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Prescribed Burning Costs and the WUI: Economic Effects in the Pacific Northwest

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Federal fuels managers are increasingly using prescribed fire to decrease hazardous fuels and risks to resources in wildland and urban settings. Two factors have become apparent throughout the last several years: prescribed burning costs are rising, and costs exhibit substantial variability (NIFC 2003). Federal fire managers are bound by federal policy to allocate resources efficiently, yet this is difficult without a full understanding of the cost structure of fuels management. Previous studies have examined factors influencing costs but have also grappled with a lack of consistent or reliable data. This study uses FASTRACS (Fuel Analysis, Smoke Tracking, Report Access Computer System), a database maintained by the Pacific Northwest region of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The database provides information for Washington and Oregon on costs, physical site characteristics, and managerial concerns for fuels management activities. Using multiple regression analysis, we show that the cost of fuels management is influenced by the wildland-urban interface, number of acres treated, designated protection areas, slope, elevation, treatment type, fire regime, agency, and season. Prescribed burning in the wildland-urban interface increased costs, ceteris paribus, 139%. Findings with respect to physical site characteristics were similar to those found in previous research.

Keywords: Prescribed burning; cost structure; economics; wildland-urban interface

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), Bozeman, MT; 2: USDA Forest Service, PNW Research Station, Portland, OR 97208-3890; 3: Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK Canada.

Publication date: 2006-04-01

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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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