WWETAC Projects

Project Title:   Managing interacting disturbances to achieve multiple environmental objectives

Principal Investigator:  Travis Warziniack, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station


Collaborators: Charles Sims, Department of Applied Economics, Utah State University  

Key Issues/Problem Addressed:              

The Forest Service has declared enhancing ecosystem service values as a major policy goal, in part to capture the benefits of its management efforts via markets for ecosystem services. Fruits of these efforts can be seen in recent partnerships with Denver Water and the City of Santa Fe in which municipal water users directly fund restoration projects on upstream National Forests. As Forest Service management moves forward with ecosystem valuation efforts and payment for ecosystem service schemes, the research community has not kept a similar pace, particularly with regard to the unique situation in which the Forest Service finds itself - managing multiple disturbances (e.g., insect outbreaks, wildfire risk, land use change) to achieve multiple environmental objectives (e.g., timber harvests, recreation, water quality, wildlife habitat). This task is considerably different than the one-sided objectives of partners like municipal water providers that have led the ecosystem service discussion.

Setting and Approach:  

The goal of this project is to guide Forest Service policy in the management of ecosystem services on its forests, accounting for multiple disturbances and multiple environmental objectives. This goal will be reached by completing three objectives: (1) inventory ecosystem services on three high-priority Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Programs (CFLRPs); (2) assess ecosystem disturbances on these CFLRPs based on previous research and on-forest expertise; (3) develop a bioeconomic model of ecosystem services to maximize values of ecosystem services identified in objective 1 subject to disturbances identified in objective 2.  An additional benefit of this research will be the strengthening of economies dependent on services provided by nearby forests.

Progress to Date:

The theoretical bioeconomic model is complete. The Clearwater River Basin was chosen as the first case study on which to calibrate and test the model. A student worker from the University of Montana has completed a literature review of ecosystem services on National Forests, with particular attention to ecosystem services from northern Idaho and western Montana forests. A field visit was made during the summer of 2012 to the Clearwater River Basin that included meetings with forest managers working on the CFLRP and contractors responsible for the CFLRP socio-economic monitoring. A Colorado State University student will soon begin cataloging and comparing ecosystem services across the three CFLRPs, following the Ecosystem Services Valuation Framework being developed by the FS Washington Office.


This project will develop an innovative forest management model that incorporates ecological and economic feedbacks. To date, we know of no other bioeconomic models that optimize the use of multiple ecosystem services while accounting for multiple environmental disturbances. The model and supporting programs will be built for use in a wide variety of forest management scenarios that may arise throughout the United States. This will result in a tool for valuing ecosystem services produced by a forest and for establishing initial price-points for payment for ecosystem service schemes. This project builds on previously funded projects, moving them forward to provide more policy-relevant information, including the RPA assessment, Forests to Faucets, and CFLRP.

WWETAC ID:      FY12NG112