Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Tyron Venn

Commitee Members

Douglas Dalenberg, Ronald Wakimoto


choice modeling, non-market economics, non-market valuation, northwest Montana, wildfire economics


University of Montana


Annual fire management and suppression expenditures by the USDA Forest Service have dramatically increased in recent years, and exceeded $1 billion in the fire seasons of 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. These escalating management costs can largely be attributed to the Forest Services’ efforts to protect private property in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) at the expense of other market and non-market attributes. Due to increasing development within the WUI, climate change, and excessive fuel loading from decades of successful fire suppression, it is likely that fire suppression costs will continue to rise if current wildfire management priorities are not modified. Previous economic models utilized by the Forest Service to support wildfire management decisions only accommodated market values like private structures and timber, however, new models are being developed by the Forest Service to account for various market and non-market values at risk from wildfire in order to more efficiently allocate fire management funds. The objective of this study was to derive marginal social values for several non-market attributes at risk from wildfire in Flathead County, Montana, for inclusion in wildfire management decision-support models. This was achieved by conducting a choice modeling study in Flathead County. It was found that a typical resident of Flathead County has a value for structure protection of only $0.28 per home, compared to $1.90 for a one percentage point reduction in the chance that wildfire affects their recreation opportunities, $3.23 for a one day reduction in the number of moderate smoky days, $13.36 for a one day reduction in the number of unhealthy smoky days, $13.39 for a 1,000 acre reduction of timberland burned by wildfire, and $4.52 for a 1 percentage point reduction in the number of large (greater than 5,000 acres) fires that burn on the landscape. Responses to the questionnaire also revealed that 74.3% of respondents believe that it is the responsibility of the individual homeowner, not fire management agencies, if a home burns because of a wildfire. These findings reveal that there is a small social value for private property protection in Flathead County compared to other non-market attributes, and suggest that current fire management, which places emphasis on private property protection, is not socially efficient for Flathead County.



© Copyright 2009 Derek Timothy O'Donnell