An integrated approach to evaluating the economic costs of wildfire hazard reduction through wood utilization opportunities in the southwestern United States
This research provides an important step in the conceptualization and development of an integrated wildfire fuels reduction system from silvicultural prescription, through stem selection, harvesting, in-woods processing, transport, and market selection. Decisions made at each functional step are informed by knowledge about subsequent functions. Data on the resource characteristics of small-diameter ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex Laws.), harvest equipment productivity, lumber recovery, and net profit (loss) by level of fuels reduction achieved were collected from four 8.1-ha (20 ac) sites in northern Arizona. These data were used to develop a Windows-based, financial and engineering software program, the harvest cost-revenue (HCR) estimator, to identify the economic costs of wildfire fuel reduction treatments that may be used to evaluate cost per acre thresholds for logging contractors, appraise contract bid rates, or assess stumpage values for ponderosa pine stands in the southwestern United States. Application of the model illustrates variability in fuels reduction costs owing to the level of fuels reduction achieved, the volume of merchantable wood removed from different forest stands, and the availability of markets for removed material. Machine productivity helps predict differences in harvest costs but is secondary to market constraints and the volume of wood harvested.