Skip to main content
Brian Cooke
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Effects
Ecological - First Order
Ecological - Second Order
Aquatic Life
Fire Regime
Fire Intensity / Burn Severity

NRFSN number: 14698
FRAMES RCS number: 22855
Record updated:

High-intensity wildfires are one of the leading causes of severe soil erosion in western U.S. watersheds. This erosion can lead to disruptive deposits of sediment in reservoirs and water supply systems. Fuel treatments such as controlled burns and forest thinning can reduce wildfire intensity and help preserve topsoil. But while these treatments are generally much less expensive than firefighting, property loss, and sediment removal, there are limited funds available for controlled burns and forest thinning. For this reason, land managers can benefit from estimating the erosion potential of high-intensity wildfires in order to decide where to focus fuel reduction efforts. To help forest managers prioritize forest fuel reduction decisions, scientists from the Rocky Mountain Research Station and other agencies and organizations have developed several modeling tools that predict fire risk and erosion potential in and around watersheds. These tools, which include FSim, FlamMap, and WEPP (Water Erosion Prediction Project), are helping land managers preserve long-term forest health and preserve water supply and access in the western United States. By helping to quantify the connection between forest management and water supply protection, these tools are helping land managers cultivate stakeholder support for forest management efforts.


Cooke, Brian. 2016. Protecting the source: tools to evaluate fuel treatment cost vs. water quality protection. Science You Can Use Bulletin 21. Fort Collins, CO: US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.