Dear Reader--This is the 3rd draft of the COS Report. It is rough and incomplete in portions and subject to major revision as the COS meets in a series of FACA calls to discuss it. Still, we thought it would be useful for people interested in our process to see it.
Committee of Scientists
National Forests are made for and owned by the people. They should also be managed by the people. They are made not to give the officers in charge of them a chance to work out theories, but to give the people who use them and those who are affected by their use a chance to work out their own best profit. This means that if national forests are going to accomplish anything worthwhile, the people must know all about them, must take an active part in their management. . . .
Gifford Pinchot, Chief of the Forest Service (1907)
Right up front, I clearly state, without equivocation, that these are our lands today — the lands of all the people. These are our lands — they belong to us lock, stock and barrel. And they will be our lands and our children’s and our children’s children’s lands far into the future unless we, as a people, through carelessness or apathy or conscious choice, allow that precious heritage to be sold or traded away for pottage.
Jack Ward Thomas, Chief of the Forest Service (1996)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Introduction:||THE CONTEXT FOR LAND STEWARDSHIP IN THE NEXT GENERATION|
|Chapter One:||SUSTAINING THE LANDS, ECONOMIES, AND HUMAN COMMUNITIES|
|Chapter Two:||IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABILITY |
A. Ecological Sustainability
B. Economic and Social Sustainability
C. Democratic Processes for Sustainability
|Chapter Three:||INTERPRETING THE NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT IN THE CONTEXT OF SUSTAINABILITY |
A. Diversity of Plant and Animal Communties and the Productive Capacity of the Land
C. Identifying the Suitability of Lands for Resource Management
D. Silviculture and the Sustained Yield of Timber
|Chapter Four:||PLANNING TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABILITY AND DEEPEN PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT |
A. A Proposed Process and Structure
B. Challenge of Science-Based Planning
C. Monitoring and Adaptive Management
|Chapter Five:||EXTERNAL INFLUENCES ON FOREST SERVICE PLANNING |
A. The Budget Process
B. Other Laws
|Chapter Six:||RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE NATIONAL FORESTS AND GRASSLANDS|
THE CONTEXT FOR LAND STEWARDSHIP IN THE 21ST CENTURY
NOTE--the figures in this text are schematic and not intended, at this stage, to be accurate. We will get the real numbers soon, but I think the reader can get the idea from what is here)
The mid 1970s were tumultuous times for the nation's national forests. Environmental and commodity interests were at loggerheads over the way forest management ought to be practiced on the national forest lands. The courts had declared, as in the Monongahela decision (Izaak Walton League v. Butz, 1975), that many common Forest Service management practices were illegal and many citizens had lost confidence in the management of the Forest Service. There were arguments that the discretion of the FS ought to be severely limited and a prescriptive management regime imposed by the Congress. It was within this context that the Congress, in the mid 1970s, crafted the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) designed to rectify the difficulties that the country was facing in the management of its national forests. Multiple-use was to be codified not only in law, as it had been since the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act (1960), but also in a mandated planning process.
The NFMA, its Implementing Regulations, and the Committee of Scientists
The NFMA was the vehicle to resolve these conflicts and its passage was hailed by many as a great success. In the euphoria of the times, Senator Hubert Humphrey, the major Congressional actor who promoted the NFMA as it ultimately emerged and was passed in 1976, anticipated that the legislation would substantially limit future litigation as people reasoned together in developing mutually satisfactory plans for managing the national forests.
NFMA was predicated on the notion that the key to resolving conflicts over the national forests lay with the development of integrated land and resource plans for each national forest, after careful reasoning and analysis as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act. Reinforcing the commitment to public involvement in NEPA, the NFMA called for public participation in the creation of these plans. In addition to the need for integrated plans, NFMA recognized the need to limit and redirect the Forest Service’s traditional emphasis on timber management. As Senator Humphrey said,...it is long past time to see the forest as merely timber....
The NFMA was predicated on two key assumptions. The first was that the planning process, by explicitly requiring public participation, would contribute substantially to the development of a national "shared vision" that would define and clarify the objectives of the National Forest System. The view was that the planning process would force a more comprehensive approach to managing the national forests, one that considered the long-term, forest-wide implications of management actions and was better informed of public concerns and desires by far-reaching public involvement opportunities.
Second was the assumption that the land and resource plans would be viewed by the Congress as providing a guideline for Congressional budgeting. After all, if the process generated a strong base of support for forest management objectives among a wide range of the American people, this constituency then would encourage Congress to provide adequate funding to generate budgets consistent with the plans. In other words, if the plans were well-conceived through comprehensive assessment combined with extensive public involvement, then Congress would be more apt to fund the implementation of these plans.
The NFMA granted a large measure of discretion to the Secretary of Agriculture to formulate regulations to implement the Act--to describe in more detail what many of the noble, yet often ambiguous phrases in the Act meant. An unusual passage in the NFMA called for creation of a Committee of Scientists to help the Secretary of Agriculture develop these regulations. The Committee of Scientists struggled for three years in discharging their duty and at the end pronounced the resulting regulations as generally sound and asked that groups on all sides give the planning process a chance to work.
The First Round of Land and Resource Plans
Over the next 10-15 years the national forests struggled mightily to complete these plans. As the Chairman of the COS stated, "no one paid the slightest bit of attention" to the Committee’s plea to allow the planning process a chance to work. And, in hindsight, it is doubtful that it ever stood a chance of succeeding. With a dominant timber production premise and an inherently divisive process of public participation and decision-making, there was little incentive for any stakeholder to patiently await the mysterious machinations of the land and resource planning process. Individuals and groups pursued whatever forum would give them the greatest advantage; seldom did this advantage lie within the NFMA process. Appeals and lawsuits were used to gain leverage over the planning process or preempt it. Some of these appeals and lawsuits prevailed and caused major changes in national forest planning and management--the Northwest Plan for federal forests of the owl region being the outstanding example.
Others used the Congressional budgeting process to tilt implementation toward the resources and outputs of most interest. As a result, many land and resource plans have never been implemented or are only partly implemented due to lack of budgets. Even when budgets are forthcoming, however, they often not only lack resources necessary to carry out the plan, but also allocate funds in a manner that do not reflect the priorities articulated in the plan. Thus, the budgets often negated the "balance" that had been carefully crafted into many plans, a balance that was essential to any meaningful implementation of a plan.
Still others attempted to push for new legislation to correct the imbalances that they found in management. Here the record is meager. With the exception of a few transient measures like the salvage rider, Congress in the 23 years since the NFMA have shown little or no inclination to once again get into the battle over the appropriate uses of the national forests. Even the short lived salvage rider did not, in general, tamper with the priorities for use of the national forests.
Recent Trends and Developments
As the national forests begin to revise their NFMA land and resource plans, a number of trends and phenomena have developed that may not have been foreseen by the developers of NFMA:
1) There remain deep divisions over the management of the national forests. National forest planning often times has to proceed in the face of legitimate, yet divergent interests, often proceeding in many forums simultaneously. Some have called for Congress to step in and resolve these disputes through decreeing the dominant uses of the national forests. Rather than seek a method to achieve a "final solution" to these deep divisions, though, it might be more realistic and productive to put in place a process for decision-making that recognizes that deep divisions are, and always will be, a reality. People’s values differ and what is at stake is great and getting greater. Neither Congress nor fairy godmothers will ever be able to do away with this fundamental truth.
2) Ecosystem management, with its emphasis on management across broad landscapes and sustaining ecological processes has become the management paradigm of the national forests, raising questions about the traditional focus on a single owner and single ownership in planning and on an even-flow of timber as the measure of sustainability.
3) Protection of fish and wildlife has become a major focus of the national forests under both the statutes of the Endangered Species Act and the NFMA. Similarly, protection of clean water resources is now becoming a focus under the Clean Water Act.
4) People have become increasingly interested in, and capable of, sharing stewardship responsibilities for the national forests, breaking down the traditional division between the FS as stewards and the public as users.
5) A multitude of federal, state, and local statutes have been promulgated that mandate planning processes relative to protection and use of the environment. As a result, federal, state, and local agencies often collide as they implement their mandates.
6) The Forest Service and Congress have continued to budget by functional area, undermining the ability of forests to fully implement balanced plans.
Developing new NFMA Regulations and a new Committee of Scientists
For the last five years the Forest Service has attempted to develop new planning regulations to address some of these emerging issues and trends and to reflect the lessons learned from land and resource planning over the last 15 years. Enough controversy has been raised by this effort that the Secretary of Agriculture commissioned a new "Committee of Scientists" to provide technical and scientific guidance for improving land and resource planning. This advice will inform the development of new NFMA regulations by the Secretary’s Office.
In some ways the new COS is like the last one--both had to be composed of scientists outside the Forest Service; both focused on the NFMA. The last COS had 2 1/2 years to complete their work; this COS had 6 months. The last COS was helping to invent land and resource planning; this COS has the advantage of being able to draw on the experience of the last 15 years to reshape planning to the changing times.
Dreams and Practicality
The Committee was urged by the Secretary’s office to step back and define a land and resource planning framework that would last a generation. In some sense to dream a little. Our dreams have been inspired by the actions of dedicated and resourceful on-the-ground employees of the Forest Service. While some have understandably become disillusioned and defensive after years of conflict and impasse, others have risen to the challenge, experimented and are successfully pursuing new approaches to planning and management. The lessons of their efforts provide a glimmer of hope and a foundation of experience upon which COS has been able to envision and construct a more promising approach to planning. All the while, COS has tempered its dreams with the realization that the Forest Service does not need another impossible mission; our dreams should not translate to Forest Service nightmares.
The NFMA Regulations as One Piece in the Planning and Management Puzzle
In the mid 1970s it was possible to focus on the regulations implementing NFMA to the exclusion of almost anything else in terms of guidance for planning the management of the national forests. That is no longer true. Other planning processes under other statutes, such as the Endangered Species Act, can have as large an impact on the national forests and the NFMA mandated planning processes. Other forums, such as the annual budgeting process in Congress can also have as large an impact. The additional directive from the courts or the White House can upset the best-laid plans from a carefully constructed planning process. Finally, the continued deep disagreements over management of these forests makes consensus and stability in their management difficult.
Congress could of course pass laws to straighten out this "crazy quilt" of influences. If the last 20 years is any guide, however, they will not do so. Nor is it likely that Congressional action would sufficiently cure the current malaise. Much of the current debate is not about the merits of existing legislative policies or mandates, but rather how such policies and mandates might most effectively be pursued and implemented.
Thus, we are left with administrative change and reform as the mechanism for recognizing and harmonizing these many influences on planning the future of the national forests. Our assignment deals centrally with one part of this legal and administrative puzzle--the regulations implementing the NFMA. We have attempted to undertake this mission with an understanding of the broader context in which these regulations sit and need to look outward to the other processes and forums that influence the planning and management of these forests. We regard our work as one piece in a larger puzzle and realize that events elsewhere can undermine the results of planning. Still, these regulations, when they work, provide the organizing mechanism for land and resource planning for the national forests, and, as such, must be the foundation on which planning for the future of the national forests is built.
The Social and Organizational Context of Planning
COS recognizes that it would be doing the Forest Service a disservice if it proposed a new planning template that failed to recognize the context to which it would be applied. We are not proceeding with a blank slate. Instead, there are some very real challenges, as well as important opportunities, that must be recognized, accommodated and capitalized upon if this second round of planning is to be given the greatest chance of succeeding. In this respect, we are at a distinct advantage relative to the first COS. Not only do we have almost twenty years of experience from which to draw regarding on-the-ground consequences of the first round of planning, we also have almost twenty years of experience that provide insight into how the Forest Service as an organization functions in the context of a comprehensive land and resource management planning process. Furthermore, we also have twenty years of experience that have very vividly defined the social context of planning. The Forest Service does not function in a vacuum but rather in a very diverse, dynamic and engaged social context that must be acknowledged and accommodated. Recognizing the context -- both social and organizational -- has grounded our expectations and the care with which we have structured the proposed planning process. It has also given us an opportunity to recognize important opportunities that can facilitate a more effective and meaningful second round of planning.
