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The Effects of Fire on Recreation Demand in Montana

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Wildfire and prescribed fire have the potential to affect user demand and value for recreation, making such information important to the decision-making process for fire managers. However, such information is not always readily available. We conducted surveys on 22 sites within four national forests in western Montana to determine fire effects on recreation demand for hiking and biking, and net economic benefits to visitors. Net value per trip for hikers was $37. There was no statistical difference for consumer surplus between hiking and biking. Although there were differences in existing visitation between hikers and bikers, there were no statistical differences between the two groups as a result of fire effects. We found that hikers' demand decreased slightly in areas recovering from crown fire and increased in areas recovering from prescribed fire. Bikers' response to both types of fire was the opposite of hikers; for example, bikers showed a slight decrease in annual trips as areas recovered from prescribed fire. Individual value per trip was unaffected by both wild and prescribed fire for both activity groups. Although our recreation demand shifts in response to fire were statistically significant, the magnitude of the predicted changes in demand were not substantial from a managerial perspective suggesting that recreation users in Montana are not affected by fire characteristics resulting from prescribed burns or crown fires. Demand, however, decreased by both user groups as area burned increased and the amount of burn viewed from trails increased, suggesting that the size and extent of burns do affect visitation. West. J. Appl. For. 19(1):47–53.

Keywords: Recreation demand; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; prescribed fire; travel cost method; wildfire

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, 2: Forest Fire Laboratory, USDA Forest Service-PSW Research Station, 4955 Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside, CA, 92507-6099,

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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