A strategic assessment of forest biomass and fuel reduction treatments in western states
In the 15 western states there are at least 28 million acres of forest that could benefit from some type of mechanical treatment to reduce hazardous fuel loading. It is estimated that about 60 percent of this area could be operationally accessible for treatment with a total biomass treatment volume of 345 million bone dry tons (bdt). Two-thirds of this forest area is on public lands. Most of the volume is in trees 6 inches diameter and greater that have conventional utilization opportunities. Transportation cost and distance to markets, however, may preclude actual recovery. Treatment costs are increased by the need to treat large numbers of low-volume stems less than 4 inches in diameter. Gross costs can range from $35 to over $1000 per acre depending on type of operation, terrain, and number of trees to be treated. Some areas will likely be prohibitively expensive to treat, although cost estimates presented here may be high because they are based on the use of conventional timber harvesting systems applied to small diameter treatments. Implementation of any significant fuel reduction effort will generate large volumes of biomass and require the development of additional workforce and operations capacity in western forests.