Reducing Wildfire Risk Involves Trade-offs

Tackling the build-up of fuels in British Columbia's fire-protected forests has consequences not just for reducing the risk of large, catastrophic fires; there are many other costs and benefits. A multi-attribute trade-off analysis (MATA) enables comparing the impacts of alternative approaches to reducing forest fuels.

For the Premier-Diorite Landscape Unit in southeast BC, whether to treat fuels mechanically, or with prescribed burning, or not at all, has implications for supplies of timber and ungulate forage, and risks to rural homes and air quality, among other factors. MATA modelling shows that more aggressive fuel controls better enhance forage, but reduce harvestable timber after 40 years. The results, however, are hugely uncertain about how well the various treatments protect property in the wildland-urban interface.

The model uses GIS data from which landscapes are partitioned into the fire regimes that existed before Europeans arrived. Also mapped are how much the current forest stand structure and fuel loading differs from the historic natural fire regime. The modelís outcomes can assist in making decisions about the best approach for managing forests to avoid devastating wildfires.

Reference

Dan W. Ohlson, Trent M. Berry, Robert W. Gray, Bruce A. Blackwell and Brad C. Hawkes. 2006. Multi-attribute evaluation of landscape-level fuel management to reduce wildfire risk. Forest Policy and Economics. 8(8): 824-837.

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