October 25, 2023

Designing forest restoration projects to optimize the application of broadcast burning

Authors: P. Belavenutti, A. A. Ager, M. A. Day and W. Chung

Year: 2022

Journal: Ecological Economics

Abstract: Active forest restoration programs on western US national forests face multiple challenges to meet their broad ecological goals while designing projects that generate sufficient revenue to build and maintain private forest management capacity needed to expand the scale and scope of treatments. We explored ways to design projects where admixing of treatments along gradients of dry and moist mixed conifer forest types could maximize financial viability while including substantial area where broadcast burning could be applied in conjunction with other treatments. In general, we found that restoration treatments in dry forests that included density reduction thinning and broadcast burning resulted in a net projected cost ranging from $110 to $8000 per ha. By contrast, density reduction thinning in moist mixed conifer forests on more productive microsites generated significant commercial timber volume and projected revenue that ranged from$4000 to $20,000 per ha. We used spatial optimization methods to identify potential project areas that maximized revenue while meeting constraints to treat a minimum proportion of each project with broadcast burning. Multiple project area sizes were also explored to understand the effect of restoration scale on financial outcomes. We found that optimal projects in terms of generating revenue to subsidize density reduction and broadcast burning were 810 ha and contained >50% dry forest area. Larger projects and those with a higher percentage of dry forest area resulted in lower revenue, eliminating revenue when projects reached 2700 ha. Forest restoration programs can use these methods to plan and design restoration projects that are financially viable while addressing the broadcast burn backlog in dry forests that require relatively expensive fuel reduction treatments prior to re-introducing fire.





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