Date of Graduation

Fall 12-11-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Tracy Benning


Forests in California and elsewhere are under an increasing threat of uncharacteristically large and severe wildfires. Fuel treatments, such as tree density reduction or prescribed burns, can alter wildfire behavior and potentially reduce risk. An environmental consulting group is currently developing a probability-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting framework that would provide tools to quantify GHG benefits of fuel treatments and help fund said treatments through carbon offset credits. This framework is being developed in collaboration with key stakeholders (such as public agencies, carbon offset registries, non-profit organizations, and the private sector) in the western United States. A market assessment is conducted to evaluate the potential for this framework to advance forest-based carbon offset protocols and affect future wildfire severity in California.

Relying on extensive datasets, such as wildfire modeling and vegetation growth simulation models, and delving into such an uncharted industry makes the nature of this accounting framework complicated to build and challenging to execute. Due to the complexities associated with establishing a carbon offset protocol with stakeholders, work on this has been ambiguous, leaving room for this emerging product to be a solid product-market fit. Procured fuel treatments through this framework are an effective addition to a portfolio of solutions in reducing GHG emissions in California, but will require additional monetary investment due to carbon revenue being insufficient in covering the high fuel treatment costs. Overall, this fuel treatment-based carbon offset protocol is a worthwhile endeavor in today’s growing carbon offset market and wildfire conditions.