A multi-benefit framework for funding forest management in fire-driven ecosystems across the Western U.S.

Forests across the Western U.S. face unprecedented risk due to historic fire exclusion, environmental degradation, and climate change.

Forest management activities like ecological thinning, prescribed burning, and meadow restoration can improve landscape resilience. Resilient forests are at a lower risk of high-intensity wildfires, drought, insects, and other disturbances and provide a wide range of benefits to ecosystems and communities. However, insufficient funding limits implementation of critically needed management. To address this challenge, we propose a multi-benefit framework that leverages the diverse benefits of forest management to engage a suite of stakeholders in sharing project costs. We take a three-pronged approach to develop our conceptual model: examining existing frameworks for environmental project implementation, conducting a literature review of forest management benefits, and evaluating case studies. Through our framework, we describe the steps to engage partners, starting by identifying benefits that could accrue to potential public and private beneficiaries, and moving through an iterative and collaborative process of valuing benefits, which can accrue over different spatial and temporal scales, in close consultation with potential beneficiaries themselves. The aim of this approach is to stack funding streams associated with each valued benefit to fully fund a given forest management project. The multi-benefit framework has the potential to unlock new sources of funding to meet the exceptional challenges of climate and wildfire disturbances. We apply the framework to dry forests of the Western U.S., but opportunities exist for expanding and modifying this approach to any geography or ecosystem where management provides multiple benefits.

Publication: Journal of Environmental Management

Authors: Kimberly Quesnel Seipp, Tessa Maurer, Micah Elias, Phil Saksa, Catherine Keske, Kirsten Oleson, Benis Egoh, Rachael Cleveland, Charity Nyelele, Nicolas Goncalves, Kyle Hemes, Peter Wyrsch, David Lewis, Min Gon Chung, Han Guo, Martha Conklin, Roger Bales

Read the 2-page brief here.