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Evaluating wildland fire liability standards – does regulation incentivise good management?

Author(s): Christopher J. Lauer, Claire A. Montgomery, Thomas G. Dietterich
Year Published: 2020

Fire spread on forested landscapes depends on vegetation conditions across the landscape that affect the fire arrival probability and forest stand value. Landowners can control some forest characteristics that facilitate fire spread, and when a single landowner controls the entire landscape, a rational landowner accounts for spatial interactions when making management decisions. With multiple landowners, management activity by one may impact outcomes for the others. Various liability regulations have been proposed, and some enacted, to make landowners account for these impacts by changing the incentives they face. In this paper, the effects of two different types of liability regulations are examined – strict liability and negligence standards. We incorporate spatial information into a model of land manager decision-making about the timing and spatial location of timber harvest and fuel treatment. The problem is formulated as a dynamic game and solved via multi-agent approximate dynamic programming. We found that, in some cases, liability regulation can increase expected land values for individual land ownerships and for the landscape as a whole. But in other cases, it may create perverse incentives that reduce expected land value. We also showed that regulations may increase risk for individual landowners by increasing the variability of potential outcomes.

Citation: Lauer, Christopher J.; Montgomery, Claire A.; Dietterich, Thomas G. 2020. Evaluating wildland fire liability standards - does regulation incentivise good management? International Journal of Wildland Fire 29(7):572-580. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF19090
Topic(s): Fire Policy & Law, Fire & Economics, Risk, Risk assessment
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21585
FRAMES RCS number: 61578
Record updated: Aug 3, 2020