.; McCool, Stephen F.; Valenzuela, Francisco, 2020. Chapter 12: Integrating social, ecological, and economic factors in sustainable recreation planning and decisionmaking
    Blahna, Dale J.; Cerveny, Lee K.; Williams, Daniel R.; Kline, Jeffrey D.; Helmer, Matthew; McCool, Stephen F.; Valenzuela, Francisco, 2020. Chapter 5: Rethinking “outdoor recreation” to account for the diversity of human experiences and connections to public lands
    Vistad, Odd Inge; Oian, Hogne; Williams, Daniel R.; Stokowski, Patricia, 2020. Long-distant hikers and their inner journeys: On motives and pilgrimage to Nidaros, Norway
    Devine-Wright, Patrick; Pinto de Carvalho, Lais; Di Masso, Andres; Lewicka, Maria; Manzo, Lynee; Williams, Daniel R., 2020. “Re-placed” - Reconsiderations of relationships with place and lessons from a pandemic
    Paveglio, Travis B.; Carroll, Matthew S.; Stasiewicz, Amanda M.; Williams, Daniel R.; Becker, Dennis R., 2018. Incorporating social diversity into wildfire management: Proposing 'pathways' for fire adaptation
    Bengston, David N.; Peck, Jonathan; Olson, Robert; Barros, Melissa; Birdsey, Richard A.; Williams, Daniel R.; Leyva Reyes, Juan Carlos; José Zamudio, Francisco, 2018. North American Forest Futures 2018-2090: Scenarios for Building a More Resilient Forest Sector
    Paveglio, Tavis B.; Moseley, Cassandra; Carroll, Matthew S.; Williams, Daniel R.; Davis, Emily Jane; Fischer, A. Paige, 2015. Categorizing the social context of the wildland urban interface: Adaptive capacity for wildfire and community "archetypes"
    Murphy, Daniel J.; Wyborn, Carina; Yung, Laurie; Williams, Daniel R., 2015. Key concepts and methods in social vulnerability and adaptive capacity
    Newman, Soren M.; Carroll, Matthew S.; Jakes, Pamela J.; Williams, Daniel R.; Higgins, Lorie L., 2014. Earth, wind, and fire: Wildfire risk perceptions in a hurricane-prone environment
    Champ, Joseph G.; Williams, Daniel R.; Lundy, Catherine M., 2013. An on-line narrative of Colorado wilderness: Self-in-"cybernetic space"
    Stewart, William P.; Williams, Daniel R.; Kruger, Linda E. Ph.D., 2013. Conclusion: From describing to prescribing--transitioning to place-based conservation [Chapter 18]
    Williams, Daniel R., 2013. Science, practice, and place [Chapter 2]
    Jakes, Pamela J.; Esposito, Christine; Burns, Sam; Cheng, Antony S.; Nelson, Kristen C.; Sturtevant, Victoria E.; Williams, Daniel R., 2012. Best management practices for creating a community wildfire protection plan
    Williams, Daniel R.; Jakes, Pamela J.; Burns, Sam; Cheng, Antony S.; Nelson, Kristen C.; Sturtevant, Victoria; Brummel, Rachel F.; Staychock, Emily; Souter, Stephanie G., 2012. Community Wildfire Protection Planning: The Importance of Framing, Scale, and Building Sustainable Capacity
    Williams, Daniel R.; McIntyre, Norman, 2012. Place affinities, lifestyle mobilities and quality-of-life
    Champ, Joseph G.; Brooks, Jeffrey J.; Williams, Daniel R., 2012. Stakeholder understandings of wildfire mitigation: A case of shared and contested meanings
    Garst, Barry A.; Williams, Daniel R.; Roggenbuck, Joseph W., 2012. Trends in developed forest camping
    Cole, David N.; Williams, Daniel R., 2012. Wilderness visitor experiences: Lessons from 50 years of research
    Jakes, Pamela J.; Nelson, Kristen C.; Enzler, Sherry A.; Burns, Sam; Cheng, Antony S.; Sturtevant, Victoria; Williams, Daniel R.; Bujak, Alexander; Brummel, Rachel F.; Grayzeck-Souter, Stephanie; Staychock, Emily., 2011. Community wildfire protection planning: is the Healthy Forests Restoration Act's vagueness genius?
    Watson, Alan E.; Matt, Roian; Knotek, Katie; Williams, Daniel R.; Yung, Laurie, 2011. Traditional wisdom: Protecting relationships with wilderness as a cultural landscape
    Garst, Barry A.; Williams, Daniel R.; Roggenbuck, Joseph W., 2010. Exploring early twenty-first century developed forest camping experiences and meanings
    Brummel, Rachel F.; Nelson, Kristen C.; Jakes, Pamela J.; Williams, Daniel R., 2010. Social learning in a policy-mandated collaboration: Community wildfire protection planning in the eastern United States
    Williams, Daniel R.; Jakes, Pamela J.; Burns, Sam; Cheng, Antony Nelson, 2009. Community wildfire protection plans: enhancing collaboration and building scoial capacity
    Grayzeck-Souter, Stephanie A.; Nelson, Kristen C.; Brummel, Rachel F.; Jakes, Pamela; Williams, Daniel R., 2009. Interpreting federal policy at the local level: the wildland-urban interface concept in wildfire protection planning in the eastern United States
    Paveglio, Travis B.; Jakes, Pamela J.; Carroll, Matthew S.; Williams, Daniel R., 2009. Understanding social complexity within the wildland urban interface: A new species of human habitation? Environmental Management
    Williams, Daniel R.; Patterson, Michael E., 2008. Place, leisure, and well-being
    Cohn, Patricia J.; Williams, Daniel R.; Carroll, Matthew S., 2008. Wildland-urban interface resident's views on risk and attribution
    Jakes, Pamela; Burns, Sam; Cheng, Antony; Saeli, Emily; Brummel, Kristen Nelson Rachel; Grayzeck, Stephanie; Sturtevant, Victoria; Williams, Daniel R., 2007. Critical elements in the development and implementation of Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs)
    Kruger, Linda E. Ph.D.; Williams, Daniel R., 2007. Place and place-based planning.