The Social Context of National Forest Planning
The past twenty years of NFMA planning, while creating a base of knowledge and data about each national forest, has at the same time contributed to a social context that must be considered as this second round of planning proceeds. There are several factors within the social context that constrain effective planning and that must be acknowledged in the development of a different process:
·there is pervasive distrust of the agency and the process
·public participants are burned out, wary, fatigued, disillusioned
·the incentives of the previous planning efforts often promoted adversarial behavior, in effect inverting the "normal distribution curve" by encouraging extreme position-taking and discouraging collaboration and problem-solving
At the same time, there are numerous opportunities inherent in the social context that provide a foundation upon which more effective planning may be fostered:
·the American people are anxious and willing to be a part of management of their national forests
·effective and innovative models of collaboration and public involvement do exist
·there is a wealth of expertise, knowledge and skills within society that can provide great assistance to national forest management
·the American people want to be stewards; to have an active hand management
·there is a growing understanding and appreciation of the critical importance of well-managed watersheds to communities capturing their attention and concern
·increasing recreation is both an added demand on forest resources as well as an opportunity to educate and engage the American people in the management of resources they clearly care about
The Organizational Context of National Forest Planning
What these social contextual factors highlight is that national forest planning and management neither can nor should be the sole preserve of the Forest Service. In order to bridge sources of knowledge and capabilities; to effectively educate and learn; to resolve disputes; to credibly problem-solve; and, to foster and restore trust so that national forest management is a common endeavor rather than a battlefield; national forest planning needs to be structured in a manner that meaningfully and openly engages the American people. It must be structured with an awareness of these social constraints and opportunities. Such a process, however, must also be developed recognizing the challenges and opportunities presented by the Forest Service as a large bureaucratic organization.
There are numerous challenges posed by the existing organizational context of planning, some of which include:
·many planners are burned out, wary, fatigued and disillusioned with the process; consequently, planning is disdained by many in the agency
·there are tensions between "managers" and "scientists"
·linkages between planning and management are unclear (planning is viewed to be an entirely separate function from management)
·a customer service orientation ["our public and the people we serve"] re-enforces an "us" vs. "them" relationship with the non-agency world
·common personnel issues [transfers/retirements] undermine productive working relationships
·more integrative and innovative planning approaches are difficult when bridging programmatic/budgetary areas
·there are few rewards or incentives that encourage more effective and adaptive planning behavior [and, furthermore, innovation is believed to be punished]
·learning from problems and failures, as with most organizations, is not a strong suit in the agency
At the same time, there are numerous opportunities inherent in the organizational context that provide a foundation upon which more effective planning may be fostered:
·Forest Service employees, for the most part, are driven by a profound commitment to the resource; inherent in this commitment is a general desire to do "the right thing" for the resource and to capitalize on up-to-date knowledge and understanding
·some models of effective planning do exist; innovative, risk-taking Forest Service employees do exist and have tried new approaches and have succeeded; their efforts provide insight, direction and hope
·there is a strong desire among many to approach planning differently given their intense frustration with the current process
·there is an organizational structure in place that can accommodate and support planning at different levels: large scale assessments, landscape level plans, etc.
·other resource agencies are facing similar challenges and hence are at a point in their histories where they are more willing to engage in greater coordination, communication and collaboration that will improve their ability to achieve their objectives while, at the same time, enhancing management of national forests and grasslands
·tools are now available [GIS, remote sensing, etc.] that can accommodate planning and coordination at varying scales
Historical Uses and Current Conditions as a Context for Planning
The COS also recognizes that the history of management and the current condition of the national forest also need to be understood to fashion effective planning regulations.
The National Forests: A Long History of Use
The long-term economic contributions of the forest reserves wererecognized from the very beginning. Irrigation districts in the West, wanting to be assured of reliable flows for their fields, pressed Congressfor protective legislation, which was achieved in the Creative Act of 1891. Today farmers continue to rely upon clean, reliable flows fromnational forest watersheds, which comprise most of the high country in theWest.
Commercial timber production was recognized as the second purpose, in addition to watershed protection, in the 1897 Organic Act. Timber harvesting remained low until World War II, soared during the post-War boom, and has receded since the late 1980s (Figure 2b-1). Previous declines were largely the result of market forces; the recent decline is due to the increased emphasis on protection of species and ecosystems combined with the realization that intensive timber management is not always compatible with these other values.
l T T T l T Harv l T T vol l T l T T T T T T T l________________________________________ 1890 1940 1990
Figure 2b-1 Total timber harvest on the national forests over time
Many other uses occur on the national forests and grasslands. Like timber harvest, recreation use on the lands and waters of the national forests and grasslands exploded after Word War II (Figure 2b-3) and has continued to grow and is now the focus of a multi-billion dollar industry. Indeed, most of the nations ski areas are located in the national forests.
R R R l R l R l R RVDs l R l R R R R R R l________________________________________ 1890 1940 1990
Figure 2b-3 Recreation use on the national forests over time
Grazing of domestic livestock takes place on more than half of all National Forest System lands and has long been associated with the rangelands of the national forests--in many cases, the use predates establishment of national forests. Grazing use, measured in AUMs, peaked just after the turn of the century and then declined to lower levels over many decades (Figure 2b-2).
l G l G G G G AUMs l G G G G l G G G G l l________________________________________ 1890 1940 1990
Figure 2b-2 Grazing on the national forests over time
Hardrock mining and oil and gas production are found on nearly every national forest and proceeds as a priority use under the 1872 Mining Law. Mineral leases for oil and gas work under another set of institutions that gives the Forest Service control over their issue. Like timber and recreation, the number of leases on the national forests expanded greatly after World War II.
The economic value produced by the different uses of the national forests is the subject of some dispute. Recent analysis by the Forest Service suggests that recreation produces the majority of economic value from use of the national forests and downstream water use provides the second most significant amount. Most of that value is implied from the use levels, since recreation on the national forests generally occurs with only a nominal charge at most and downstream water use occurs without charge. For a long time, timber harvest has provided the vast majority of revenue obtained from national forest use (Figure 2b-5) although that revenue has declined as the overall sale level has declined and the harvest, in support of ecosystem management, have shifted to smaller, less valuable trees. The Forest Service has acknowledged that the cost of timber sales, including the in lieu payments to counties drawn from the sales, has recently exceeded their revenue. Total revenue has declined with the loss of timber receipts, as the revenue other uses, especially from recreation, has not increased sufficiently to offset the loss.
l l T T l T T T T l T T l T l T T Gross l Rev l T l R R l R l R R l_______________________ G G G G G____________ 1950 1990
Figure 2b-4. Revenue from use of the national forests over time (Timber, Recreation, Grazing)
The reduction in timber revenue has been felt throughout the agency. Since the national forests have traditionally funded much of their operation with the timber management budget, a major contraction in funds and national forest workforce has occurred throughout the West in the last few years. As discussed above, Congress has not been disposed to fund other activities, such as wildlife, stream improvement, or recreation, at anything approaching the funding levels that previously went into timber sales. Without an alternative revenue source from use of the national forests, such as from charges for recreation use, or agreement by the major interest groups on funding needs, it is difficult to visualize adequate funding in the near future.
At the same time as revenues are falling, costs to undertake actions on the national forests are increasing. Implementing ecosystem management has raised the expense of activities with its associated need for more analysis and the involvement of more specialists. Also, as the interdisciplinary teams search for acceptable ways to meet the tenants of ecosystem management, they often have to take a number of runs at any particular action before they "get it right". In sum, the Forest Service is caught in a revenue/cost squeeze that will most probably be a fact of life for the foreseeable future.
Many material benefits have been produced since the end of World War II, when extractive uses of the national forests sharply escalated as discussed above, but there has been a cost, in many cases, in terms of the physical condition of the lands and waters of the National Forest System. By many measures, we worked these lands pretty hard over the last 50 years, especially in the West.
The Western National Forests, by and large, were reserved from the public domain and became national forests before much activity occurred, except grazing of livestock. The eastern National Forests, on the other hand, were, by and large, purchased by the Forest Service from 1910 to 1950 after harvest by private landowners. The discussion below applies most directly to the West where most of the National Forests lay. In the East, by comparison, much of the land is in better ecological condition than when acquired.
There are more trees in the national forests today, but the number of large trees has declined significantly--they have been the target of timber harvest until recently. This diminution of old-growth stands has caused a loss of essential habitat for many species and of the aesthetic and spiritual qualities of these ancient forests, which are valued by many people. Growth now exceeds harvest which could allow rebuilding of desired characteristics over time.
Other management activities have also affected the condition of the forests and grasslands.. Replanting after harvest has been generally successful, but the plantations so created often lack the diversity of tree species now sought under ecosystem management. Policies to suppress all fires, and timber harvest practices, altered the natural disturbance regime and greatly increased the risk of catastrophic fires in many places.
The agency's extensive road system, much of it build to facilitate timber harvest, opened the national forests up to recreation, but also took a toll in terms of erosion, landslides and the destruction of riparian habitat. Remaining roadless areas have assumed increasing importance as refugia for fish and wildlife.
As the national forests have increasingly become the nation’s playground, recreational activities have left their mark. The vast road network allowed significantly increased traffic and opportunities for off-road use, with many and varied impacts on wildlife; the clustering of recreation use in stream corridors and lakes put enormous pressure on fragile resources. "Loving the forests to death" has become an increasingly common refrain.
Rangeland condition, overall, is on a recovering trend from its severely degraded state at the turn of the century. Still, problems remain. Exotics have taken over much of the upland range and riparian areas are degraded in many places. Cattle use of streamside areas remains a flashpoint in the debate over species and water quality protection.
Reservoirs and water diversion, grazing, and mining have affected streamflow patterns on many streams and rivers within the national forests and grasslands. Mining has been an especially nettlesome cause of pollution.
Perhaps the most notable effect of the intensive use of National Forest System lands has been the increase in the number of species whose continued presence on the national forests is no longer secure. Many causes can be invoked to esplain this situation including the uses metioned above, settlement of adjacent lands, and introduction of exotics. The seriousness of the situation is compounded because the federal lands are expected to form the first line of defense in protecting endangered and threatened species, yet there has been a continuing need to invoke the Endangered Species Act. This loss of biological diversity is a matter of grave and overriding concern in evaluating the current state of the national forests and grasslands.
Although ecological conditions, according to many measures, have declined in the National Forest System, those lands generally remain less disturbed by human influence than the surrounding lands. Settlement, ranching, farming, and logging over the past century have transformed the private forests and rangelands of the United States. Rapid development continues in many parts of the country. Many rural areas near national forests and grasslands also have experienced population growth, with a sharp increase in second homes and a corresponding surge in recreation use on the adjacent national forests. We expect these trends to continue. We also expect that the national forests will increasingly be asked to form the backbone of regional conservation strategies so that activities on private land do not need to be sharply curtailed to protect species and ecosystems.
In 1979, the USFS embarked on a journey that no other resource agency had ever before undertaken. They began a comprehensive planning approach for the 191 million acre national forest estate that was to look to the future, but provide for the multiple resource needs of the present. It was to involve the public and maintain the long-term sustainability of the resource base. There were theories about how the agency should proceed, many developed without consideration or full knowledge of political, social and organizational realities.
Regardless, well-intended Forest Service employees were thrown into the fray and most did their utmost to make the regulatory guidance work. It hasn’t been easy for them and it certainly hasn’t been fun. But this COS has been humbled by the continued devotion of so many on-the-ground employees of the Forest Service who have persevered despite the shortcomings of the process and the conflict it engendered.
COS is optimistic. Yes, there are problems to address and history to overcome; there is no question but that the Forest Service needs a significantly restructured and redirected planning process. At the same time, however, it is also clear that it has the capabilities to follow through. The people are well-meaning and dedicated and most, within the agency and within the American people, are anxious for direction for what they might do differently in the future. COS is honored to have been asked to help with this task.
