Growth projection and valuation of restoration of the shortleaf pine-bluestem grass ecosystem
The fire-dependent shortleaf pine–bluestem grass ecosystem that existed prior to European settlement is being restored on approximately 62,700 ha in the Ouachita National Forest. The restoration effort's economic effects are not completely understood. This study will provide the Forest Service with a framework for better communicating the biological and economic impacts of future forest plans and amendments. It also seeks to provide information on how shortleaf pine responds to different management regimes and the implicit cost to maintain the endangered red cockaded woodpecker habitat, and the economic consequences of transitioning from the traditional management regime to a regime which restores the shortleaf pine–bluestem grass ecosystem. The paper suggests by adopting the new pine–bluestem management regime, timber harvests in the pine–bluestem area decline by 25% during the 100-year simulation period, which will incur an additional implicit cost of $72/ha/year to maintain the red cockaded woodpecker habitat. An implied value for each pair of woodpeckers amounts to either $10,550 per year (for the desired 400 total pairs) or $16,880 per year (for the 250 reproducing pairs). Timber sale marking costs decline, while prescribed burning costs increase. The success of the pine–bluestem restoration requires the maintenance of a burning regime that prevents competing vegetation from occupying the middle canopy layer. Maintaining the pine–bluestem ecosystem will be difficult if environmental regulations become more stringent.