    Williams, Daniel R.; Watson, Alan E., 2007. Wilderness values: Perspectives from non-economic social science
    McCool, Stephen F.; Burchfield, James A.; Williams, Daniel R.; Carroll, Matthew S., 2006. An event-based approach for examining the effects of wildland fire decisions on communities
    Brooks, Jeffrey J.; Bujak, Alexander N.; Champ, Joseph G.; Williams, Daniel R., 2006. Collaborative capacity, problem framing, and mutual trust in addressing the wildland fire social problem: An annotated reading list
    Brooks, Jeffrey J.; Brenkert, Hannah; Serby, Judy E.; Champ, Joseph G.; Simons, Tony; Williams, Daniel R., 2006. Integrating social science into forestry in the wildland/urban interface
    Kent, Brian; Gebert, Krista; McCaffrey, Sarah; Martin, Wade; Calkin, David; Schuster, Ervin; Martin, Ingrid; Bender, Holly Wise; Alward, Greg; Kumagai, Yoshitaka; Cohn, Patricia J.; Carroll, Matt; Williams, Daniel R.; Ekarius, Carol, 2003. Social and economic issues of the Hayman Fire
    Vaske, Jerry J.; Donnelly, Maureen P.; Williams, Daniel R.; Jonker, Sandra, 2001. Demographic influences on environmental value orientations and normative beliefs about national forest management
    Uysal, Muzaffer; Chen, Joseph S.; Williams, Daniel R., 2000. Increasing state market share through regional positioning
    Williams, Daniel R.; Vogt, Christine A.; Vitterso, Joar, 1999. Structural equation modeling of users' response to wilderness recreation fees
    Patterson, Michael E.; Watson, Alan E.; Williams, Daniel R.; Roggenbuck, Joseph R., 1998. An hermeneutic approach to studying the nature of wilderness experiences
    Williams, Daniel R.; Van Patten, Susan, 1998. Back to the future? Tourism, place, and sustainability
    Williams, Daniel R.; McDonald, Cary D.; Riden, Carla M.; Uysal, Muzaffer, 1995. Community attachment, regional identity and resident attitudes toward tourism
    Watson, Alan E.; Niccolucci, M. J.; Williams, Daniel R., 1994. The nature of conflict between hikers and recreational stock users in the John Muir wilderness
    Watson, Alan E.; Niccolucci, Michael J.; Williams, Daniel R., 1993. Hikers and recreational stock users: predicting and managing recreation conflicts in three wildernesses
    Watson, Alan E.; Williams, Daniel R.; Joseph W. Roggenbuck,; John J. Daigle,, 1992. Visitor characteristics and preferences for three National Forest wildernesses in the South
    Watson, Alan E.; Roggenbuck, Joseph W.; Williams, Daniel R., 1991. The influence of past experience on wilderness choice
    Schreyer, Richard; Knopf, Richard C.; Williams, Daniel R., 1985. Reconceptualizing the motive/environment link in recreation choice behavior
    The photo shows a suburban neighborhood interwoven with trees.
    To understand how local, state and federal investments are shaping North Central Washington's wildfire management system, a team of researchers with the Co-Management of Fire Risk Transmission Partnership (CoMFRT) conducted a survey of nearly 300 wildfire management professionals. The analyses identifies who is part of the wildfire management system, what their roles are, where they work, and how they are connected to each other. 
    Damage from the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in a wildland-urban interface near Colorado Springs, Colorado (photo by Kari Greer, USFS).
    Reducing wildland fire risk to lives and property is a critical issue for policy makers, land managers, and local citizens who reside in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). In order for a wildfire risk reduction effort to be effective in a WUI community, the risk reduction effort must include community support and engagement. RMRS researchers developed a typology of “archetypal” wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities to help explain how different WUI communities approach wildfire planning and mitigation.
    Past and ongoing research provides insights into the nature of wilderness experiences and the factors that influence experience quality (photo by David Cole, USFS).
    The Wilderness Visitor Experience Workshop was held at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest near Missoula, MT, on April 4-7, 2011 with the purpose of celebrating lessons learned from half a century of research on visitor experience and preparing for the 50 years of wilderness research and stewardship.
    Research on social-symbolic meanings is advancing our understanding of how recreation activity participation contributes to psychological well-being; how attachments to places contribute to a sense of meaning, identity, and community; how attachments vary across culture and affect local management regimes; and how place meanings and attachments affect natural resource conflicts. A key outcome of this work has been the development of standardized questionnaire instruments designed to measure place attachment among recreation site visitors and community residents.
    This project seeks to improve understanding of social vulnerability and adaptive capacity at the community and landscape scales and evaluate collaborative scenario-building exercises as a method for encouraging multi-stakeholder learning and adaptation planning.
    The focus of this project is on climate change vulnerability and adaptive capacity. It evaluates collaborative scenario building to investigate landscape-scale decisionmaking under uncertainty.