SUSTAINING THE LAND, ECONOMIES, AND HUMAN COMMUNITIES
Today, sustainability is widely recognized as the overarching objective of land and resource stewardship. In its simplest terms, sustainability means to maintain or prolong. The 1987 Brundtland Commission Report (The World Commission on Environment and Development, "Our Common Future") elaborated upon the shorthand definition by articulating both the need for current productivity and the physical and moral imperative of intergenerational equity: the goal of sustainability is to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Further, sustainability in this modern sense has three aspects — ecological, economic, and social. The integrity of ecological systems must be considered first for they are necessary prerequisites for strong, productive economies and enduring human communities. Most basically, we compromise human welfare if we fail to sustain vital, functioning ecosystems.
Sustainability is sometimes criticized as being so vague that it eludes definition. To be sure, it is impossible to define sustainability in a generic fashion that applies across the board to all natural systems. That is not, however, how we approach the term in this report.
We view sustainability as operating on two levels. First, sustainability has great appeal as a broad societal objective — as a symbol of the fundamental values we hold as a people. The concept has this acceptability because it possesses at once the philosophical and moral force of fairness to future generations as well as the practical edge of being necessary for our economic and social well-being. Thus, sustainability embodies a shared national goal, as do democracy, freedom, and equality. Such formulations — idealistic and never fully attainable, yet undeniable in their essential truths — are critical to setting an agreed-upon context for making public policy on difficult and complex issues.
Sustainability also operates on a much more concrete level. While it may be an empty intellectual exercise to try to define sustainability in an abstract way that would apply to all lands, it is entirely realistic to apply the principle to the specific circumstances of a particular geographic area. Thus, we view sustainability, in addition to its value as a broad societal aspiration, as applying in varying and particular ways to real places — to actual communities, economies, forests, watersheds, and rangeland. Different ecosystems and regimes will have different ecological, economic, and social touchstones — different things to sustain. The key is to develop land stewardship policies and practices, applying the principles of sustainability, to fit the needs of such places.
Significantly, the application of sustainability to a specific place will change over time. Policy will evolve according to natural dynamics (fires, floods, landslides, and other natural events) and societal events (economic upturns or downturns, technological innovations, and population patterns). Thus, a working sustainability must adapt to change depending upon actual changes in the land and the human communities.
Seen in this light, the application of sustainability — which will vary according to the place and time — becomes tangible and definable.
We have seen recent examples of the concrete application of sustainability. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, plans have been put into place to sustain, among other things, grizzly bears, wolves, and bison; the lodgepole pine forests that have built up dangerously high fuel loads resulting from decades of fire suppression; magnificent geothermal resources; and the economies of local tourist communities. In the Pacific Northwest, where citizens and their governments have engaged in perhaps the most ambitious natural resources program ever undertaken, the application of sustainability is different because the place is different. The goals in the Northwest Forest Plan and other programs have included sustaining the Northern spotted owl; the Pacific salmon; the hydropower generated by dams on the Columbia and other rivers; the splendor of the region’s ancient forests; and the economies of timber and fishing communities by trying to assure a lower, but reasonably reliable, level of timber production (mostly from private lands) and salmon harvests important to the well-being of those communities. This report will allude to other examples of sustainability as a working, real-world policy.
The term sustainability has come into widespread use in relatively recent times, but the core value of intergenerational equity — providing for current economic use while assuring the productivity of the land for future generations — has long played an important role in natural resources law and policy. This is especially true with respect to the National Forest System.
From the beginning, the laws and policies governing the natural forests and grasslands have evidenced deep-running currents of the policy of sustainability. When Congress first authorized presidents to set aside forest reserves, it acted in response to petitions from local farmers and towns that wanted to be assured of reliable water flows. Thus, watershed protection was the dominant purpose behind the Creative Act of 1891. In the Organic Act of 1897, Congress decided to permit logging in the forest reserves and provided that a purpose of the reserves was to "furnish a continuous supply of timber." (16 U.S.C. § 475). The first-listed purpose in the 1897 Act remained watershed protection, or "securing favorable conditions of water flows." (Id.)
These early, formative years of the national forests were idealistic, forward-looking times. The creation of a system of natural lands, removed from homesteading and permanently dedicated to the national interest, was itself a dramatic act. Legislators and administrators looked to the work of the rising scientific community, especially George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature, published in 1864, where Marsh expounded at length on the dangers of soil erosion and the importance of forest lands as watersheds. Senator Algernon Paddock, one of the most influential legislators during the passage of the 1891 and 1897 Acts, emphasized that "the laying waste of the forests of a country rudely disturbs that harmony between nature’s forces which must be maintained if the earth is to be kept habitable for its teeming millions." (Senate Report No. 1002 (1892)). President Theodore Roosevelt championed the conservation cause, which emphasized the needs of tomorrow, and directed his attention to the national forests. His executive orders reserved nearly three-fourths of all land in the National Forests System today. In discussing the timber reserves, Roosevelt wrote:
[O]ur entire purpose in this forest reserve policy is to keep the land for the benefit of the actual settler and home-maker, to further his interests in every way, and, while using the natural resources of the country for the benefit of the present generation, also to use them in such manner as to keep them unimpaired for the benefit of the children now growing up to inherit the land. (Quoted in Henry, Power and Responsibility, (1961)).
The idealism that so characterized the conservation movement burned hottest in the Forest Service itself. In 1905, Congress transferred the forests to the Department of Agriculture under the supervision of Gifford Pinchot, one of the most influential figures of the 20th century in natural resources policy. Pinchot was utilitarian and believed that the forests should be utilized for the benefit of the American people, especially local communities. Yet the level of development under his watch paled in comparison to the magnitude of extraction, especially in timber harvesting, that the National Forest System would see in the post-World War II era.
Rather, Pinchot was adamant that the national forests, while they should be used, must be managed conservatively — sustainability in today’s terms — for the future. He declared that every federal land manager was "a trustee of the public property." (The Fight for Conservation (1910)). In words that presaged the notion of intergenerational equity embedded in the Brundtland Commission Report, Pinchot wrote that conservation "recognizes the right of the present generation to use what it needs and all it needs of the natural resources now available, but it recognizes equally our obligation so to use what we need that our descendents shall not be deprived of what they need." (Id.)
The theme of obligations to the future was woven through the influential Pinchot Letter of 1905 — still considered one of the Forest Service’s organic documents. Pinchot exhorted all Forest Service employees that "the permanence of the resources is therefore indispensable to continued prosperity, and the policy of this Department for their protection and use will invariably be guided by this fact, always bearing in mind that the conservative use of these resources in no way conflicts with their permanent value." (The Principal Laws Relating to the Forest Service (1964)). The Pinchot Letter concluded with his admonition that "where conflicting interests must be reconciled the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run." (Id.)
The official commitment to sustaining lands in the National Forest Systems continued. The Weeks Act of 1911 authorized the acquisition of national forest lands in the East for watershed protection. The 1944 Sustained Yield Act had the following preamble:
An Act to Promote sustained-yield forest management in order thereby (a) to stabilize communities, forest industries, employment, and taxable forest wealth; (b) to assure a continuous and ample supply of forest products; and (c) to secure the benefits of forests in regulation of water supply and stream flow, prevention of soil erosion, amelioration of climate, and preservation of wildlife. (P.L. 78-273).
The Multiple-Use, Sustained Yield Act of 1960 also emphasized conservation for the future by providing for the "achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairment of the productivity of the land." (16 U.S.C. § 531(b)).
The National Forest Management Act of 1976 included several requirements protecting watersheds and wildlife and provided for the protection of the diversity of plant and animal communities. In the NFMA, Congress found that the Forest Service has "both a responsibility and an opportunity to be a leader in assuring that the Nation maintains a natural resource conservation posture that will meet the requirements of our people in perpetuity." (16 U.S.C. § 1600(6)).
In addition to these statutes, which apply specifically to the National Forest System, there are many general laws that also bear upon the Forest Service’s stewardship. They, too, regularly evoke the theme of sustainability. Thus, the National Environmental Policy Act declares it the policy of Congress to "fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans" (42 U.S.C. § 4331(a)) and to "fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations." (42 U.S.C. § 4331(b). The Clean Water Act provides that "the objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters" (33 U.S.C. § 1251(a). The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects rivers "for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations" (16 U.S.C. § 1271) and the Wilderness Act announces "the policy of Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness." (16 U.S.C. § 1131(a)). The Endangered Species Act, which has become a central part of the day-to-day work of the national forests and grasslands, evidences a profound national commitment to the sustainability of animal and plant species.
In recent years, federal sustainability policy has evolved in concert with the policies of other nations. The 1992 Earth Summit (The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), which took place in Rio de Janeiro, recognized the importance of sustainable management of natural resources. In 1995, the Santiago Declaration, of which the United States is a party, was accompanied by criteria and indicators (developed through the Montreal Process") for sustainable forest management. These criteria and indicators are an important statement on forest sustainability and one goal of this report is to recommend procedures that will allow for the criteria and indicators to be integrated into the stewardship of the national forests in an effective and efficient way.
Our country then, has been committed to sustainable management of our public lands for over a century. In 1995, in a message to Forest Service employees, Jack Ward Thomas, one of the nation’s conservation leaders and Forest Service Chief, encapsulated this long development and demonstrated the leadership role that the Forest Service has played and should continue to play in achieving sustainability:
Our land ethic is to: Promote the sustainability of ecosystems by ensuring their health, diversity and productivity.
This ethic provides the constancy of purpose and direction that permeates all we dream, do and say. Our land ethic has evolved through the thinking and experience of Forest Service pioneers such as Gifford Pinchot, Arthur Carhart, Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, and others. Growing understanding of the complexity of ecosystems has expanded thinking on sustainability — from emphasis on sustained yields of products to sustaining the ecosystems that provide a variety of benefits. Increased understanding of ecosystem function will demand rigorous research and continuing evolution on management concepts and actions.
Through ecosystem sustainability, present and future generations will reap the benefits that healthy, diverse, and productive ecosystems provide. Our ethic includes the active use of ecosystems, through both preservation and manipulation to gain these benefits — so long as this use does not unduly impact ecosystem sustainability. ("Message from Jack Ward Thomas" (1995)).
The complex framework of statutes that governs the Forest Service, then, has many strands that speak directly to ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Yet the Forest Service retains broad authority to articulate its mission and set priorities, as Pinchot did and as later Chiefs did as well. Even now, more than a century after the passage of the Organic Act, perhaps the fundamental charge to the agency is the expansive grant in the 1897 Act to regulate "occupancy and use" on the national forests and grasslands (16 U.S.C. § 551). The courts have always given the agency latitude, under that statute and the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, to chart the course that policy should take. With respect to the critical idea of sustainability, what actions has the agency taken in the past? What has been the role of science? How can a Committee of Scientists best offer advice on the courses that might be taken in the future?
Originally, the Forest Service administered the national forests conservatively. The timber harvest remained low, averaging about one billion board feet annually. In his first year as administrator of the national forests, Pinchot adopted a grazing code to reduce overgrazing and soil loss. Considerable research was done on silviculture and watershed protection. In 1924, the Forest Service, spearheaded by Aldo Leopold, created the first government-established wilderness area in the world. In the 1930s, under Robert Marshall’s leadership, the agency expanded its wilderness system and recreation policies.
After World War II, administration of the national forests changed radically. By the mid-1960s, the allowable harvest reached eleven billion board feet — more than ten times the historical level. It is important to appreciate that the Forest Service viewed its policies during this era as achieving sustainability. The annual harvest, high-yield though it may have been, was premised on "even flow": in spite of the intensive logging, the reasoning went, the forests could grow more board feet than were being harvested. This high-yield timber production endured well into the 1980s and dominated policy in the National Forest System.
Almost unnoticed, beginning in the 1960s, scientists had begun digging deeper. What are the ecological effects, they began to ask, of the level of commodity production that the Forest Service had committed itself to?
