A new study has put a value on the resources lost every year to wildfires in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky and Tennessee. The study, done by researchers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee, found that fire reduces a forest’s value by nearly half and wildfires take a monetary toll on not only trees, but on a forest’s biodiversity.
It may seem obvious that wildfires reduce a forest’s value. But Kentucky Division of Forestry Director Leah MacSwords says the study fills a void by quantifying the damage.
“We’ve known for years that fire causes damage to the forest. But when we get asked ‘so what’s the cost of this damage?’ we didn’t have a scientifically based answer,” she said.
MacSwords says her department will use the new information to educate forest landowners and lawmakers about the monetary effect of wildfires.
“And people will see that wildfire is expensive,” she said. “It’s expensive on the forest resources, it’s expensive to fight the wildfire and we need to protect our forest resources in Kentucky.”
In the last 11 years in Kentucky, more than 16,000 wildfires have burned 555,000 acres.