Title: Protecting the source: Tools to evaluate fuel treatment cost vs. water quality protection
Author: Cooke, Brian; Elliot, William; Miller, Mary Ellen; Finney, Mark; Thompson, Matthew;
Source: Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 21. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.
Publication Series: Science Bulletins and Newsletters
High-intensity wildfires are one of the leading causes of severe soil erosion in western U.S. watersheds. This erosion can lead to disruptive deposits of sediment in reservoirs and water supply systems. Fuel treatments such as controlled burns and forest thinning can reduce wildfire intensity and help preserve topsoil. But while these treatments are generally much less expensive than firefighting, property loss, and sediment removal, there are limited funds available for controlled burns and forest thinning. For this reason, land managers can benefit from estimating the erosion potential of high-intensity wildfires in order to decide where to focus fuel reduction efforts.
To help forest managers prioritize forest fuel reduction decisions, scientists from the Rocky Mountain Research Station and other agencies and organizations have developed several modeling tools that predict fire risk and erosion potential in and around watersheds. These tools, which include FSim, FlamMap, and WEPP (Water Erosion Prediction Project), are helping land managers preserve long-term forest health and preserve water supply and access in the western United States. By helping to quantify the connection between forest management and water supply protection, these tools are helping land managers cultivate stakeholder support for forest management efforts.
Keywords: water quality, erosion, fire risk, fuel reduction, WEPP
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Cooke, Brian; Elliot, Bill; Miller, Mary Ellen; Finney, Mark; Thompson, Matthew. 2016. Protecting the source: Tools to evaluate fuel treatment cost vs. water quality protection. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 21. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.
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