Evaluating Timber Opportunity Costs of Various Riparian Conservation Practices

John M. Pye (Presenter), Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service

Harbin Li, The Center for Forested Wetlands Research

William D. Smith, Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service

To protect water quality and enhance other benefits of forests, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the various State Best Management Practices (BMPs) specify streamside management zones (SMZs) within which harvesting activities are limited. While it is not yet clear how stringent these riparian protections must be to reach water quality objectives, the debate over optimal practices is enhanced by a better understanding of all the tradeoffs involved, including the economic consequences for landowners of alternative riparian restrictions. This study investigates the impacts on timber revenues of two key SMZ variables: the width of riparian buffers and the degree of harvesting restrictions within them. We used a stratified random process to combine FIA data with three selected land cover maps from the Atlantic Coastal Plain, creating simulated landscapes with both spatial realism and detailed information on forest composition. The forest landscape model LEEMATH is then used to simulate timber revenues under combinations of three SMZ widths (33, 100, 300 ft) and three levels of harvest restrictions (no harvest, two levels of thinning) within the zones. A simulation without SMZ and harvest restrictions is also run as the control. The differences in net timber revenues between these scenarios provide a measure of the marginal cost to landowners of alternative policy specifications. Any comprehensive evaluation of riparian policy tradeoffs must also consider their effects on water quality, wildlife habitat, aesthetic value, and hunting revenue opportunities. Spatial simulation tools such as LEEMATH will be necessary to evaluate each of these factors as well.

Workshop VII: Aquatic Ecosystems

Online presentation

oak leaf cluster, logo of Sustaining Southern Forests

    John M. Pye
a conference sponsored by the Southern Forest Resource Assessment