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Are wildfire management resources in the United States efficiently allocated to protect resources at risk? A case study from Montana

Posted date: March 26, 2015
Publication Year: 
2014
Authors: O'Donnell, Derek T.; Venna, Tyron J.; Calkin, Dave E.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Economic Analysis and Policy. 44: 318-332.

Abstract

Federal wildfire management agencies in the United States are under substantial pressure to reduce and economically justify their expenditures. To support economically efficient management of wildfires, managers need better estimates of the resource benefits and avoided damage costs associated with alternative wildfire management strategies. This paper reports findings from a choice modeling study of the wildfire management preferences of residents in Flathead County, Montana, where resources at risk include residential homes (estimated as level of home evacuations), recreational opportunities, air quality, timberland, and forest and watershed health. Residents are willing to pay higher state and county taxes to reduce wildfire impacts on all evaluated resources at risk, and reserved their highest marginal willingness to pay (MWTP) for reducing exposure to unhealthy smoke. Although federal wildfire managers have prioritized protection of private property, including homes, survey respondents expressed their lowest MWTP for reducing home evacuations. When coupled with the negative externality generated by the moral hazard of wildfire suppression near the wildland-urban interface, a strong economic argument can be made against prioritizing protection of private homes in Flathead County.

Citation

O'Donnell, Derek T.; Venna, Tyron J.; Calkin, David E. 2014. Are wildfire management resources in the United States efficiently allocated to protect resources at risk? A case study from Montana. Economic Analysis and Policy. 44: 318-332.