Triple Bottom Line Analysis Of Fuel Treatments

A look at fuels treatments in the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed, by Earth Economics.

This conservative analysis found that the proposed fuel treatments are estimated to generate between $1.44–$1.67 in benefits for every dollar invested in treatment. The majority of these benefits directly accrue to the Santa Fe community, through avoided air quality impacts, recreational losses, damages to structures, and source water impacts. The remaining benefits accrue to public agencies at the state and national level or to the global community (in the case of avoided carbon emissions).

The authors examination of avoided costs is interesting. For example:

$5 million – $14 million in avoided fire suppression costs
$2 million – $4 million in avoided fire restoration costs
$5.1 million – $11.4 million in voided economic losses of recreation


Carbon stocks are reduced through treatment, however a reduction in carbon losses due to wildfire is projected to generate a net reduction in carbon losses over the long term. For this analysis, we used the carbon model developed by Krofcheck, et al. This carbon model used a 50-year analysis period, rather than the 10-year study period used in this study. This decision was intentional, because using a 10-year study period would likely produce a negative value owing to the near term biomass reductions through thinning and prescribed burning. A 50-year time period is more appropriate for analysis, because it demonstrates the long-term goal of carbon storage. Krofcheck, et al. found that treatments would result in a net carbon emissions reduction of 150,000–330,000 metric tons of carbon. This reduction is valued using EPA’s social cost of carbon ($42 per ton).

1 thought on “Triple Bottom Line Analysis Of Fuel Treatments”

  1. “The U.S. Forest Service engaged Earth Economics to conduct an analysis of the social, environmental, and economic benefits that the fireshed provides for the surrounding community, and to explore the impact of the proposed fuel reduction treatment on these benefits.” When someone contracts for a study of something they want to do, I wonder how often the contractor gives them bad news? Or does it just never get publicized? (And I recognize that applies to both sides of the story.)

    Other things I’ve read suggest that the short term is more important to slowing carbon accumulation, and they concede that would “produce a negative value.” The answer depends a lot on how you frame the question (which could depend on who’s asking).


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