Van Liew, Dustin Bruce (2009-05). Economic feasibility and risk of using prescribed extreme fire as an invasive brush management tool in Texas. Master's Thesis.
This component of the Conservation Innovation Grants Summer Burning project evaluates the economic feasibility of using prescribed fire that exceeds the current Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) technical standards as a rangeland restoration practice on privately owned land in Texas. This study has four objectives: (1) Evaluate the economic effectiveness of using prescribed extreme burns as a rangeland restoration tool compared to other rangeland restoration strategies. (2) Provide economic research results that will facilitate a review of the technical standards, specification, and potential policy changes by the NRCS with respect to the use of prescribed extreme burning. (3) Assess economic effects of extreme fire when used in combination with other treatment practices over a 20 year planning horizon. (4) Through modeling, forecasting, and simulation assess the risk associated with the use of extreme prescribed fire, with respect to weather (rainfall) conditions. The research covers four contiguous counties in each of three eco-regions in Texas: Rolling Plains, Edwards Plateau, and the South Texas Plains. Focus group meetings with landowners and NRCS/Extension personnel were held in each region to obtain preliminary information including common rangeland uses, most problematic invasive brush species, and the most commonly used treatment methods and associated costs. The primary invasive species in each region include: Rolling Plains - Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaecantha); Edwards Plateau - Redberry and Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei Buchh. And J. pinchotii Sudw., respectively); South Texas Plains - Huisache (Acacia smallii Isely). Mesquite (Prosopis glandulsa Torr.) was identified as a common invasive brush species across all three regions. When extreme fire was compared to the most commonly used invasive brush treatments, assuming the treatment was instituted in year one, it was economically superior in all cases and feasible (Net Present Value > 0 and Benefit/Cost Ratio >1) in all but two cases. The inclusion of forecasted rainfall figures with the combination of using the most commonly used brush treatment with extreme fire proved to substantially reduce the risk of instituting the treatment regimes. The probability distribution of NPVs was significantly smaller when treatment practices were spread over ten years and parcels than when treatment was restricted to the first year and whole ranch.