2012 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
To conduct an economic analysis of efforts to reduce the risk of invasive annual grasses on selected Great Basin watersheds.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Watershed management strategies are assessed according to the expected value of their long-term outcomes relative to the cost of implementation. The types of outcomes we will investigate include changes in the costs of fire suppression, changes in flows of values from ecological goods and services,and changes in productivity for livestock and wildlife, as these affect human populations today and in the future.
The expected outcome from a decision to "do nothing" for a given watershed is taken as a baseline. Expected outcomes from treatment alternatives, as those outcomes are expected to unfold over time, are described as differences from that baseline. In order to predict how benefits and costs would unfold over time, team ecologists will be consulted for their expertise in interpreting the expected ranges of ecological outcomes from management strategies modeled for predicting outcomes of the ecologically-based invasive plant management (EBIPM).
Methods and data collection will focus on the expected differences from the baselines induced by management decisions. Differences that can be shown to induce a corresponding change in social welfare are identified as candidates for inclusion in the economic analysis. While these will likely vary by watershed and demonstration site, general methods will be developed for replication at any site in the Great Basin. Some ecological differences may not affect social and economic values directly. But if any indirect effects are significant, these will be indicated as values to measure and include in the economic analysis.
Changes in values that are identified to be included in analysis must be quantified. Methods for quantifying these changes will depend in part on the nature of these values. For changes that can be measured as market-valued changes in expenditures, or revenues, standard economic approaches can be used that rely on data collection and econometric modeling. For changes that are not easily valued with market data (such as the value of a loss of 200 big game hunting days per years, or the value of losing habitat that would result in half as many sagegrouse in the watershed), non-market valuation methods will be used. Ultimately, the value of a management strategy will be expressed as the expected value of these measured differences in values from the baselines. An optimal management strategy is defined as one that achieves the highest present valued expected net benefits to society.
In fiscal year 2012, a number of products were developed and several manuscripts prepared and submitted to peer-reviewed journals. Two outreach bulletins were prepared and are available for land managers on the Ecologically-based Invasiive Plant Management (EBIPM) website. One, to help guide managers on the cost/benefits of conducting fuel management and another demonstrating when ranchers take into account ranch profits and wildfire suppression incentives for treatments are highest on annual grass dominated rangeland. Results of our work have been presented at professional conferences and land manager workshops. Additionally, the economic ramifications of annual grass infestations and how EBIPM is impacting land management was presented as part of the special EBIPM symposium at the national conference of the Society of Range Management. This presentation was adapted into a manuscript format to be a part of the special Rangelands journal issue on EBIPM. A publication has been submitted that uses a wildfire cost model to estimate the expected benefits of fuel management treatments in terms of wildfire suppression costs. A manuscript based on work emphasizing the difference between ecological and economic thresholds in rangeland ecosystems was prepared for journal submission. The successful implementation of EBIPM requires ranchers and land managers to estimate changes in economic benefits of implementing management treatments. A recent manuscript has been submitted to provide land managers a process to identify the benefits and costs of their rangeland management project and steps to performing a benefit/cost analysis. This agreement was established in support of objective 5 of the in-house project, "Create decision-support products and tools that will have a sustained impact on managing cheatgrass/medusahead in the Great Basin and surrounding ecosystems into the future".