Various scientific disciplines examined the ways in which the fundamental processes of ecosystem integrity were being changed. Hydrologists studied stream flow patterns and the effects of increased silt loads. Range scientists researched the impacts of grazing, logging, and water diversions on riparian zones. Foresters increasingly looked at the whole forest, not just timber harvest volumes. The research of fire ecologists showed how the fire suppression policies had altered the natural disturbance cycle. The historic spotted owl research began in the early 1970s and wildlife biologists conducted many other studies on species extinction and viability. In this respect, the original Committee of Scientists in 1979 made an historic contribution through its regulation protecting species viability, which implemented the NFMA’s provision on diversity of plant and animal communities.
A new and deeper way of looking at natural systems emerged. No longer would the productivity of natural systems be defined solely by their commodity outputs — board feet of timber, animal unit months of grazing forage, acre-feet of water diverted, and kilo watts of electricity. Today, in addition to those measures, productivity is measured in terms of ecosystem services, including clean water and air, fertile soils, and diversity of plant and animal species. Further, a new respect for the natural dynamics of ecosystems developed: land management should account for uncertainty by acknowledging that planning and implementation will be influenced by natural but unpredictable events such as wildfires, drought, floods, hurricanes, widespread occurrence of insect and disease, and the introduction and spread of non-native species. The focus of the scientific community — and, increasingly, of on-the-ground land management — has become overall ecosystem integrity.
In a complementary set of developments beginning in the 1970s, the public became involved in forest and rangeland policy as never before. Citizens insisted upon greater recognition of recreation, wildlife, and the beauty and spirituality that also are a part of whole forests and rangeland systems. The public concerns and scientific advances became embodied in statutes such as the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, and in many agency regulations.
These were fundamental changes. They amounted to a redefinition of watersheds, forests, and rangelands — a new conception of what we are trying to sustain. By digging deep, scientists of the past two generations had helped to redefine the objectives of land stewardship. Importantly, in the process, they brought an understanding of the fundamental ecological processes that make possible the multiple-use benefits and community values that the public expects to be produced for the public lands.
We believe then, that the two guiding stars of stewardship in the national forests and grasslands are sustainability and the recognition that these are the people’s lands. The remainder of this report is dedicated to a discussion of what sustainability means in the context of stewardship of the National Forest System and how the Forest Service might, in practical ways, organize planning and management to achieve it.
One challenge of stewardship of the national forests and grasslands is to translate the broad-gauged policy of sustainability into specific planning and management practices that will provide long-term ecological, economic, and social benefits. This chapter defines the characteristics of these three aspects of sustainability. It also explores the ways in which the three are interrelated. Ultimately, it suggests ways in which we can measure sustainability, determine when the objectives of sustainability have been attained, and fully incorporate these concepts into decision making.
In an ecological context, sustainability refers to maintaining ecosystem structure, composition, and processes over time and space. NFMA's goals of maintaining species diversity and productivity should be broadly viewed in terms of these three aspects of sustainability. That is, species and primary productivity can only be preserved by maintaining the structure, composition, and processes characteristic of an area. The concepts of composition, process, and structure can be viewed as a triangle with a particular corner receiving greater emphasis depending on the management at hand (Figure 1). In focusing on one particular aspect of the triangle, however, the other corners cannot be forgotten and may change in importance as the management situation changes. This perspective on ecological sustainability is entirely consistence with other approaches that categorized attributes of sustainability (such as the Santiago criteria, Table X).
Sustainability must be evaluated along a continuum rather than viewed as a single target value. The range of structure, composition, and processes in an ecosystem required for its sustainability must be interpreted in light of the natural and historical variation for the region. The knowledge that a threshold level may exist below which a "threatened" component of the system is at risk means that sustainability must receive stewardship focus at all times and locations.
Assessment activities must balance short-term gain and opportunities that provide for long-term benefits. These tradeoffs become a concern when a system is near a sustainability threshold or when impacts accumulate over time. Difficult decisions may be necessary when a system is close to a point where the structure, composition, or processes of the system are at risk of undergoing fundamental changes that may only be repairable over the long-term, or at great expense. In these cases, attention must be paid to that part of the triangle that may have the greatest long-term effects on sustainability. An example occurs in the southwestern forests where fire suppression has resulted in extensive areas with massive fuel loads. The risks are high that a large-scale fire may cause long-term loss of species and significant changes in ecosystem properties. Therefore, in the near-term steps should be taken to move the system closer to one that can retain the full suite of structure, composition and process features that are more typical of this forest system. In some cases, to achieve sustainability goals may require management actions that upset the short-term stability of the system. <<Sidebar A>>
A. Components of Ecological Sustainability
Composition refers to genetic, species and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity is the degree of variation in heritable characteristics within and among individual organisms and populations. Species diversity is variation in the number of different kinds of species present within a given area. Landscape diversity is the variety of vegetation community types--including their identity, distribution, juxtaposition, and seral stage--evaluated at the landscape scale. Thus, composition is important not just at the genetic and species level, but also for the processes and structures that support diversity (such as forest canopies and belowground habitats). Previously, management guidelines focused primarily on individual species. A species-by-species approach to assessing biodiversity status, however, is impractical to implement because there are so many species (including plants, fungi, vertebrates and invertebrates). An extensive, ecosystem-based approach to assessing biodiversity is more cost effective both in terms of time and finances. Transitioning to a broader approach to assessing biological diversity requires identifying and measuring variables that allow reliable inferences about ecosystem composition -- that is, a strong focus on habitat at both local and landscape scales.
Habitat by itself, however, is sometimes an insufficient surrogate to predict wildlife populations because the presence of suitable habitat, by itself, does not ensure that any particular species will be present or reproduce. Therefore, continuing assessment of population status based on both population dynamics and habitat conditions must be developed and frequently validated. Because of limited time and funds, however, it may only be possible to assess the status of a relatively few "focal" species. The choice of focal species should be based primarily on the information they provide about the integrity of the larger ecosystem to which they belong. Additional candidates for focal species include those that have viability concerns, are threatened and endangered, occupy rare habitats, are of high management or public interest, are game species, or are indicator species.
Fundamental ecological processes such as energy capture through photosynthesis, energy flow, nutrient cycling, water movement, disturbance frequency and intensity and succession all support ecosystem functions. By sustaining the main components of ecosystem function the system gains resilience – the ability to maintain and propagate itself even in the face of disturbance. The potential renewal and continuing productivity of the ecosystem includes its ability to produce "outputs", be they pure water, wood, fertile soil, riparian habitat, or viable wildlife populations. Potential is key because it makes explicit the option for alternative conditions.
The biotic components of ecosystems have evolved in the context of environmental change, triggered by natural disturbance processes. Disturbances such as fire or wind-throw, for example, are natural and integral processes of many ecosystems. Disturbances often move ecosystems back to earlier successional stages, stimulating renewal processes and short-term increases in productivity. Large-scale disturbance may move an ecosystem to a new system state from which it may, or may not, return to its pre-disturbance condition. Therefore, one goal of management is to mimic those natural disturbance processes that allow the system to return to its original state, or move it to a more desirable state. The similarities, and differences, between human-induced and natural disturbance processes are poorly known, and constitute an active area of scientific research. Despite this uncertainty, managing so as to mimic those disturbance processes that sustain ecosystems through time, without surpassing the adaptational limits of the biota, remains an essential goal.
By structure we mean the physical geometry of the environment arising from biogenic and geologic processes and existing at all spatial scales. The structural aspects of sustainability exist at many spatial scales and include both biological and physical attributes of sites and landscapes. Structure can be of biogenic origin, for example, large trees, fish carcasses, and coarse woody debris on forest floors, as well as geologic, for example, mountains, canyons, unconstrained rivers, pools and riffles. In general, landscape structure includes the size, shape, and spatial relationships of land-cover types. The sizes, shapes, connectivity, and patterns of interspersion of habitats across a landscape influence the kinds of organisms that can exist in a landscape (including their movement patterns, interactions, and influence over such ecosystem processes as decomposition, pollination, and nutrient fluxes). For example, the connectivity of similar patches can determine the ability of an animal to move across the landscape. This movement can entail roaming within an animal's home range, seasonal migration, dispersal of young, or a change in geographic range subsequent to environmental disturbance. Some habitats, such as bodies of water or riparian corridors, are small and discontinuous, but nevertheless have ecological impacts that greatly exceed their spatial extent.
The variability in physical composition and thus structural diversity -- especially of soil, water, and air -- both constrain and provide opportunities for biological diversity. For example, a natural watershed has many habitats, such as alluvial soils, steep slopes, deep pools, shallow riffles, and waterfalls, which support a diverse biological system. In contrast, damming a river to create a reservoir, or diverting water from its natural channel, may eliminate or greatly compromise habitat diversity. Landscape structural diversity may require the retention of natural disturbances such as fire, flood, and wind throw. Therefore, planners should consider the larger physical landscape--its historical legacy, its current condition, and its biological potential--both within and outside of the national forests, and the ability of species to respond adaptively. The necessary data should be collected in the regional and watershed assessments and considered in the large landscape and small landscape planning processes.
B. Implementing Ecological Sustainability.
What are the implications of planning for sustainability on National Forests? First, ecological sustainability should be interpreted broadly. Planners need to look at the land in a large landscape context, including lands and communities beyond the boundaries of the national forests. Second, the characteristics of the landscape and how people interact with, and what they expect from, the land must be assessed. For example, watersheds provide a link to social and cultural issues, and most people develop a sense of place that relates to the watershed and its defining geographic features. At this stage the planner first asks if the human uses of the land appear compatible with a goal of sustainability. To reliably answer this question requires an emphasis on assessment and monitoring.
Third, national forests are open systems, affected by land-use outside of forest boundaries. Therefore, assessment and monitoring must be consistent with other agency programs. This approach requires a high degree of interagency collaboration, consistency in documentation and measurement standards across public and private lands, and a spirit of collaboration to solve shared environmental problems.
Fourth, for the foreseeable future, decisions on appropriate management of natural resources will be made in the context of considerable uncertainty about the outcome of those actions. Where costs for wrong decision are high, and uncertainty about outcome is great, active adaptive management should be adopted. Implementation of adaptive management approaches will speed up the process of learning how ecological systems function, and decrease the likelihood of large scale management errors.
Fifth, perhaps the single best metric of sustainable use of land is the persistence of species over time. The public needs to understand that a sustainable allocation of ecosystem productivity for utilization over the long-term can only occur if species persist. Thus, outputs of commodity and non-commodity resources become a common measure of ecosystem integrity.
Finally, the Forest Service must recognize the need to regain the trust of the American public, and to reestablish its credibility as a competent steward of the nation’s natural resources. To regain this position of leadership will require extensive public input to the planning process, and an independent review of Forest Service decisions by outside reviewers. Therefore, we recommend that the Forest Service establish a standing advisory board to insure that it is making use of the best available technology and scientific knowledge.
(2) Factors to Consider in Implementing Sustainability
Implementation of national forest plans is not a precise process, and there are many unknowns and potential pitfalls that are not under the control of resource managers. Therefore, planning must acknowledge scientific and social uncertainties, be cognizant of the inherent variability of natural processes, acknowledge adverse cumulative effects of multiple management actions, and preserve options for future stewardship actions. This is the daunting, but essential, responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the Forest Service.
The classical paradigm of ecology has been the stable state ecosystem, sometimes referred to as the "balance of nature" or nature at equilibrium. As our understanding of ecological systems has evolved, this view has been replaced by a non-equilibrium paradigm that recognizes the inherent dynamical nature of ecological systems. Ecological systems are regularly subject to episodic, natural disturbance events that change their states. Contemporary with this paradigm shift in ecological thinking was the recognition that ecological systems are hierarchial structures best evaluated at a variety of spatial scales. The traditional ecological hierarchy includes genes, populations, species, communities, ecosystems, and biomes. The combination of these two understandings has lead to a view of ecological systems from both local and landscape perspectives. For example, a large landscape may be in compositional equilibrium even though individual patches in the landscape are in a variety of states, and these states may change through time.
Significantly, the non-equilibrium paradigm emphasizes the importance of sustaining ecological processes more than specific ecological system states. That is, sustaining process at a landscape scale takes precedence over maintaining specific structural and compositional elements at a given location in a landscape. This has practical implications for the management of forests and grasslands – for example, one does not manage primarily for vegetation, but rather manages the process of vegetation change or succession. If process is sustain at the landscape scale then the expectation is a mosaic of successional stages in some dynamic equilibrium. In addition, sustaining process allows ecosystems to accommodate most disturbance events, providing the capability of returning to pre-disturbance conditions.
