Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Cost-effective fuel treatment planning: A theoretical justification and case-study

November 26, 2019

Modelling the spatial prioritisation 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 prioritised. 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 prioritise treatments based on a cost-effectiveness ratio to maximise 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, USA. Using cost-effectiveness not only increases the expected averted losses from fuel treatments, but it also allows a larger area to be treated for the same cost, simply by incorporating costs and cost-effectiveness into the prioritisation routine. These results have considerable implications for policymakers and land managers trying to minimise risk. Incorporating costs into the spatial planning of treatments could allow more effective outcomes without increasing fuel treatment budgets.