Wildfire Risk Management on a Landscape with Public and Private Ownership: Who Pays for Protection?

TitleWildfire Risk Management on a Landscape with Public and Private Ownership: Who Pays for Protection?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBusby, G, Albers, HJ
JournalEnvironmental Management
Start Page296
Keywordscollaboration and decision-making, fire, game theory, natural hazard, public goods, restoration and hazardous fuel reduction, spatially explicit game

Wildfire, like many natural hazards, affects large landscapes with many landowners and the risk individual owners face depends on both individual and collective protective actions. In this study, we develop a spatially explicit game theoretic model to examine the strategic interaction between landowners’ hazard mitigation decisions on a landscape with public and private ownership. We find that in areas where ownership is mixed, the private landowner performs too little fuel treatment as they ‘‘free ride’’—capture benefits without incurring the costs—on public protection, while areas with public land only are under-protected. Our central result is that this pattern of fuel treatment comes at a cost to society because public resources focus in areas with mixed ownership, where local residents capture the benefits, and are not available for publicly managed land areas that create benefits for society at large. We also find that policies that encourage public expenditures in areas with mixed ownership, such as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 and public liability for private values, subsidize the residents who choose to locate in the high-risk areas at the cost of lost natural resource benefits for others.