RESEARCH ARTICLE


An Economic Comparison of Prescribed Extreme Fire and Alternative Methods for Managing Invasive Brush Species in Texas: a Modeling Approach



Dustin Van Liew1, J. Richard Conner*, 1, Urs P. Kreuter2, Richard Teague3
1 Department of Agricultural Economics
2 Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
3 Texas AgriLife Research, Vernon, TX 76384, USA


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Van Liew et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2124, USA; Tel: 979-845-7456; Fax: 979-845-4261; Email: JRC@tamu.edu


Abstract

This article presents the results of a study to determine the economic feasibility of using prescribed fire as a rangeland restoration practice on private land when ambient air temperature is greater than and humidity less than the standards endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The objective of this study was to evaluate the economic effectiveness of using prescribed summer burns compared to more commonly used practices for managing invasive woody plants. The research incorporates four contiguous counties in the Rolling Plains, Edwards Plateau and South Texas Plains eco-regions in Texas. Focus group meetings were held with landowners and NRCS and Texas AgriLife Extension personnel to obtain information about the most common economic uses of rangeland resources by landowners, the dominant invasive brush species, and the most commonly used practices and associated costs for controlling these invasive plants. An investment feasibility model was used to compare the economic efficacy of applying extreme fire and other commonly applied treatments to manage invasive brush species in the three Texas eco-regions. The economic analysis indicated that extreme fire was economically superior in all three regions and was the only treatment alternative that resulted in positive returns on investments in the treatments. The analysis included cost-share, which indicated increased returns for extreme fire and less negative returns for alternative treatments. The results of our study have implications for the review of current NRCS technical standards with respect to prescribed fire.

Keywords: Brush control, invasive plants, prescribed fire, rangeland management.