The new paradigm in ecology has the potential to be misused. If nature is often in a state of flux, then some people may wrongly conclude that whatever changes occur to ecological systems are acceptable. However, ecological systems are not infinitely resilient, and rates of change are bounded. Human impacts must be constrained because ecological systems have adaptational limits that, if surpassed, will lead to undesirable system states. Such degraded ecological systems will be severely limited in their ability to provide those critical goods and services required by current and future human generations. Sustaining ecological processes so that they operate within their expected bounds of variation is the only way to sustain species diversity for future generations. Even though we now recognize the non-equilibrium nature of ecological systems, from a human perspective the concept of stability of large-scale landscapes is well-founded. Ecological systems have historically changed so slowly that there was apparent continuity in landscape processes across human generations.
National Forests and National Grasslands contain a variety of natural resources that change over time and space. Over long time horizons, natural catastrophic events are a certain and importance impact in most systems (e.g., widespread fire, landslides, floods, droughts, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions). In other instances, chronic but important changes may be underway that alter the character of the vegetation and associated resources. These changes include succession, long-term periods of variable precipitation, loss of site productivity via compaction or erosion, outbreaks of insects or disease, establishment and spread of non-native species, and loss of native species diversity. Although there is a dynamic and often unpredictable aspect to many natural processes, an appreciation of the expected disturbance intensity, frequency, and duration over the planning horizon needs to be factored into planning efforts.
In the past, the Forest Service failed to adequately acknowledge the dynamic nature of natural resources. For example, concepts and terminology in widespread use over a period of many decades often include the regulated forest, maximum sustained yield, maximum carrying capacity, sacrifice areas, and maximum allowable harvest. Many of these terms are based on the flawed premise that commodity resource production can occur at relatively high levels, that such production is sustainable, and the collateral impacts to other resources are either not significant or are not measurable. Collectively, these assumptions are seldom valid.
Previous management practices have changed the structure and composition of forest and grassland such that a simple return to more natural conditions is difficult or impossible in the near-term. For example, widespread harvesting of large diameter trees in many ponderosa pine forests, coupled with long-term fire suppression activities, has resulted in relatively dense stands of regenerating trees. These stands are more prone to catastrophic wildfire. How they should be managed is an ongoing debate. Similarly, for unconstrained valley systems throughout much of the American west, historical grazing and other practices have affected watershed conditions and riparian plant communities through widespread stream widening and incision. Even under the most enlightened future stewardship direction, recovery of many streams and floodplain functions is not possible in the near future. In other instances, the direct effects of increasing human populations near and within protection boundaries (checkerboard ownerships) of national forests and grasslands may limit future stewardship options.
Attempts to "acknowledge natural processes" is a desirable attribute of the planing process and its implementation. An example of such an inclusion is represented by current efforts at trying to identify "historical ranges of natural variability". Such knowledge provides an important context for FS personnel within which to utilize their professional skills in conjunction with an understanding of site characteristics, processes, and stewardship options for developing practices that would be most appropriate to the goal of ecological sustainability. However, the scientific knowledge base is often limited with regard to specific ecosystem processes and their interactions. Much previous research has focused on deterministic processes and/or cause-and-effect at specific sites, thus our ability to generalize and extrapolate the results of individual studies to a wide range of ecosystem conditions remains limited.
Uncertainty arises from numerous sources and occurs during many stages of the planning process. Most important to our discussion here is scientific uncertainty that arises from incomplete understanding of how ecological systems work or insufficient information to determine the relations between processes. Often there is incomplete information of the relevant ecological processes, the connections among ecosystem components, and incomplete knowledge of the impacts of management. Furthermore, ecological systems are often highly variable, and process may operate differently above and below some thresholds. Analysis of management alternatives must consider the lack of complete understanding of ecological relations, confidence limits on projections into the future, and the inherent variability of ecological systems.
Uncertainty is one of the primary ingredients of nearly all stewardship decisions undertaken at the regional or forest level. However, previous planning efforts generally conducted deterministic evaluations, failing to explicitly acknowledge natural variability and the risks associated with decisions made under uncertainty.
For example, estimates of future annual timber harvest associated with a particular option in a forest plan are usually presented as a specific value. If nothing unanticipated happens over the implementation period, such a number may represent the most probable outcome of a specific plan. However, without some measure of uncertainty and variability these numbers falsely imply that the projected outcome has a high degree of certainty. To acknowledge the probabilistic nature of ecological processes will require explicit incorporation of risk assessment into the planning process. Given the inescapable variability of ecological processes, planners have the responsibility to explicit incorporate uncertainty into their analyses. It is critical that the Forest Service learn to make decisions and manage in a highly variable and uncertain environment, and to fully inform the public of the risks associated with its decisions.
To aid implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), regulations issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in 1978 defined cumulative effects as:
"...the impact on the environment resulting from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions regardless of what agency or person undertakes such actions."
Implicit in this definition is the concept that a specific cause-and-effect response to a management action can be identified. In addition, simple additivity of effects seldom occurs, as implied in the CEQ definition, because multiple and non-linear environmental responses to any change in the ecological system can occur.
Even less clear with regard to the CEQ definition of cumulative effects is how to incorporate the role of future natural disturbance events. For managed and undisturbed areas within a national forest or grassland, natural disturbances are a fundamental feature of these systems. And, for many types of potential cumulative effects the occurrence of a disturbance event may be necessary before a cumulative effect become apparent. For example, a decision not to thin a dry-site forest with significant amounts fuel loading may result in catastrophic watershed conditions if a natural wildfire occurs; a poorly designed road may not be problem until a large storm occurs and numerous road-related landslides occur; overgrazing in riparian areas may not manifest itself into a loss of woody species until the occurrence of a extended period of below average annual precipitation occurs.
The wide variation in site-specific practices and local environmental conditions (e.g., vegetation type, topograpy, geology and soils) that occur across a given national forest or grassland indicate that the direct and indirect effects of management practices may not always be well-understood, nor will they be easy to accurately predict. Even when general patterns of cumulative effects become evident at watershed and bioregional scales (e.g., basin-wide and regional patterns of channel incision, reduced abundance or extent of specific plant or animal species, altered water quality), estimates of site-specific contributions may be difficult to achieve.
There are few standard analytical methods available to incorporate cumulative effects. The field of integrated assessment is still developing and is generally broader scale than a national forest. Early cumulative effects assessments on the national forests often focused on water resources and fisheries issues. While watershed analyses procedures have been developed over the last decade to better understand the spatial distribution and temporal occurrence of watershed effects, the diversity of watershed conditions and management activities occurring in a given area may preclude standard analytical methodologies.
Neither the NMFA (1976), or its subsequent regulations, makes direct mention of cumulative effects or cumulative effects analysis. However, the regulations recognized the need to coordinate planning with local, state, and other federal agencies, as well as, with private landowners that are intermingled with National Forest System Lands. The regulations also required monitoring and evaluation of management effects on national forest lands that may be affected by planning decisions, including the effects of activities occurring on nearby lands. New NFMA regulations are needed with specific language indicating that cumulative effects analyses are to be incorporated into planning efforts. These analyses should focus on relevant issues at both ecoregional and watershed scales.
E. Preserve Options
Preservation of future stewardship options is rarely possible when current rates of resource exploitation are high. Preserving options assumes an acceptable "decision space" will be available to address the environmental problems confronting future human generations. However, many forest and range ecosystems have experienced intensive resource management and utilization by Euro-Americans with adverse effects on their productive potential. The most significant changes in these systems have occurred over the last 200 years. For example, in forested systems most of the old-growth has been converted to younger stands; extensive road systems have been built with outdated technologies based on unsustainable levels of resource use. In rangeland areas, alterations to riparian systems and stream channels has been extensive, a consequence of historical watershed and riparian management practices. In either of these situations, future stewardship options have been reduced or, in some cases, essentially eliminated. While current stewardship activities can potentially reduce (sometimes increase) future options, if these practices significantly and adversely affect other resources or values, then they are also likely to significantly limit future options. If current practices result in species becoming threatened or endangered, water quality standards being exceeded, or public values and trust violated, then dramatic readjustments to current stewardship activities are clearly needed.
Preserving options is also a way of explicitly acknowledging our incomplete knowledge of complex ecosystems – that is, our ignorance of how they function and their interactions with natural and human influenced disturbance regimes – and our responsibilities to future human generations. This philosophy is perhaps best encapsulated by focusing more on what we leave behind in exploited ecosystems than on what is taken from them.
D. How Ecological Concepts Affect Planning
(1) Assessing and Monitoring Sustainability
Assessment and monitoring to characterize sustainability is an indispensable part of land and resource stewardship. To date, they have not been integrated into the planning and implementation process. Yet including assessment and monitoring within the process is the single most important shift in forest stewardship that can happen. Assessment needs to inform decisions regarding the current status of land and resource stewardship. The assessment and monitoring processes create the information necessary for future decisions, can save costs of future inventory analysis, and reduce the likelihood of management mistakes. Monitoring is the means to continue to update the baseline information, and to determine the degree of compliance to the retention of ecological sustainability.
Assessment and monitoring is meant to be an evolving process. The focus may change over time or space as concerns change. Whether the current emphasis is on composition, process, structure, or some combination of these features depends on pending decisions, characteristics of the system, and features most at risk. Furthermore, ongoing technological developments and advances in the scientific understanding of sustainability will lead to additions and refinements in the ways that sustainability can be measured. For example, concurrent developments in geographic information systems and the field of landscape ecology have allowed a broad scale perspective of land stewardship to be implemented. Thus, management should be viewed as a learning process that contributes to our current knowledge and affects the way sustainability is measured and provided for by future management practices.
Assessments need to recognize the hierarchial organization of ecological systems. A hierarchial approach to the assessment of ecological systems recognizes that smaller subsystems change more rapidly than do the larger systems to which they belong. At a landscape scale processes operate so as to constraint faster and more local processes, including structure and composition, at smaller spatial scales. Given this perspective, current scientific understandings suggest that sustaining biological diversity over multiple human generations requires that stewardship policies be set initially at a landscape scale. Therefore, the initial goal of a sustainability policy should be the retention of those ecological processes that support and retain biological diversity at a landscape scale.
Given the lack of well-established theories that specify which level of the complex hierarchy of ecosystems is most appropriate, the guidance to assess at a landscape scale is imprecise. For the foreseeable future, managers will have considerable latitude in choosing the boundaries, and thus scale, of the systems they manage. This indeterminacy is not necessarily bad as long as it is realized that the ultimate goal of management and stewardship is to retain those dynamical processes that provide for biological diversity at the landscape scale.
Despite the apparent primacy of assessment at a large landscape scale (as discussed in a later section), this scale may provide insufficient resolution for some management problems. Therefore, choice of boundaries and spatial scale will remain an essential part of assessing a system and proposing solutions to specific problems. These small landscape assessments, however, must be able to be aggregated upward and be consistent with large landscape analyses.
For pragmatic reasons, only a limited number of measures can be used to infer the sustainability of complex ecosystems. Therefore, it is useful to apply a hierarchical assessment to identify the most relevant scale for a particular management problem. A hierarchical approach to assessment allows for planning to simultaneously consider sustainability needs at various spatial scales. This approach acknowledges that some characteristics of sustainability are best viewed from a regional perspective, while others are more appropriately considered at more local scales.
The planning process needs to identify those issues that are relevant at the broad regional, watershed, and site specific scales (Table 1). Assessment information must be relevant to all these concerns. It is useful to establish terminology for discussing the hierarchies involved in an assessment process (Table 1). The national level is the broadest level of assessments for the Forest Service. Regional assessments may be based on bioregional characteristics or planning regions. At the mid-level of this scale are regions such as watersheds that follow hydrologic boundaries, or conservation areas that focus on habitats that cut across hydrological boundaries. Because watersheds can range from sub-basins to smaller scales, watersheds are also represented at the fine-scale with the project level of management being at the finest scale of resolution.
