Designing economic impact assessments for USFS wildfire programs
As often happens in the wake of a series of extreme fire seasons, such as those in 2000, 2002 and 2003, federal wildfire policy is being scrutinized and recommendations regarding changes both large and small are prevalent (Stephens and Ruth 2005, Busenberg 2004, Dellasalla et al. 2004, Dombeck et al. 2004). It is common practice for increases in acres burned and in suppression costs to be cited as evidence that existing policy is a failure and that changes must be made. For example, Busenberg (2004) argues that "the wildfire crisis in America was created by a longstanding policy failure" which "greatly increased the risk of wildfire damages."(p. 145). However, there is scant empirical evidence regarding the magnitude of total economic damages (much less, the benefits) resulting from wildfire, and empirical evidence that would permit an overall evaluation of wildfire programs is limited.