October 25, 2023

Balancing ecological and economic objectives in restoration of fire frequent forests – Case study from the Four Forest Restoration Initiative

Authors: A. A. Ager, M. A. Day, A. Waltz, M. Nigrelli, M. Lata and K. Vogler

Year: 2021

Journal: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Abstract: We examined tradeoffs between managing for fire resilience versus economic objectives for a large scale(240,000 ha) federal collaborative forest restoration project in the southwestern United States - the Four Forest Restoration Initiative - created to improve fire resilience in fire-adapted ponderosa pine forests that have experienced a century of fire exclusion. However, scaling up forest restoration to substantially change fuels and future fire behavior over large areas is constrained by marginal economic returns from harvested materials. We simulated a range of forest management scenarios and varied the objectives to select areas within those scenarios based on the potential to generate revenue (sale of harvested logs) or improve fire resiliency (reduce crown fire). We found that maximizing fire resiliency cost $44 per ha for the first 9,000 ha treated. By contrast, maximizing revenue generated an average of $552 per hectare treated for the same treated area. We identified a scenario that blended financial and resiliency objectives such that revenue could be generated while improving fire resiliency nearly as well as the optimal scenario. These results revealed tradeoffs among and within project areas for the two objectives and demonstrated that a relatively simple optimization algorithm could beincorporated into the collaborative restoration planning process to understand and communicate tradeoffs between financial and fire resiliency objectives.

Link: https://doi.org/10.2737/RMRS-GTR-424




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