A Spatial Model of Mechanical Thinning Location and Forest Management Outcomes in the Wildland-Urban Interface
In fire-prone areas of the western United States, mechanical thinning is often seen as a way to achieve two outcomes: Wildfire mitigation and restoration of historical forest structure. In this study, a spatial modeling approach is used to (1) find which forests are likely to be thinned under different criteria; (2) for these forests, evaluate whether wildfire mitigation and restoration of historical forest structure are potentially needed; and (3) determine whether these results change under alternative assumptions related to weather and fire history. Effectively, the spatial models in this study allow us to “test” thinning criteria to see if they lead to the selection of land where the stated management goals are needed in the study area of the montane zone of Boulder County, Colo. The spatial modeling results indicate that common management practices — such as thinning dense stands on Forest Service land near communities — may be inappropriate if the desired outcome is both wildfire mitigation and restoration of historical forest structure. Instead, modeling results suggest that lower elevation forests in the study area should receive priority. Though specific to the montane zone of Boulder County, the results of this study support wider criticisms of national fire policy.
Platt, Rutherford V., Thomas T. Veblen, and Rosemary L. Sherriff. "A Spatial Model of Mechanical Thinning Location and Forest Management Outcomes in the Wildland-Urban Interface." Natural Hazards Review 9.4 (November 2008), 199-208.