Evaluating Spatiotemporal Tradeoffs Under Alternative Fuel Management and Suppression Policies: Measuring Returns on Investment
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Matthew P. Thompson
    US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
  • Alan A. Ager
    US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program
Completion Date: October 12, 2017

Cataloging Information

  • cost effectiveness simulation
  • fuel management
  • fuel reduction
  • suppression
JFSP Project Number(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 18, 2017
FRAMES Record Number: 24445


In this proposal, we outline a methodology for the application of a novel, integrated modeling approach to analyze economic tradeoffs associated with alternative fuel management and suppression policies. The analytical process is designed to specifically target salient questions regarding how the spatial and temporal scales of fuel treatment (and retreatment) influence treatment costs and subsequent cost effectiveness, measured in terms of both avoided suppression costs and reduced wildfire risk. Having both a spatial and temporal component enables a complete accounting of fuel and suppression impacts and enables a strategic, long-term perspective on wildfire risk mitigation. In order to account for both spatial and temporal dimensions, we leverage existing models for landscape-scale simulation of the spatiotemporal dynamics of wildland fire occurrence, spread, and resulting fuel and vegetation changes in order to set the stage for life cycle economic analysis of fuel treatment strategies, as well as the costs and benefits of different fire suppression policies. Simulation modeling enables us to examine feedbacks between stochastic wildfire events, a set of manager-proposed treatment scenarios, different fire suppression policies, and subsequent effects on highly valued resources and assets (HVRAs) over both space and time, accounting for the effect of these events both in the stands where they take place, as well as off-site effects stemming from resultant changes in fire behavior. In this way, the effects of several proposed management scenarios can be compared, as well as effects of yet unobserved events (such as fires that are feasible during long stretches of extreme weather conditions). It is necessary to explore alternative landscape trajectories to fully understand how succession, fuel management, HVRAs, and suppression policies interact on fire-prone western landscapes. Our economic analysis of these landscape trajectories and simulations will center on three primary threads. First, a comparative suppression cost analysis will examine estimated per-fire costs on landscapes with variable levels of fuel treatment and under differing suppression policies. Second, a comparative financial analysis of fuel treatments will project costs and revenues for fuel treatment strategies over a 100-year project horizon. These two components will allow us to compare the returns, in terms of avoided suppression costs, of a dollar invested in fuel treatments, in the long and short term. Lastly, a comparative exposure analysis will quantify wildfire likelihood and intensity for HVRAs under various landscape trajectories. Thus, our framework enables quantification of both market and non-market benefits of treatments, enabling more comprehensive cost effectiveness analyses. Our team brings strong interdisciplinary expertise and research experience in fire and fuels modeling, wildfire economics, risk assessment, geospatial analysis, and suppression decision making. Particularly noteworthy is our team brings directly relevant experience modeling the effects of fuel treatments on risks and suppression costs (Ager et al. 2010; Thompson et al. 2012a). Connections to and active participation in ongoing efforts such as the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program put us in a unique position to leverage existing and emerging research and to rapidly disseminate findings broadly to the wildfire management community.