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The Influence of Market Proximity on National Forest Hazardous Fuels Treatments

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The US Department of Agriculture Forest Service's focus on hazardous fuels reduction has increased since the adoption of the National Fire Plan in 2001. However, appropriations for hazardous fuels reduction still lag behind wildfire suppression spending. Offsetting fuels treatment costs through biomass utilization or by using innovative administrative mechanisms such as stewardship contracting are two approaches to stretching appropriated dollars further across the landscape. We use fuels treatment data (n = 8,451 locations) to ask how wood- processing infrastructure influences where and how much hazardous fuels treatments, biomass utilization, and stewardship contracting occur on national forests in Oregon and Washington. We found that national forest ranger districts that are relatively close in proximity to sawmills or biomass facilities treated more overall ha and more wildland-urban interface ha and used stewardship contracting on more ha than ranger districts further away and that there was a threshold distance for these effects (40 minutes). We also found that proximity to sawmills and biomass facilities influenced the location and extent of hazardous fuels treatments that incorporated biomass utilization or were administered through a stewardship contract. Our analysis suggests that to be effective at offsetting some of the costs of hazardous fuels reduction and treat a greater extent of the landscape, policy strategies may need to focus on supporting a network of wood-processing facilities that is distributed across forest-based communities.

Keywords: Pacific Northwest; biomass utilization; fire hazard reduction; spatial network analysis; stewardship contracting

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 6, 2013

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