With the enormous rise in costs of damage caused by wildfires and wildfire suppression costs, more studies are being conducted about the value of fuels treatments in some of our nation’s forested areas. Some recent staggering statistics that were cited in the Economic Benefits of Fuel Reduction Treatments included: “Wildfire suppression expenditures sharply increased from $528.5 million in 1985 (in 2015 dollars) to $2.1 billion in 2015 while the size of area burned has more than tripled (from 2.8 to 10.1 million acres) during the same time period (National Interagency Fire Center [NIFC] 2015, USDA Forest Service 2015).” Other interesting data in the paper stated that; “The proportion of the Forest Service’s annual budget allocated to wildfire suppression has increased from 16% in 1995 to 52% in 2015 and is projected to increase to 67% of the budget by 2025 (USDA Forest Service 2015).”
While the costs of wildfire are ever increasing, the amount of money allocated to pre-wildfire mitigation activities and watershed protection activities have exponentially decreased from approximately 240 million in 2001 to 180 million in 2015. In light of these statistics, it is important to examine the economic value of fuel reduction treatments.
The paper examined the value of fuel reduction treatments from an economist’s point of view. How these treatments can and do generate monetary gains from sources like timber resources sold but also add income value from avoided monetary expenditures, like greater suppression costs, damage to watersheds, rehabilitation costs, and losses to local business.
Two projects examined and evaluated inn this paper were the White Mountain Stewardship Project (WMSP) and the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). Both of these projects are being implemented in Arizona. One unique component of the White Mountain Stewardship Project (WMSP) which is being implemented in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is that this project shows according to the article how federal agencies are, “paying a subsidy to a private entity for a large-scale restoration and fuel reduction project. Community capacity, utilization capacity and agency capacity have been credited as the major factors contributing to the success of this community stewardship project (Abrams and Burns 2007).” The success of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) hinges on the collaborative support for the project from a variety of agency and nonprofit partners to restore forest health and resiliency through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.
The paper concludes with references that land managers will have to be creative in their approaches “thinking outside of the box” to develop solutions collaboratively to the growing wildfire problem. Perhaps by examining successful program implementation including NFPA’s Firewise Communities© in the future and working collaboratively towards lasting solutions to mitigating loss from wildfire and investing more resources in wildfire hazard mitigation efforts, we will begin to see less loss including loss of property and lives in the future.