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Modeling Fuel Treatment Costs on Forest Service Lands in the Western United States

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Years of successful fire suppression have led to high fuel loads on the nation's forests, and steps are being taken by the nation's land management agencies to reduce these fuel loads. However, to achieve desired outcomes in a fiscally responsible manner, the cost and effectiveness in reducing losses due to wildland fire of different fuel treatments in different forest settings must be understood. Currently, prioritizing fuel treatment activities and planning budget expenditures is limited by a lack of accurate cost data. The primary objective of this research was to develop regression models that may be used to estimate the cost of hazardous fuel reduction treatments based on USDA Forest Service Region, biophysical setting, treatment type, and design. A survey instrument was used to obtain activity-specific information directly from fire management officers at Forest Service Ranger Districts for treatments occurring between 2001 and 2003. For both prescribed burns and mechanical activities, treatment size described the largest amount of variation in cost per acre, with increased size reducing cost per acre, on average. We confirmed that data on Forest Service fuel treatment activities maintained in the National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System were not sufficiently accurate for reasonable cost analysis and modeling.
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Keywords: Fuel treatments; economics; prescribed burning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-10-01

More about this publication?
  • 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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