A prescribed burn program cost money to develop, train, equip, and execute. Is it worth it to the USACE Natural Resources Manager? The answer; It depends.
The actual cost to execute a prescribed burn can range from $6.00/acre for huge tracts of 6,000 acres to as much as $600/acre for a small 60 acre event. The cost to execute can be calculated by labor + equipment (prorated) + materials. If a burn is contracted then the contract administration + contract cost is totaled.
Benefits from prescribed burns are highly variable and much less defined. Many vegetative communities require periodic fire to maintain sustainability. In many habitat types fuel loads increase with each year a fire is absent and reductions in wildfire frequency and severity occur when prescribed burns regimes are present. Wildlife species may prosper from the reduction of woody plants and increased herbaceous plant species. Many of these benefits can be calculated into a cost/benefit analysis depending upon the individual manager’s long term resource goals.
Comparatively, prescribed burning programs are less expensive per acre than mechanical manipulation techniques. Prescribed fire programs can generally return more per dollar inputted than other standard management practices. When calculating the cost/benefit the manager must take into consideration the long term effects a prescribed burn can have on the habitat.
Contact a SME in your district or region of the US for additional information.