USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station


Pacific Southwest Research Station
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Incorporating project-level analysis and enhanced decision support into the OptFuels fuel treatment planning system for the Lake Tahoe Basin

Proposal [pdf]

Lead Researchers:

Greg Jones, Jody Bramel, and William Elliot, USDA Forest Service-Rocky Mountain Research Station
Woodam Chung, University of Montana


Many communities in the Lake Tahoe Basin are at high risk for damage from wildfire. The USDA Forest Service-Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) and other land management agencies in the basin have conducted fuel treatments on numerous acres, primarily within the wildland urban interface, and there are plans to treat over 68,000 acres of forested areas within the basin over the next 10 to 15 years. Efficient and effective tools are needed to help these managers develop and evaluate fuel treatment alternatives for reducing fire risk to public safety, property, and the environment, address other forest management objectives, and generate a shared understanding of the benefits and costs of alternatives in planning. In recognition of this need, SNPLMA provided funds to develop a decision support system, OptFuels, for scheduling fuel treatment locations in time and space across landscapes to maximize treatment effectiveness (Round 9, "Integrated decision support for cost-effective fuel treatments under multiple resource goals"). We propose a 1.5-year project to enhance the current version of the OptFuels decision support tool in response to suggestions from basin managers made at a May 2011 OptFuels workshop. With these enhancements managers will be able to quickly and easily build an OptFuels model for any planning area in the basin by clipping information from a basin-wide database. Functionality will be added to allow managers to enter and analyze treatment unit polygons of any shape and size. Other proposed enhancements will provide more information for comparing treatment alternatives, including treatment costs, biomass volumes and delivery costs, and the extent to which values at risk would be impacted with and without fuel treatment if wildfire were to occur, including predicted sediment loading in stream channels and listings of values at risk within the burn perimeter for various durations of burn time. We believe this enhanced OptFuels system effectively addresses the needs for a tool to help resource managers better evaluate alternative strategies for reducing fire risk to public safety, property, and the environment.

Relation to Other Research Including SNPLMA Science Projects

This work builds off of the base OptFuels decision support system originally funded by the Joint Fire Sciences Program and SNPLMA Round 9 ("Integrated decision support for cost-effective fuel treatments under multiple resource goals") to build an integrated decision support tool consisting of the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS), FlamMap, and Multiple-resource Analysis and Geographic Information System (MAGIS) and will use the system to analyze landscape-level fuel treatment strategies in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The new Round 12 project will develop enhancements to the base OptFuels system that will improve system utility for project-level analysis. These enhancements include the delivery of a complete FVS-based vegetation and fuels database for the basin, GIS tools that make OptFuels more user-friendly, and additional outputs that characterize potential biomass production, sediment delivery, and stand structure. This work will also leverage research conducted in SNPLMA Round 8 to characterize the FCCS fuelbeds in the Tahoe Basin ("Developing FCCS fuelbeds for the Angora fire region"). In addition, the OptFuels vegetation modeling effort will utilize research conducted to characterize post-Angora fire conditions related to tree regeneration and vegetation cover (Carlson et al., 2010). Finally, a database developed from SNPLMA-funded research related to the WEPP system (Round 7, "Assessing the sources and transport of fine sediment in response to management practices in the Tahoe Basin using the WEPP model") will be incorporated to model potential sediment delivery to streams as a result of fuel treatment activities and wildfire.

Expected date of final products:

February 2014

Last Modified: Mar 28, 2013 02:52:08 PM