Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Students study public education on firewood restrictions

To limit the spread of the emerald ash border in Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources restricted the use of firewood in public campgrounds to wood that is certified or from within 25 miles of the campground.

Because the rule does not cover private campgrounds, which account for 59 percent of all campgrounds in Wisconsin, the DNR wanted to know the effects of extending the firewood rule. The agency turned to the cost-benefit analysis class at La Follette School of Public Affairs. One analysis by students in the course taught by David Weimer examined the social costs and benefits in Wisconsin. A second analysis included only the costs and benefits on the private level.

Although extending the firewood rule to private campgrounds would provide great social benefit by delaying the spread of emerald ash borer, private costs to individual campground owners could make voluntary adoption unlikely, concluded authors Beauregard Blazavier, Meghan Doherty, Paula Henriquez, Sara Koliner, Shuangyi (Issy) Sun and John Wilson-Tepeli. Therefore, they recommended that the DNR look into strategies that would help private campground owners overcome these costs, to the extent that the social net benefits outweigh the private net costs.

The students also prepared 18 hypothetical financial models from the perspective of private campground owners based on representative campground features that considered business type, size, and location (ash tree population).

Ultimately, the students recommended the state educate private campground owners about their part in protecting Wisconsin's forests and work with them to overcome the potential loss in business to secure the benefits of a delayed spread of emerald ash borer.