On the National Forests today, a blend of coarse and fine filters are used to monitor for sustainability. Coarse filter stewardship strategies are based primarily on distributions of habitats (numbers of types, their ranges of size, and their interspersion), and other large-landscape elements. Fine-filter, species-specific approaches, however, are required to ensure maintenance of species viability and genetic diversity. <<Sidebar B>>
(2) Broad regional issues
By initially addressing the assessment and monitoring to the landscape scale, the value of the regional information for finer scale analysis can be considered (Table 2). Regional-scale information typically is derived from a combination of remotely sensed and ground-based data. Both satellite imagery and aerial photographs can provide complete spatial coverage of an area. The availability of this information should be fully exploited for landscape-scale analyses. The ecological value of this information, if carefully interpreted, arises from the information it provides on vegetation composition, pattern, and context at the large landscape scale.
Processes particularly important at a regional scale include fragmentation and connectivity. Fragmentation refers to the alteration of previously continuous habitat into spatially separated and smaller patches. Habitat fragmentation can and often does result from human land-use dynamics, including forestry, agriculture, and settlement, but also can be caused by wildfire, wind, flooding, outbreaks of herbivores or pathogens, and other disturbances. Land management decisions can alter habitat fragmentation patterns of natural forests and grasslands as a result of adding fences, roads, or via land cover changes.
The pattern of habitat fragmentation and connectivity can constrain the spatial distribution of species by making some areas accessible and others inaccessible. Connectivity is a threshold dynamic, meaning that incremental reduction of habitat may have only gradual effects on the presence or abundance of a species until the threshold region is encountered. After this point, the adverse effects on species viability tend to be dramatic. Changes in the abundance and distribution of land-cover are more likely to have substantial effects when habitat for a given species is near its threshold abundance. The threshold of connectivity varies among species and depends on the abundance and spatial arrangement of the habitat and the movement or dispersal capabilities of the organism.
(3) Sub-regions: Watersheds of Conservation Areas
Sub-regions provide a middle scale (between regions and sites) for assessment and monitoring. Often information relevant to a specific management issue is best represented at the sub-region scale. Example sub-regions are conservation areas (<< see sidebar>>) and watersheds.
In simplest terms, a watershed comprises a land area that drains to a common point. The use of watersheds as the planning unit focuses assessment on a physically connected portion of the landscape, unambiguously delineated by topographic features at the margins (i.e., ridges and watershed divides). Implicit in a watershed perspective is the crucial role of gravity in the general movement of water, nutrients, sediment, organic matter, and other resources in a down-slope direction. The movement of various ecosystem outputs and products to lower elevations provides for process "connectivity" within the watershed whereby downslope areas are "connected" or influenced by activities and processes occurring on upslope areas. For example, altered water quality in a headwater stream may contribute to downstream changes in water quality or aquatic habitats. In similar fashion, a landslide initiating along a ridge may carry far enough downslope such that it significantly changes the character of a stream reach. It is this "connectivity" of various products and processes within watersheds that can provide an important ecological basis for undertaking watershed-based planning efforts.
There are clear advantages to using subregions such as watersheds to address several types of ecological and regulatory concerns (e.g., fisheries, riparian management, and water quality) on national forests and grasslands. However, there are also situations where a differing landscape perspective of ecosystem boundaries and issues may be more useful and more appropriate. For example, watersheds with gentle topographic relief may not have well delineated watershed divides. Where watersheds have significant relief, the distribution of specific forest types and plant communities are typically arrayed along discrete elevational gradients, connecting with those of adjacent watersheds. Because many animal species frequently range across watershed divides, ecological assessments addressing wildlife and other issues (e.g., recreation use) may best be addressed using planning areas that involve multiple watersheds (e.g., ecoregions, physiographic regions). For a wide-ranging species, the connectivity of habitat across the landscape may be a prime determinant of its viability. The important point with regard to the selection of planning areas is to choose boundaries that circumscribe the issues to be addressed.
(4) Site Specific Information
The requisite information on structure, composition, and process needed at finer spatial scales largely depends on the specifics of the management issue. Compositional information typically focuses on the status of species, plant, animal, or fungus that are rare, endangered, or used for economic or recreation purposes (e.g., timber or game species). Process information at the fine scale usually relates to the contribution these species provide to critical ecosystem functions. Examples include pollination, soil processes, nutrient cycling, and energy flow across trophic levels. Process also focuses on the expression of disturbance events (e.g., fire, windthrow, flooding) on the structure and composition of biogenic and geologic elements at a local scale. Structural features include topography and land form, but most often relate to the age and seral stage of the vegetation.
(5) A Cross Scale Issue: Species Viability
The emphasis on sustainability and ecological process initially focuses on the broad spatial scales and large landscapes. Given this systems approach, equal emphasis is put on the components of the system -- that is, the individual species. The mandate to ensure species viability and maintain biological diversity is an expression of both the intrinsic and instrumental value of biological diversity. It is important to note that diversity is sustained only when individual species persist – the goals of species viability and sustaining biological diversity are inseparable. <<sidebar C>>
A viable species is defined as consisting of self-sustaining populations that are well-distributed throughout the species’ range. Self-sustaining populations are those that are sufficiently abundant, and have sufficient genetic diversity to display the array of life history strategies and forms that will provide for their persistence and adaptability in the planning area over time.
Because of the inescapable uncertainty of environmental events, the likelihood of a species persisting indefinitely across time is uncertain. Because it is impossible to ensure the viability of a given species, it is necessary to be very clear about the goals of the viability requirement, and the process of viability analysis. Some of the important principles relative to viability and its analysis include:
a) The short-term viability of a species is influenced by many factors, including its size, sex ratio, age structure, reproductive and survival rates, and geographic distribution. In addition to total population size, the spatial distribution of local populations, and of individuals within populations, can have profound effects on the likelihood of persistence.
b) Any statement about the likelihood that a species will be viable under a specific management strategy must explicitly incorporate probability and time -- that is, the likelihood that a species will be viable is measured along a continuum in terms of some projected likelihood of persistence over a specified time period.
c) The purpose of a viability assessment is to gain insights into how resource management can change those parameters under Forest Service control (e.g., habitat quality and distribution) influencing the probability of persistence.
d) A first step in complying to the viability mandate is to assess the likelihood of species persistence over specified time intervals, based on our current understanding of how populations change in space and time as a consequence of internal and external factors. Since viability can never be ensured with 100% certainty, whether or not, a population is deemed viable is a decision on an acceptable risk of extinction. This is a valued-based, not a science-based, decision.
Because of the impossibility of monitoring the status and assessing the viability of all species, it is necessary to focus on a smaller subset of species. We propose the generic term ‘focal species’ to allow a diversity of approaches to selecting those species to monitor and assess for viability. The key characteristic of a focal species is that its status and time trend provide insights to the integrity of the larger ecosystem to which it belongs. The term ‘focal’ is inclusive of several existing categories of species used to assess ecosystem integrity including:
a. Indicator species – species selected because their status is believed to (i) be indicative of the status of a larger functional group of species; or (ii) be reflective of the status of a key habitat type; or (iii) act as an early warning to the action of an anticipated stressor to ecosystem integrity.
b. Keystone species – species whose effects on one or more critical ecological processes, or biological diversity, are much greater than would be predicted from their abundance or biomass.
c. Ecological engineers – species who, by altering the habitat to their own needs, modify the availability of energy (food, water, or sunlight), and affect the fates and opportunities of other species.
d. Umbrella species – species who, because of their large area requirements or use of multiple habitats, encompass the habitat requirements of many other species.
e. ‘Link’ species – species that play critical roles in the transfer of matter and energy across trophic levels or provide a critical link for energy transfer in complex food webs.
Some species of concern may not satisfy the requirement of providing information to the larger ecosystem, but because of public interest, will also be monitored and assessed for viability. Such species include some threatened and endangered species, game species, sensitive species, and those that are vulnerable due to their rarity.
Available knowledge of species ecologies and their functional roles in ecosystems is so limited that it is impossible, a priori, to unambiguously identify focal species. Therefore, the selection of focal species, based on existing information and the criteria for inclusion, should be treated as a hypothesis rather than a fact. Given this uncertainty, the assumption that a specific species serves a focal role must be validated by monitoring and research.
An emphasis on focal species, including their functional importance or their role in the conservation of other species, nicely combines aspects of single-species and ecosystem management. It also leads us to consider species directly, rather than limiting our focus to ecological processes that may not sustain some components of biological diversity.
E. Spanning Ownership Boundaries in Assessments
Monitoring on national forests needs to relate closely to assessment efforts of other agencies. At broad scales land is composed of multiple agency ownership, and even within some forests, private ownership is mixed in with the federal lands. Therefore, it is imperative that assessment opportunities be coordinated with private, state, and other federal land holders. Examples of these issues are the management of wide ranging species such as grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem or the red cockaded woodpecker in the southeastern states. Where issues cross ownership boundaries there is a clear need for common assessment information at the regional and subregional scales. Uniform data collection and documentation standards are necessary for the agencies to collect, map and share data across the boundaries.
A good example of such cooperation was accomplished by the Southern Appalachian Assessment which involved both federal and state natural resource agency specialists in order to describe the ecological, social, and economic characteristics of the multi-state region. In this case, an interagency cooperative was formed that directed the scope and depth of analysis. By avoiding duplicating work that might have been necessary if each agency had acted independently, the scope and depth of analysis were significantly broadened. The breadth of the Southern Appalachian Assessment allows for opportunities to further expand the analysis based upon the general availability of the data.
(2) The role of Advisory Boards in Assessment
"Advisory/review" boards can serve an important role in assessing ecological sustainability at a landscape scale. Their charge would be to initially consider management issues independent of land ownership patterns. By providing oversight, such boards can allow for the flexibility necessary to design and implement a useful assessment program that includes all stakeholders. In addition, the boards can also ensure that a high level of credibility is maintained. Later sections of this report recommend the establishment of a national and regional "advisory/review" boards.
With regard to assessment, these boards could deal with future questions pertaining to how to assess sustainability across multiple ownerships with contrasting land use priorities. At a national level, the concepts of sustainability are still evolving, and a scientific panel can evaluate the most useful way for new scientific developments to be incorporated into stewardship of forest and grazing lands. Questions at a regional level relate to how the assessment plans depend on questions that are location specific.
Table 1. Example of hierarchical assessment
Aquatic Example of Assessment
1,000,000 to 10,000,000 ha
Land cover patterns
200,000 to 1,000,000 ha
Status/trends of population in sub-basin
Current and potential critical habitats
Existing linkage between subpopulations
Relationship between national and human distribution
50,000 to 200,000 ha
Current and potential population distribution
Current and potential critical habitat
Linkage between critical stream reaches
Less than 50,000 ha
Current and potential distribution by stream reach
Critical habitat distribution/size by reach
Linkage/isolation of critical habitat by reach
Relation between national and human disturbance
Table 2. Sustainability attributes by scale.
Table 3. Relationship between the criteria from the Santiago agreement and the three elements of sustainability: composition, function and structure
Criteria from Santiago Agreement
1. Conservation of biological diversity
2. Maintenance of productive capacity of ecosystems
3. Maintenance of ecosystem health and vitality
4. Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
5. Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
Contributions of National Forests and Grasslands to Society
The Forest Service, as trustee and steward of our great national treasure -- the national forests and grasslands -- has both a legal and, moreover, a moral obligation to preserve opportunities and choices for future generations while providing for the economies and communities of today. While the Forest Service cannot or should not be expected to single-handedly sustain existing economies, cultures and communities, the national forest system lands nonetheless contribute the many values, services, outputs and uses that allow economies and communities to persist, prosper and evolve according to their own wills. This charge -- contributing to the well-being of the communities of today and tomorrow -- is at the heart of the Forest Service's role in economic and social sustainability.
