WWETAC Projects

Project Title:  Projecting landscape condition with alternative management plans, and weighing the economic costs of future wildfire suppression against the costs of pro-active vegetation management required to achieve a more fire-resilient condition

Principal Investigator:   Jennifer Ruyle, Natural Resources and Planning Staff Officer, Coronado NF, Arizona

 jruyle[at]fs.fed.us

Collaborators:   Jack Triepke, Regional Ecologist, USDA Forest Service Southwest Region ; Jim Upchurch, Forest Supervisor, Coronado NF; Don Falk, Associate Professor, University of Arizona, Tucson; Ann Lynch, Research Entomologist, RMRS, Tucson; Lisa Gaines, Director, Institute for Natural Resources, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Key Issues/Problem Addressed:              


The Coronado National Forest, Sky Islands FireScape group (FireScape), R3 Region Office, the Integrated Landscape Assessment Project (ILAP), the Rocky Mountain Research Station, and other partners are collaborating to examine the effects of alternative vegetation management approaches on vegetation and fuels conditions, so that realistic objectives can be identified in the CNF Forest Plan (currently being revised).  The group is also examining the potential costs of different management alternatives, and wants to evaluate economic trade-offs between fire suppression and proposed pro-active management approaches, as well as evaluate ecosystem trajectories and associated fire suppression costs.


Setting and Approach:  


We propose to project landscape conditions under different proposed alternative management plans and weigh the economic costs of future wildfire suppression against the costs of pro-active vegetation management required to achieve a more fire-resilient condition.

The project will leverage on-going collaborative effort by the Coronado NF (CNF), the Sky Islands/FireScape group, and the Integrated Landscape Assessment Project by supplementing a grant of $50,000 that the CNF recently received from the FS R3 Regional Office to implement their Forest Plan in ways that address key threats and emerging stressors.  The project will build local information and models and train CNF personnel to project vegetation treatment and natural disturbance effects in the Sky Islands area to effectively address key threats.  This would involve collaboration with the Coronado NF, Sky Islands/FireScape group, University of Arizona, The Nature Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Research Station, and FS Region 3.

Progress to Date:

Initial analyses of the of alternative vegetation management approaches are complete and were presented to the Sky Islands FireScape group on 9 October 2012 in Tucson.  As expected, the initial analyses identified several issues that needed to be addressed.  We have completed revision of current vegetation and potential natural vegetation maps using new plot data and maps of recent wildfires.  Currently, we are addressing needs to 1) develop revised fire probability parameters for both historical and current conditions, 2) evaluating regeneration rates, particularly for woodlands species, and 3) finalizing the most difficult potential natural vegetation assignments.  To date, analyses have included only Forest Service lands.

Impacts/Applications:  

Though the proposed work is specific to the Coronado National Forest, successful implementation of the ILAP models in the Sky Islands area will provide a template that national forest, and other federal and state land managers can use to develop integrated landscape assessments to support land management planning in the Southwest.  A general technical report will provide a summarized methodology and a journal article will focus on the comparative results, allowing national forests and others to use “best available science” in their collaborative planning efforts. 

WWETAC ID:      FY12NG111