Study: Ecological Forest Thinning and Rx Fire Lowers Insurance Premiums

Interesting paper by The Nature Conservancy and a large insurance company. It’s an “analysis that shows how ecological forest management, which reduces the risk of severe wildfires in fire-adapted forests, can be combined with insurance and significantly reduce insurance costs.” Press release here. The paper, “Wildfire Resilience Insurance: Quantifying the Risk Reduction of Ecological Forestry with Insurance,” is here. This illustration is from the paper:

5 thoughts on “Study: Ecological Forest Thinning and Rx Fire Lowers Insurance Premiums”

  1. I got all excited when I saw the recommendation for applying “ecological forestry.” But, it looks like TNC just appropriated the term to fit their own narrow purposes, which really has little to do with “ecology” and more to do with prescribed burning and thinning of forest acreage to protect human developments and insurance companies from wildfire.

    My understanding of “ecological forestry” would be closer to this definition:

    “The goal of ecological forestry is to sustain healthy productive forests (including timber production), replete with native species diversity and a full array of ecosystem services, and the goal is best met by managing forests in ways that bring them closer (compared with traditional management approaches) in structure, function, and composition to healthy, natural forests at all stages of successional development. This latter statement points out where ecological forestry and traditional forestry often diverge.”

    • In areas where stands are overstocked and have high fuel loads, the “ecological forestry” described in the report is exactly that.

  2. The Washington Post has a pretty good story today, paywalled, of course:

    Makes mention of Indian burning, fuel buildup in Montana, near Seeley Lake. Superb storymap, photos, video, and graphics. Includes a diagram similar to the one in the TNC insurance paper:


    Funding for prescribed fire has waned while suppression costs have skyrocketed. The fuel reduction budgets, which include prescribed burn funding, for the Forest Service and Interior Department has averaged $590 million annually over the past 10 years. Suppression appropriations have been around $2.2 billion per year. Meanwhile, actual suppression costs have hit an average of $2.35 billion every year for the past five years for federal agencies. This figure doesn’t even include state agencies like the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which has $2.1 billion appropriated for fire suppression this year.

    Sustainable logging practices, especially those that are reviewed, initiated and permitted by land agencies, can benefit fire suppression by counteracting the effects of fire exclusion — namely, by clearing underbrush, reducing the likelihood of high-intensity fire and bug kill by removing brush and ladder fuels.

    “I say that we only really have two tools in the toolbox to reduce fuels on the landscape: One is logging and the other is prescribed fire,” [Seeley Lake District Ranger Quinn] Carver said. Logging in this context can also mean mechanical or hand thinning with chain saws, to lessen forest density. “So you would go through and mechanically take out some of the high-density trees to the extent you can, and then follow that up with a prescribed burn.”


Leave a Comment