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Modeling forest planning trade-offs on the Colorado Front Range using MAGIS, an optimization, spatial decision support system

Posted date: September 10, 2007
Publication Year: 
Authors: Butler, Edward B. Jr.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: Missoula, MT: University of Montana. Thesis. 126 p.


The fires of 2000 and 2002 catalyzed a national mandate for fuel treatment programs to facilitate wildfire mitigation, yet the issues that need to be considered when planning large landscape projects are daunting, often ending in gridlock due to planning conflicts. Hazardous fuels maps help little when planning for integrated, system-wide ecological objectives and fail to address the complex, contentious social issues inherent in the process. Budgets and manpower, limit how much area can be treated, so prioritization is a must. This thesis is a demonstration of MAGIS, a spatial decision support tool (SDST), which can integrate innumerable social, economic and wildlife issues coupled with the discipline-specific analysis of three companion SDSTs. MAGIS provides a graphical interface, modeling framework and functionality for scenario building, while its optimization and GIS components supply tabular and graphical feedback and spatially explicit scheduling-prioritized by the user's parameters. MAGIS scenarios facilitate: analysis of short and long-term effects; forest plan creation/ revision; consensus building and NEPA reporting. Once built, scenario runs can provide rapid interactive information for dissemination at public meetings. Companion SDSTs used in this study are: 1) SIMPPLLE, 2) combination of fire behavior tools FARSITE, FlamMAP, MTT and TOM and 3) WEPP. SIMPPLLE, an ecology based, vegetation simulator, provides analysis and resulting risk-maps of processes such as stand-replacing fire. The fire behavior tools provide an analysis based on physical relationships of forest fuels, topography, and extreme fire conditions. From this model fire growth, intensity and spread is predicted. These tools can also determine the size and placement of treatments to efficiently inhibit fire progression. WEPP provides erosion prediction driven by stochastic weather events. This study was conducted on a 92,000-ac site in the Colorado Front Range. The site is characterized by a spectrum of difficult social, political and ecological issues, most notably, residential/forest intermix and the watershed's prominence as Denver's chief water supply. The goal of this study was to use MAGIS to integrate analysis of all these models and to identify ways to restore the site to the historical landscape, while mitigating wildfire risk. The results from this study indicate that great efficiency can be achieved in terms of reduction of risk indices given fixed projected costs.


Butler, Edward B., Jr. 2005. Modeling forest planning trade-offs on the Colorado Front Range using MAGIS, an optimization, spatial decision support system. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. Thesis. 126 p.