New Guidance for Adopting Defensible Space Ordinances

New Guidance for Adopting Defensible Space Ordinances

Sep 26, 2023

Defensible space ordinances, also referred to as vegetation management, hazardous brush, or landscaping ordinances, can be a powerful regulatory tool to help communities reduce risk in the wildland-urban interface. Communities using this approach can effectively alter the amount, type, and distribution of vegetation (e.g., plants, trees, grasses) and other combustible landscaping features to help slow the progress of wildfires that threaten homes and properties. These ordinances are often adopted by local government agencies and may complement other local and state requirements and activities to create a comprehensive approach toward fire adaptation.

The Community Wildfire Planning Center teamed up with Sustainable Development Code and Albany Law School to provide guidance for planners, land use attorneys, and other practitioners interested in adopting a local defensible space ordinance. This new Defensible Space Ordinance research brief provides a summary of why defensible space ordinances are important, considerations for adoption and implementation, and in-depth ordinance examples from communities in California, Washington, and elsewhere.

This guidance is published as part of the Sustainable Development Code, a free online resource that offers community development best practices for local governments. The Sustainable Development Code also offers resources to address topics including climate change, low-impact development, transit-oriented development, environmental protection historic preservation, and much more. Explore the full set of topics here.

The Defensible Space Ordinance research brief was written by Austin Burke (Albany Law School) and edited by Molly Mowery (Community Wildfire Planning Center), Jonathan Rosenbloom (Sustainable Development Code and Albany Law School), Bridget Nostro (Sustainable Development Code), Stephen Miller (University of Idaho), and Steven Hawks (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection). Financial support to develop this brief was provided in part through a generous grant contribution from the Argosy Foundation.