Economic assessment of mountain pine beetle timber salvage

Oct 21, 2013

A recently published study by U.S. Forest Service researchers evaluates potential revenues from harvesting standing timber killed by mountain pine beetle in the western United States. The study shows that while positive net revenues could be produced in West Coast and Northern Rockies states with active timber markets, the central Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming—which have the largest volume of standing dead timber—would not generate positive net revenues by salvaging beetle-killed timber.

A mountain pine beetle epidemic in the western United States has left mountainsides covered with dead pines, especially lodgepole pine, with most of the and land affected on national forests. Policymakers and forest managers are considering increasing timber salvage rates on these lands as a way to address potential wildfire threat, hazards from falling trees, and visual impact, but first need to assess the broader economic ramifications of putting more timber on the market in areas where mills have closed and markets have waned over the two last decades.

Research Forester Jeff Prestemon and fellow scientists with the Forest Service Southern Research Station Forest Economics and Policy unit and with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center were asked to evaluate the circumstances under which salvaging pine beetle-killed timber would be cost-effective. The researchers used an economic assessment model to estimate potential salvage volumes, costs and revenues from programs that would encourage salvage of standing dead timber, summarizing findings by state and owner groups.

"We carried out a set of multiyear simulations to produce an assessment of the net revenue impacts of salvage on national forests and other public and private lands in the 12 contiguous western U.S. states," says Prestemon. Net revenues are defined as revenues received at the mill gate less the costs of harvesting, transportation, and administration. The researchers also carried out a scenario that tested doubling the total mill capacity in Montana and Colorado—two states heavily affected by the —to evaluate the effects of efforts to encourage or subsidize higher rates of salvage in these states.

Findings from the assessment include:

  • The central and northern Rocky Mountain states have the most salvageable timberland and the largest total salvageable volumes, with the highest in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho.
  • The majority of timber and lands affected in the 12 western states are on national forests—88 percent of the total salvageable volume and 84 percent of the total area.
  • Four states—Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—have actual volume losses greater than 2 billion cubic feet. Two additional states—Oregon and Utah—have more than 1 billion cubic feet of salvageable volume.
  • Of the above six states, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana currently have the timber processing capacity to absorb large quantities of salvage.
  • Scenarios show that salvage would generate positive net revenues in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, and South Dakota.
  • States where salvage-generated revenues are on average less than salvage costs include Colorado and Wyoming—which have large proportions of salvageable volume—and Nevada.
  • For Wyoming and Colorado, scenarios show that relatively high volumes removed per acre of timberland lead to quick saturation of available markets even when the number of total acres harvested is small.

"In short, our results show that places where timber product markets are strong are likely to have profitable salvage, while places where product markets are weak would need sizable public expenditures to achieve appreciable reductions in the amount of dead standing timber," says Prestemon. The study did not examine other factors that might influence land management decisions, such as fire risk reduction, improvement in stand conditions, or jobs.

Explore further: House OKs more logging in national forests

More information: www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/ja/2013/ja_2013_prestemon_001.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

House OKs more logging in national forests

Sep 23, 2013

In response to fires that have ravaged the West this year, the House on Friday approved a bill that would expand logging in national forests despite a White House veto threat.

Indonesia, EU pact to stop illegal timber exports

Sep 30, 2013

Indonesia, Asia's leading exporter of timber to Europe, on Monday signed a long-awaited pact with the European Union to fight the trade in illegal timber, a driver of environmentally damaging deforestation.

Insects continue to threaten forests across Colorado

Feb 16, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Although the mountain pine beetle epidemic has largely run its course in north-central Colorado, insect and disease activity continued to stress the state’s forests in 2010.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...