The Efficacy of Hazardous Fuel Treatments: Report from Ecological Restoration Institutet

waldo photo from report 19

Here’s a link to this report. There are many good photos in the report in addition to the one above. You can click on the photo above to enlarge it.

Have the past 10 years of hazardous fuel reduction treatments made a difference? Have fuel reduction treatments reduced fire risk to communities?

● Using an evidence-based approach to objectively evaluate the relevant literature, researchers found
that for the forest ecosystems that were examined, the evidence suggests that restoration treatments can reduce re severity and tree mortality in the face of wildre, and also increase carbon storage
over the long-term.

● Studies that use the avoided cost approach to examine the cost of re demonstrate that treatments result in suppression cost savings.

● Modeling studies that evaluate the effectiveness of fuels treatments in terms of changes in wildland
re size, burn probabilities, and re behavior demonstrate that fuel treatments applied at the proper scale can influence the risk, size, and behavior of re therefore reducing suppression cost.

● Modeling also demonstrates that where treatments are sucient to change dynamic re behavior, suppression costs are reduced.

● Modeling demonstrates that fuel reduction treatments are eective at reducing re behavior (severity) where implemented, and can successfully reduce re risk to communities. However, it also shows that fuel reduction treatments that occur at broader scales would have bigger impacts on the overall reduction of crown re. Perhaps most importantly, the results show that WUI-only treatments result in areas of unchanged crown re potential across the untreated landscape, therefore leaving it vulnerable to large, severe, and expensive (mega) landscape-scale re.

● Although few studies exist on the topic, fuel reduction treatments signicantly enhance the price of adjacent real estate, whereas homes in close proximity to a wildre experience lower property values.

The executive summary is on pages 4 and 5 and an easy read.

Here’s one news story I found about it.. in the Deseret News, others?

6 thoughts on “The Efficacy of Hazardous Fuel Treatments: Report from Ecological Restoration Institutet”

  1. These sound like the common sense conclusions that many people have been suggesting for many years. I was also pleased to see the differentiation between “studies” and “models” — and that, excepting a few typos and formatting glitches, this information is all presented in a clearly written and understandable style.

    • Some are very fond of stating that no form of management will save homes from intense, weather-driven firestorms. However, minimal to no management of the WUI and surrounding areas means that even small wildfires in calmer winds can grow and generate their own extreme winds. IMHO, large portions of the watersheds that communities are located in should be considered the WUI. After all, impacts to the watershed become impacts to the community. A wildfire 10 miles upstream can severely impact the community downstream.

      And, I’d say, that a healthy and green forest surrounding a town is integral to the feeling of “home”. Many would not rebuild their burned homes if there were no trees around it for miles. Others would rebuild but, sell it off and move to a greener and shadier place.

      • Personally, I have a lot of problems with WUIs no matter how they are measured. This is an artificial zoning acronym invented by the USFS and a totally meaningless term to most citizens. I don’t even believe in “Wildlands” in the first place, which just makes it worse. And most citizens, so far as I can tell, don’t have a clue as to its meaning, either.

        Historians, hydrologists, geologists, fire ecologists, firefighters, biologists, and politicians — and thousands of generations of people before them — have all been aware of watershed boundaries separating subbasins and basins from one another since Day 1. Look at historical wildfire boundaries, countylines established before 1890, or thousands of miles of ridegeline Indian Trails before then (now logging roads and highways in many locations).

        Why do we need artificial agency-imposed boundaries at this juncture? Just so voting citizens, including most Congressional reps, will have no idea what is being discussed? Because there is a surplus of agency GIS techs and they need something to do?

        If we are going to manage lands and resources at a landscape-scale, then I suggest we continue doing so along traditional geological boundaries — watersheds. It is proven and already established — not much need to invent an all new bureaucracy, or to continue paying for one. If we have a compelling need to map acronym-based agency zoning suggestions, then I suggest we start with ROS, and for reasons previously discussed:

  2. From the article:

    “There really is a cascading effect,” with improvements realized in ecosystems and the hydrological health of an area, she said.

    “If you restore a forest, especially these dry, Intermountain West forests, you can actually improve the entire hydrologic function of the area, with better soil moisture levels, better water infiltration,” Vosick said.

    It is not sufficient, either, to simply go after those areas in the wildland urban interface, she said, but landscape treatments should be expanded into adjacent areas.

    “Without doing more on places outside the interface, we are still going to be hit with these large, expensive fires,” Vosick said.

    Yes, there are similarities to living outside of Seattle, next to or nearby a nasty private land clearcut. Would that affect how you felt about your home and its surroundings? I know I wouldn’t like it.

  3. i have seen few fuels treatments on the kind of steep ground seen in the pic. A problem. And not much to be done about that, many areas such as shown have poor road access. The kind of thinning and fuels work seen around the Deschutes NF is not typical of steeper lands sorely needing it in the Rockies.

    • I have to agree with you, Greg. “Commercial” logging would reduce fuels but, logs would have to be removed by helicopter, in that canyon. A more likely and effective treatment might be hand-felling and hand-piling of ladder fuels, and maybe even limbing up the remaining trees. Also possible is to put such work within a stewardship project, with work paid for by logs. With the lack of mills around, in Colorado, that strategy may not work. Preparing a project that no mill will bid on would be a big setback.


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