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Are wildfire management resources in the United States efficiently allocated to protect resources at risk? A case study from Montana

Author(s): Derek T. O'Donnell, Tyron J. Venn, David E. Calkin
Year Published: 2014
Description:

Federal wildfire management agencies in the United States are under substantial pressure to reduce and economically justify their expenditures. To support economically efficient management of wildfires, managers need better estimates of the resource benefits and avoided damage costs associated with alternative wildfire management strategies. This paper reports findings from a choice modeling study of the wildfire management preferences of residents in Flathead County, Montana, where resources at risk include residential homes (estimated as level of home evacuations), recreational opportunities, air quality, timberland, and forest and watershed health. Residents are willing to pay higher state and county taxes to reduce wildfire impacts on all evaluated resources at risk, and reserved their highest marginal willingness to pay (MWTP) for reducing exposure to unhealthy smoke. Although federal wildfire managers have prioritized protection of private property, including homes, survey respondents expressed their lowest MWTP for reducing home evacuations. When coupled with the negative externality generated by the moral hazard of wildfire suppression near the wildland-urban interface, a strong economic argument can be made against prioritizing protection of private homes in Flathead County.

Citation: O'Donnell, Derek T.; Venna, Tyron J.; Calkin, David E. 2014. Are wildfire management resources in the United States efficiently allocated to protect resources at risk? A case study from Montana. Economic Analysis and Policy. 44: 318-332.
Topic(s): Fire & Economics, Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 12909
Record updated: Apr 28, 2015