Return on investments in restoration and fuel treatments in frequent-fire forests of the American west: A meta-analysis

Evan E. Hjerpe, Melanie M. Colavito, Amy E.M. Waltz, Andrew Sánchez Meador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arid forests in the American West contend with overly dense stands and a need to reduce fuels and restore more natural fire regimes. Forest restoration efforts include fuel treatments, such as thinning and prescribed burning, that can reduce ground and ladder fuels. Restoration and fuel treatments have emerged as leading wildfire risk-reduction strategies in the American West, yet little is known about the cost-effectiveness of such programs. To evaluate forest restoration and fuel treatment benefits and costs, we conducted a meta-analysis of benefit-cost ratios for restoration benefit types documented in the literature for Western U.S. dry mixed conifer forests at risk of uncharacteristic wildfires. A total of 120 observations were collated from 16 studies conducted over the last two decades, with benefits ranging from enhanced ecosystem services to extensively avoided wildfire costs. Significant variation in the value of restoration and fuel treatment benefit types was found, indicating that restoration benefits differ in value based on societal importance. Overall, 17 individual benefit types were aggregated to show that in the most valuable and at-risk watersheds, every dollar invested in forest restoration can provide up to seven dollars of return in the form of benefits and provide a return-on-investment of 600%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108244
JournalEcological Economics
StatePublished - Sep 2024


  • Avoided wildfire costs
  • Benefit-cost analysis
  • Ecosystem services
  • Forest restoration
  • Fuel treatments
  • Restoration economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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