Forest policy impact assessment in the Ouachita National Forest and the valuation of conserving red-cockaded woodpeckers
Problem statement: The Ouachita National Forest received approval in 1996 for an amendment to its Forest Plan that would allocate 10% of the Forest to long-rotation silviculture. The purpose of the new management area is to restore pre-European settlement forest conditions and recreate habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Approach: This study explored the effects of restoring an ecosystem, from changes in the growth patterns of individual trees to ecosystem valuation of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. It developed procedures for estimating the magnitude of economic impacts resulting from changes in timber production in the pine-bluestem management to project the value of conserving red-cockaded woodpeckers. Results: Over the entire simulation period, pine-bluestem management returns 75% of the undiscounted revenue generated by traditional management (660 versus 875 million dollars). For all 40,245 ha of the new management area managed for pine-bluestem, this cost amounts to $2.9 million per year. When combined with the $137 million decline in the present value of projected timber sale revenue from the area, the total cost rises to $4.2 million per year. Conclusion: The implied value for each pair of woodpeckers is either $10,550 per year for the desired 400 total pairs or $16,880 per year for the 250 reproducing pairs. Judging from the changes resulting from the transition to pine-bluestem management, adopting the new scenario will not cause significant adverse regional economic consequences. The success of the pine-bluestem restoration requires the maintenance of a burning regime that prevents competing vegetation from occupying the middle canopy layer.