Fire & Economics

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Exploring the use of ecosystem services conceptual models to account for the benefits of public lands

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This study describes an approach for identifying and monitoring the types of resource benefits and tradeoffs considered in National Forest planning in the United States under the 2012 Planning Rule and demonstrates the use of tools for conceptualizing the production of ecosystem services and benefits from alternative land management strategies. Efforts to apply these tools through workshops and engagement exercises provide opportunities to explore and highlight measures, indicators, and data sources for characterizing benefits and tradeoffs in collaborative environments involving interdisciplinary planning teams. Conceptual modeling tools are applied to a case study examining the social and economic benefits of recreation on the Ashley National Forest.

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Measuring the economic health cost of wildfires- A review

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There has been an increasing interest in the economic health cost from smoke exposure from wildfires in the past 20 years, particularly in the north-western USA that is reflected in an emergent literature. In this review, we provide an overview and discussion of studies since 2006 on the health impacts of wildfire smoke and of approaches for the estimation of the associated economic cost. We focus on the choice of key variables such as cost estimators for determining the economic impact of mortality and morbidity effects. In addition, we provide an in-depth discussion and guidance on the functioning, advantages and challenges of BenMAP-CE, freely available software of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has been used in a growing number of studies to assess cost from wildfire smoke. We highlight what generates differences in outcomes between relevant studies and make suggestions for increasing the comparability between studies. All studies, however, demonstrate highly significant health cost from smoke exposure, in the millions or billions of US dollars, often driven by increases in mortality. The results indicate the need to take health cost into account for a comprehensive analysis of wildfire impacts.

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Challenges to determining and demonstrating efficiency of large fire management- A review

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Characterising the impacts of wildland fire and fire suppression is critical information for fire management decision-making. Here, we focus on decisions related to the rare larger and longer-duration fire events, where the scope and scale of decision-making can be far broader than initial response efforts, and where determining and demonstrating efficiency of strategies and actions can be particularly troublesome. We organize our review around key decision factors such as context, complexity, alternatives, consequences and uncertainty, and for illustration contrast fire management in Andalusia, Spain, and Montana, USA. Two of the largest knowledge gaps relate to quantifying fire impacts to ecosystem services, and modelling relationships between fire management activities and avoided damages. The relative magnitude of these and other concerns varies with the complexity of the socioecological context in which fire management decisions are made. To conclude our review, we examine topics for future research, including expanded use of the economics toolkit to better characterize the productivity and effectiveness of suppression actions, integration of ecosystem modelling with economic principles, and stronger adoption of risk and decision analysis within fire management decision-making.

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Monetising the savings of remotely sensed data and information in Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) wildfire assessment

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This study used a value of information approach to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of using satellite imagery as part of the Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER), a US federal program that identifies imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property and critical natural or cultural resources. It compared the costs associated with producing a Burn Area Reflectance Classification map and implementing a BAER when imagery from satellites (either Landsat or a commercial satellite) was available to when the response team relied on information collected solely by aerial reconnaissance. The case study included two evaluations with and without Burn Area Reflectance Classification products: (a) savings of up to US$51 000 for the Elk Complex wildfire incident request and (b) savings of a multi-incident map production program. Landsat is the most cost-effective way to input burn severity information into the BAER program, with savings of up to US$35 million over a 5-year period.

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Up and down: The wildfire economy

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Two researchers discuss findings from studies on how wildfires affect local economies across the U.S. west, from onset to recovery and beyond. 

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Forest woody biomass operations and biomass production

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Description: Webinar focuses on three critical areas of bioenergy and bioproducts research and development: 1) sustainable and economically efficient forest biomass management and production systems, 2) competitive low-emissions biofuels and bioenergy conversion technologies deployed in the forest sector, and 3) information and tools for decision making and policy analysis related to forest biomass utilization.

Presenter: Nate Anderson, PhD in Forest Resources Management from the State University of New York, an MS in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland, and a BS in Biology from Bates College.

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Weather, risk, and resource orders on large fires in the western US

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Study results suggest that weather is a primary driver of resource orders over the course of extended attack efforts on large fires. Incident Management Teams (IMTs) synthesize information about weather, fuels, and order resources based on expected fire growth rather than simply reacting to observed fire growth. Analysis shows that incident management teams are generally forward-looking and respond to expected rather than recently observed weather-driven fire behavior. These results may have important implications for forecasting resource needs and costs in a changing climate

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Role of previous fires in the management and expenditures of subsequent large wildfires

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Using a sample of 722 large fires from the western United States, we observe whether a fire interacted with a previous fire, the percent area of fires burned by previous fires, and the percent perimeter overlap with previous fires. Fires that interact with previous fires are likely to be larger and have lower total expenditures on average. Conditional on a fire encountering a previous fire, a greater extent of interaction with previous fires is associated with reduced fire size but higher expenditures, although the expenditure effect is small and imprecisely estimated. Subsequent analysis suggests that fires that interact with previous fires may be systematically different from other fires along several dimensions. We do not find evidence that interactions with previous fires reduce suppression expenditures for subsequent fires. Results suggest that previous fires may allow suppression opportunities that otherwise might not exist, possibly reducing fire size but increasing total expenditures.

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Cost-effective fuel treatment planning: Theoretical justification and case study

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Modelling the spatial prioritization of fuel treatments and their net effect on values at risk is an important area for applied work as economic damages from wildfire continue to grow. We model and demonstrate a cost-effective fuel treatment planning algorithm using two ecosystem services as benefits for which fuel treatments are prioritized. We create a surface of expected fuel treatment costs to incorporate the heterogeneity in factors affecting the revenue and costs of fuel treatments, and then prioritize treatments based on a cost-effectiveness ratio to maximize the averted loss of ecosystem services from fire. We compare treatment scenarios that employ cost-effectiveness with those that do not, and use common tools and models in a case study of the Sisters Ranger District on the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon.

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USFWS Socioeconomic Profiles Tool

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Socioeconomic Profile tool is a free, web-based tool created by Headwaters Economics to help government agency land managers, economists, planners, outreach specialists, researchers, citizen/private sectors, and others explore socioeconomic conditions near Service units.

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