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The Economic Value of Fuel Treatments: A Review of the Recent Literature for Fuel Treatment Planning

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This review synthesizes the scientific literature on fuel treatment economics published since 2013 with a focus on its implications for land managers and policy makers. We review the literature on whether fuel treatments are financially viable for land management agencies at the time of implementation, as well as over the lifespan of fuel treatment effectiveness. We also review the literature that considers the broad benefits of fuel treatments across multiple sectors of society. Most studies find that fuel treatments are not financially viable for land management agencies based on revenue generated from forest products, biomass, or carbon credits at the time of implementation. Fuel treatments also tend to not be financially viable based on future management costs savings (fire suppression and rehabilitation costs) or averted losses in forest products from wildfire over the lifespan of treatment effectiveness. Similarly, most studies that consider benefits beyond those accruing to land management agencies find that the benefits from any single category (e.g., damage to structures and infrastructure, critical watersheds, air quality, or ecosystem values) are not sufficient to offset treatment costs. Overall, the recent literature suggests that fuel treatment projects are more likely to have benefits that exceed costs if they generate benefits in multiple categories simultaneously. The literature also documents tremendous variability in benefits and costs across regions and between projects within regions, which poses a challenge to reaching general conclusions about the benefits and costs of fuel treatments at programmatic scales, and suggests that practitioners should proceed with caution when trying to extrapolate the benefits and costs for a prospective fuel treatment project from estimates reported in the previous literature.

M.E. Hunter; M.H. Taylor

Hunter ME, Taylor MH. The Economic Value of Fuel Treatments: A Review of the Recent Literature for Fuel Treatment Planning. Forests. 2022 ;13(12).