High-intensity wildfires are one of the leading causes of severe soil erosion in western U.S. watersheds. This erosion can lead to disruptive deposits of sediment in reservoirs and water supply systems. Fuel treatments such as controlled burns and forest thinning can reduce wildfire intensity and help preserve topsoil. But while these treatments are generally much less expensive than firefighting, property loss, and sediment removal, there are limited funds available for controlled burns and forest thinning. For this reason, land managers can benefit from estimating the erosion potential of high-intensity wildfires in order to decide where to focus fuel reduction efforts.
Cooke, Brian; Elliot, Bill; Miller, Mary Ellen; Finney, Mark; Thompson, Matthew. 2016. Science You Can Use (SYCU) - Protecting the source: Tools to evaluate fuel treatment cost vs. water quality protection. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 21. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.