My research focuses broadly on economic valuation of nonmarket goods and natural resources. That includes (1) the measurement of net value or net benefits received from natural resource use (an economic efficiency perspective) and (2) measuring economic activity associated with a particular good/service/activity, and studying how benefits and economic activity accrue to groups or sectors within the economy (an economic distribution or equity perspective). More recent work has been aimed at more effectively incorporating the public and their preferences into land management planning deliberations and decisions. These lines of research are applied to national forests and the diversity of their uses.
A hundred years of fire suppression, combined with several years of drought conditions, has led to forests that are overly dense, susceptible to disease and insect infestation, and pose an increased risk of catastrophic wildfire. Biomass removal is needed to: (1) restore and/or improve forest health; (2) reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire; (3) reduce hazards resulting from insect and disease killed trees; among other things. Biomass removal is expensive. When the dominant material harvested is small diameter, so high value saw logs are scarce, and markets for wood products are down, it is not profitable for contractors to bid on many timber sales and forest treatment projects. Coupled with that is the disposal problem associated with residual material from biomass removal. It is costly to haul away, and burning in place presents problems. Anything that results in value-added products from biomass, and especially from residual materials, enhances the feasibility of biomass removal and treatment projects. Utilization of biomass also offers potential benefits for rural economic development. In order to use biomass to achieve these benefits, we must learn about the range of uses and products that can come from woody biomass and how they might enter into society's broad market.