[alternative replacement section] The notion of economic and social sustainability speaks to the very capacity of a society to ensure the long-term well-being of people and the communities they inhabit. The lands and resources of the national forest system provide products, uses, and services that contribute to economic and social sustainability. However, the challenge for communities and economies is to develop community leadership to join in public planning processes, foster stewardship capacity to conserve the national forests, and act to improve the general well-being of communities by energizing them to take action.
This chapter attempts to give definition to the connections between human communities and the lands and resources of the national forest system. The National Forests and Grasslands were formed to provide continuous public benefits – water flows and watershed protection, timber supply, and the many values of the forest itself. For communities adjacent to the national forest system lands, these lands and resources provide uses and values integral to the life of the community and the nature of their economies. Communities of interest also provide the stewardship capacity to ensure that the goals and purposes of these lands can be carried out. This two-way relationship between society and these lands is why sustainability is the fundamental goal of the National Forest System.
[The social and economic dimensions of sustainability are integral to it, but elude easy definition because people have the capacity to modify and change their social environment through culture and technology. The idea that an ecosystem seeks a stable equilibrium was once a popular idea in ecology, as in all of the scientific disciplines through most of this century. Today, the idea of a stable universe has been replaced by concepts of a dynamic, emergent universe. In ecology this means that ecosystems are considered dynamic processes, characterized by a set of conditions from which emerge characteristic states over time and in space. Ecological sustainability, from this perspective, assures that conditions are maintained that allow and promote these natural changes while the overall essence of the ecosystem remains. The same is true for human systems and social sustainability--human systems change through time, but sustainability is based on the capacity of human systems to adapt and change over time. Human and ecological systems are dynamic processss, that are highly variable, and their nature and structure often uncertain when projected into the future.
Not surprisingly, defining sustainable social and economic conditions creates the greatest conflicts in national forest management, because these decisions affect peoples’ lives directly, immediately and, sometimes, dramatically. Nonetheless, social and economic sustainability is an essential component of sustainability and must be addressed through the Forest Service's land and resource management planning process. Therefore, to ensure both ecological and social sustainability, planning should be based on the best information and analysis available, developed through both formal scientific research and the on-going civic inquiry of democratic societies.]
National Forests: Places Where People Work, Live, Worship and Play
The long-term economic contributions of the forest reserves were recognized from the very beginning. Irrigation districts in the West, wanting to be assured of reliable flows for their fields, pressed Congress for protective legislation, which was achieved in the Creative Act of 1891. Today farmers continue to rely upon clean, reliable flows from national forest watersheds, which comprise most of the high country in the West and a significant proportion in the East. Commercial timber production was recognized as the second purpose, in addition to watershed protection, in the 1897 Organic Act. Timber harvesting remained low until World War II, soared during the post-War boom, and has receded since the late 1980s. Production of wood products is unlikely return to the 1980s levels, but a steady supply of national forest timber will continue to provide significant economic benefits.
The national forests and grasslands benefit the economy in many other ways. Grazing of domestic livestock takes place on more than half of all national forest system lands. Hardrock mining along with oil and gas production are found on nearly every national forest. Recreation on the lands and waters of the national forests and grasslands is a multi-billion dollar industry. Indeed, most of the nation’s ski areas are located in the National Forests.
The national forest system lands provide numerous benefits and services to adjacent towns and cities with the result that, to millions of Americans, their connection to the forest is tangible. The watersheds that bring green life to irrigation fields also serve the critical function of providing drinking water to towns and cities. Grocery stores, motels, restaurants, guides and outfitters, and other businesses in hundreds of communities depend in whole or in part on tourism revenues from nearby national forests and grasslands; these enterprises help knit their community together. Indian tribes have treaty-based hunting, fishing, and gathering rights within many national forests, and those watersheds are essential habitat for salmon to fulfill tribal fishing rights on rivers below the national forests. Traditional Indian people also rely upon sacred sites within national forests and grasslands. In the Southwest, Hispanic communities have relied for centuries upon these lands for firewood-gathering, grazing, subsistence hunting, and water supply for their family farms.
The national forests and grasslands give essential definition to day-to-day life in many local communities. People hunt, fish, boat, and hike in them. Perhaps even more fundamentally, the people’s lands are the backdrop to town--the ridgelines that each year go from green to white and back to green again. The forests and grasslands are places to daydream about, to seek refuge in. A sense of place is a deep, intimate emotion and these lands create it and sustain it through the force of their grandeur and the comfort of their constancy.
Given their symbiotic relationship with the national forests and grasslands, nearby communities have a special role in providing stewardship for the national forest system lands. People who work on the land often have a rich knowledge of it and its history; knowledge that is accumulated through experience and passed down through generations. This knowledge is an important contribution to understanding social and ecological processes over time. With their direct connection and deep knowledge, people living in communities adjacent to the national forests and grasslands can act as stewards of these resources.
However, it is a two-way relationship in that the economies of communities and cities adjoining national forest lands are often materially dependent on both resources and environmental services from these lands. For example, when siltation levels increase in streams, fishing and coastal communities are affected by reduced fish populations and increased harbor dredging costs. When timber harvest levels decline in response to changes in economic organization and public policy, small, communities with little economic diversity can experience sudden high unemployment. Even in nearby urban areas, "high-tech" industries dependent on clean water are immediately affected by increases in siltation or declines in water supply. As a result, while the forests and grasslands must serve all of the nations people, these local communities and towns deserve particular attention when considering the contributions of the forest to sustaining communities and economies and the capacity for providing stewardship to the forest.
Variability and uncertainty: The realities of social sustainability in a dynamic landscape
The land and resource planning process for the national forest system provides an important opportunity to better understand and define the many connections between national forest lands and their associated economies and communities. The same diversity that characterizes an ecosystem characterizes a human system. As described earlier, forests contribute in numerous tangible and intangible ways to the spiritual, cultural, social and economic well-being and identity of many communities and individuals. The planning process must actively consider and engage the different cultures, communities and economies that give these contributions value. While it is not always possible to quantify or rank diverse uses and values in order to determine such elusive concepts as highest and best use--just as it is impossible to identify, count, and value all plants and animals in an ecosystem--, it is nonetheless essential that important uses and values be recognized, assessed and accommodated as appropriate and possible. The process must also consider values that have been given specific legal or historical protections -- such as Indian treaty rights and Hispanic land grants -- and ensure that these values are provided for and protected and that other management activities do not detract from them.
As conceived in the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act, within the limits set by ecological sustainability, land and resource planning was to seek the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of high levels or regular periodic outputs of the various renewable resources of the national forests. Two realities make this approach problematic. First, the dynamics of ecosystems means that scheduling a regular, predictable output of a single product probably will fail because productivity varies through time. For example, experience has shown the difficulty of achieving even flow when management focuses upon maintenance of a high level of production of a short list of outputs (such as wood fiber and forage). Second, an even flow can be sustained under variability, but it often comes by over-exploiting the system's productivity (e.g., by harvesting more than is produced annually) or by impairing other ecosystem elements (e.g., grazing under conditions that cause erosion). When managed this way, National Forests appear to promise a stability of commodity flow that they can not deliver, and public expectations are raised about the long-term capability of the land and likely resource flows. At the extreme, forests managed this way become subject to catastrophic surprises when unusual, but natural, events occur (e.g., greatly increased flooding and landslides during heavy rains). Communities that grow dependent on artificially high or constant commodity flows can eventually suffer the same catastrophic surprises--losing all semblance of sustainability.
Moreover, by focusing attention on a short list of commodity outputs, many other uses and values and, furthermore, the communities dependent upon these non-commodity contributions of the national forests, were frequently overlooked or undervalued. Rather than focusing on sustaining single, measurable outputs from the forest, what needs to be sustained is the integrity of the ecological system so that the forests can continue to contribute over the long-term to the many and diverse values, services, outputs and uses valued by society.
Expecting an ecosystem to deliver stable and high outputs of any product can have disastrous impacts on social sustainability. Prosperous communities and economies can only remain healthy and vibrant if their foundation is ecologically sustainable. The Forest Service must be cautious to avoid making resource contributions in a manner that establishes unrealistic expectations for economies and communities that cannot be fulfilled over the long-term within the context of ecological sustainability. Doing so will only lead to hardship when abrupt changes in an economy become necessary to restore the ecological system to a sustainable path. The ghost towns found across the country stand in mute testament to the human consequences of rapid resource depletion. It was to avoid these kinds of abrupt and painful losses that a policy of protection of the forests productive capacity as measured by favorable conditions of waterflow, prevention of soil erosion, amelioration of climate, and preservation of wildlife, as well as steady flows of goods and services was placed in the legal framework for the National Forests. (See sidebar on the legal mandate.)
Assessing the contributions of national forests to communities and economies must be a dynamic process, changing along with changing values and knowledge. The planning process must recognize that the value of these uses, products and services changes with time. Areas that may have been highly valued for timber harvest or minerals extraction may assume higher value to society as sources of clean, reliable waterflows or recreation. Furthermore, as new knowledge becomes available, the full worth of some contributions will be better recognized and more fully assessed.
Recognizing and Valuing the Contributions of the National Forests
The land and resource planning process for the national forest system provides an important opportunity to better understand and define the many connections national forest lands have with the larger economy and society within which they reside. No national forest is a closed economy; nor is any community or town. Forests contribute in both tangible and intangible ways to the spiritual, cultural and economic well-being and identity of many communities and individuals in society. The planning process must actively consider and engage the different cultures, communities and economies that give these contributions value. While it is not always possible to quantify or rank such divergent uses in order to determine such elusive concepts as "highest and best use," it is nonetheless essential that they be recognized, assessed and accommodated as appropriate and possible. The process must also consider values that have been given specific legal protections -- such as Indian treaty rights, Hispanic land grants, and Wilderness -- and ensure that these values are provided for and protected and that other management activities do not detract from them.
As conceived in the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act, within the limits set by ecological sustainability, land and resource planning was to seek the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of high levels or regular periodic outputs of the various renewable resources of the national forests. Experience with this policy has shown the difficulty of achieving this goal when management focuses upon maintenance of a high level of production of a short list of outputs (such as wood fiber and forage). Not only do ecological systems become subject to catastrophic surprises when managed with narrow goals, public expectations are raised about the long-term capability of the land and likely resource flows. National Forests appeared to promise a stability of commodity flow that they could not deliver. Rather than focusing on sustaining single, measurable outputs from the forest, what needs to be sustained is the integrity of the ecological system so that the forests can continue to contribute over the long-term to the values, services, outputs and uses valued by society.
Ecological sustainability and human use are not inconsistent nor incompatible goals. Prosperous communities and economies can only remain healthy and vibrant if their foundation is ecologically sustainable. The Forest Service must be cautious to avoid making resource contributions in a manner that establishes unrealistic expectations for economies and communities that cannot be fulfilled over the long-term within the context of ecological sustainability. Doing so will only lead to hardship when abrupt changes in an economy become necessary to restore the ecological system to a sustainable path. From the perspective of social and economic institutions and the livelihoods of people and communities, such changes can be extremely disruptive. The ghost towns found across the country stand in mute testament to the human consequences of rapid resource depletion. It was to avoid these kinds of abrupt and painful losses that a policy of protection of the forest’s productive capacity as measured by favorable conditions of waterflow, prevention of soil erosion, amelioration of climate, and preservation of wildlife, as well as steady flows of goods and services was placed in the legal framework for the National Forests. (See sidebar on the legal mandate.)
Assessing the contributions of national forests to communities and economies must be a dynamic process. The planning process must recognize that the value of these uses, products and services changes with time. Areas that may have been highly valued for timber harvest or minerals extraction may now have higher value to society as sources of clean, reliable waterflows or recreation. Furthermore, as new knowledge becomes available, the full worth of some contributions will be better recognized and more fully assessed. For example, the provision of clean, plentiful water for agricultural use in California’s central valley or for industrial use in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
SIDEBAR ON LEGAL MANDATE FOR MULTIPLE USES CONSISTENT WITH ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY
Key phrases from the laws governing the national forests relating to the contributions that the national forests make to the economies that invigorate our communities and cultures:
Organic Act: The 1897 Organic Act gave three purposes for the Forest Reserves: 1) to preserve and protect the forest within the reservation, 2) for the purpose of securing favorable conditions of water flows, 3) to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of the people of the United States
Sustained Yield Forest Management Act of 1944: While this act was largely intended to provide for the creation of cooperative units of public and private forest land, it also contains a clear statement of the economic and social contributions of forests. " Sec. 1. In order to promote the stability of forest industries, of employment, of communities, and of taxable forest wealth, through continuous supplies of timber; in order to provide for a continuous and ample supply of forest products; and in order to secure the benefits of forests in maintenance of water supply, regulation of stream flow, prevention of soil erosion, amelioration of climate, and preservation of wildlife, ¼."
Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act: Called for the "...achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairment of the productivity of the land." Named the multiple uses as: outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish. Stated that: "the establishment and maintenance of areas of wilderness are consistent with the purposes and provisions of the Act." and that "the purposes of this Act are declared to be supplemental to" the provisions named in the Organic Act.
National Forest Management Act: "The Forest Service . . . has both a responsibility and an opportunity to be a leader in assuring that the Nation maintains a natural resource conservation posture that will meet the requirements of our people in perpetuity."
END OF SIDE BAR
The Essential Role of Stewardship in Achieving Ecological Sustainability
In many places, ecological sustainability depends on contributions from communities and economies beyond the national forest’s borders. The Forest Service has always relied on individuals, organizations, industries and communities to provide resources for society and to protect the forests from fire, insects and disease. Today this list includes volunteers who help address the needs of a burgeoning number of recreational users [see San Gorgonio Side Bar], NGO’s who have unique knowledge and expertise about particular resources or ecological attributes, local industries that can provide the labor and services necessary for restoration or harvesting the commodity outputs that a sustainably-managed forest provides to society [see Clifton Choctaw Side Bar]. Today the American people are more interested than ever before in actively participating in providing stewardship support for the national forests and grasslands. Understanding and actively cultivating this public commitment and capacity can significantly improve the Forest Service’s stewardship capabilities.
The capacity for protective management, for instance fuel reduction in fire prone ecosystems, requires adequate financial resources, a skilled workforce, and entrepreneurship. Current policy often assumes that finances, skilled labor, and entrepreneurship are provided by normal economic institutions. We argue here that maintenance of these economic and social institutions is important in order to ensure ecological sustainability in many places. For example:
A viable timber industry will be needed for vegetation treatments to achieve ecological goals; otherwise the public expense of these treatments could be much higher.
Local stewardship will often be needed for watershed restoration.
Entrepreneurs must be interested in organizing resources to undertake needed management activities.
A regular level of projects helps ensure that the needed workforce will be available.
A strong and locally enforced legal and institutional infrastructure is necessary to protect ecological resources from degradation or over exploitation. Strong and stable communities, along with a sense of personal responsibility helps provide this infrastructure.
The Forest Service is inextricably tied to these economies and communities and must find ways to nurture them so that they are there since the National Forest relies on them in pursuing its fundamental goal. Today the Forest Service needs to take an active role in considering what kinds of community and business capacity are necessary for effective stewardship and developing both the awareness of this relationship and local entrepreneurship though the planning process. Achieving this may mean placing individuals in positions where they are responsible for maintaining these linkages and fulfilling these tasks. It also means using the forest planning process to forecast future needs and taking the steps necessary to ensure that key industries are present and intact to meet these needs as they arise.
Clearly a broader conception of the agency’s role in education is also called for, one that encourages people to become aware of their connection to the forest and their responsibility to assist in its stewardship. A participatory approach in planning can create this awareness along with the capacity to take action. Many of the forest benefits are taken for granted in daily life, like, for example, the waters that flow from the national forests that have a significant economic value to large urban populations, to agriculture and to other highly profitable industries. Many of these users are not even aware of the watershed that supplies one of the most critical ingredients to their economic livelihood and hence are not actively assisting the Forest Service in ensuring that sustainable management practices are pursued that will maintain these critical waterflows. To sustain these environmental services, these downstream beneficiaries need to recognize their integral connection to the national forest, have a role in the planning process and, furthermore, may need to contribute to the cost of management.
Building Community Capacity and Embracing Diversity
Traditionally, the relationship between the national forests and the broader society was treated as a one-way street: public and private goods flowed from federal lands to numerous beneficiaries; omniscient public servants made choices based on their own beliefs about what was best for society. Sustainability, however, requires that this become a two-way relationship. And, to build this two-way relationship requires that healthy, engaged communities be present. Community speaks to the quality of relationships among diverse and dispersed groups of people, not the geographic location of where they live. Forest planning can enhance the presence and capacity of these communities, thereby facilitating the broader effectiveness of national forest management.
National forest planning and assessment processes are critical opportunities to build and strengthen the relationships necessary to work toward sustainability. These processes can enrich and broaden agency understanding of the economic, social and institutional environment at the same time that they help build community capacity. By engaging in meaningful public dialogue, citizens and interest groups can learn about one another and develop a deeper appreciation of different points of view. They can begin identifying shared issues of concern and envisioning mutually agreed upon approaches for dealing with these issues. They can begin reweaving the fabric of communities that have been torn apart by years of adversarial interaction. One central function of the planning process is to facilitate this process of community-building by providing the opportunity and incentives for people to come together. In so doing, it will help strengthen a community’s ability to chart and pursue a common future course, to be vibrant and healthy and hence able to assist in the national forests’ pursuit of sustainability. Moreover, doing so will help create and enhance the leadership, institutions and informal networks within communities that, in turn, help the Forest Service to interact more effectively with these communities.
Information is a key element in building an accessible planning process and an honest relationship between the agency and communities. Open information policies, where all the information about the resources and management of a national forest is readily available in a range of different locations and formats, can provide any interested individual the ability to understand, critique and participate in planning processes. When planning and assessment processes are viewed as joint inquiry processes between the agency and the public, then the attitudes of both are aimed toward mutual learning, issue identification and problem-solving.
As the United States has come to acknowledge the growing brittleness of its forested ecosystems, the brittleness of the institutional structures affecting these ecosystems has also become apparent. A single watershed, such as the Applegate area in Oregon, has a checkerboard of land ownerships, private, state, and federal, each of which has its own distinct objectives for land use and management. Without strong relationships and meaningful communication and community engagement in identifying issues and solving problems, effective forest management is virtually impossible. Formal or informal structures will often be required in order to provide the mechanism and incentive for such a fragmented community to organize in order to effectively be a part of sustainable forest management. The forest planning process is a key avenue for doing so.
Americans are a mobile society. In the 1980s, migration patterns shifted for the first time in 50 years as more people moved to rural areas than to urban ones. While this trend has slowed somewhat, those counties near or including national forest lands, especially wilderness areas, continue to experience high rates of in-migration. The last 20 years has seen significant changes in the demographics of the people living near national forests. No longer are the majority of "locals" involved in resource extraction or use economies. Now many "locals" are part-time residents during summer or other recreational times, including hunting and fishing seasons, or are retirees whose income is from pensions or social security. As a result of these changes in the use of privately held lands near the national forests, long-standing cultural diversity near forests is being augmented with new diversity based on demographic factors, such as age (for retirement communities), urban origin (for "high tech" manufacturers who can import most of their physical inputs), and wealth (summer vacation homes, lands used for investment and speculation). Such social diversity creates special challenges for planning and public participation.
People are diverse in their conceptions of what contributions from the forest are of the highest value and hence what social "choices," in the form of Forest Service stewardship decisions, should be made. They are diverse in their cultural practices and cultural values. They are diverse in the ways that they participate in public participation activities (some like meetings, others like face to face discussions, others need to be in the woods to address the issues). They are diverse in their economic activities. Regardless, people of diverse backgrounds often share at least one common ground: they care about and/or want to live or visit here. The national forests have significant meaning to many people in many places. The process of forming a land and resource plan is a critical avenue for people of diverse cultures and interests to find commonality and community in their mutual concern for their forest, thereby building the capacity of that community to effectively assist the agency in pursuing sustainable forest management.
Contributions to Communities with Specific Protections under the Law
Resource management is inherently a process of allocating scarce resources among competing yet legitimate interests within society. Tradeoffs get made. Because some uses have particular values to society that may be overlooked in short-term decision-making, Congress has bestowed specific protections in order to ensure that these values and obligations are not forgotten or undervalued. And, it is essential that national forest planning recognize and accommodate these protected values and uses.
Indian Tribal Rights
In the American federal system, American Indian tribes have a special position that has evolved over two centuries of policy development. As tribes ceded territory, they retained reservations and protected certain activities outside of the reservations. This section summarizes the key points that Forest Service planning needs to incorporate: treaty and other reserved rights, the trust responsibility, the government-to-government relationship, and other federal laws that affect tribal rights.
Treaty Rights. Many American Indian tribes, especially in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, have rights to hunt, fish, trap, and gather on National Forest lands. Courts have supported these rights, particularly since the landmark decisions U. S. v. Washington and U.S. v. Oregon, which upheld provisions in treaties that allowed access to salmon fisheries in all usual and accustomed places. Courts support similar language in other treaties to protect fishing, hunting, and gathering rights on open and ceded aboriginal lands that include National Forests. Recognition of these rights is necessary in planning processes if the rights are to be respected and included in plans.
Trust Responsibility. The entire federal government, not just the Department of the Interior, is responsible for carrying out the government’s trust responsibilities, which include recognition of treaty-based and other legal rights of American Indians on lands outside and inside of reservation boundaries. Current operative regulations for carrying out the National Forest Management Planning Act do not provide explicit recognition of treaty rights and the affirmative responsibility of the Forest Service to protect trust resources. In addition, the handbook, "Principal Laws Relating to Forest Service Activities" does not inform US Forest Service officials that treaty obligations apply in some regions. Nor are there requirements to work cooperatively with tribes in the protection of trust and treaty resources. This must be changed in new regulations; the Forest Service must comply with the law.
The Forest Service is obligated to recognize and to avoid adverse effects upon tribal rights to utilize National Forest Lands. For instance, the court in Klamath Tribes v. United States Forest Service (D. Or. 1996), found that the Forest Service has a "duty to manage habitat to support populations necessary to sustain Tribal use and non-Indian harvest including consideration of habitat needs for any species hunted or trapped by tribal members." In carrying out this duty, tribal rights are to be protected "to the fullest extent possible." The court found that these standards had not been met and issued an injunction in favor of the tribes regarding challenged timber sales in the Winema and Fremont National Forests in Oregon.
The Forest Service must consider the effects of its actions on rights that may be acted upon outside of National Forest boundaries. Protection of salmon harvest is a prime example of this principle. Tribes with treaty and reserved rights to salmon have in some cases argued that management of such species should be good enough to assure a harvestable surplus in addition to conserving the population. Arguments over this concept are continuing in the courts and a decision in the Indians’ favor will have impacts on forest management where spawning grounds and habitat used by salmon before they migrate are impacted by forest management activities.
Sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship. Carrying out the fiduciary responsibilities of the trust relationship as well as enforcing other federal laws that recognize tribal rights (to be discussed below) require that the Forest Service and other federal agencies work to develop cooperative relationships with tribal governments. Executive Orders require adequate consultation. As the Forest Service develops its ability to establish such cooperative relationships with States--an issue that Western Governor’s called to the Committee’s attention--it must also work to develop effective cooperative relationships with tribal governments.
Sending a letter to the tribal council is not enough; the principle of the government-to-government relationship requires personal contact and establishment of ongoing cooperative relationships. In the above-mentioned Klamath case, for instance, the court found the government had a procedural duty to consult with tribes. Tribes are particularly interested in cooperative relationships in the planning and monitoring processes. Some issues to address are access, land exchanges, interaction between National Forest Lands and tribal lands regarding disease and insects, traditional knowledge, protection of sensitive information, and adequate monitoring for protection of trust resources.
The flow of information and management policies will be two directional in such cooperative relationships. In spite of receiving less funding than federal agencies, many tribes have established excellent records in uneven aged forest management, protection of all species, and in care for water quality. As tribes obtained control of forest planning processes on reservations, harvests typically fell as concerns for the protection of non-timber resources in the forests were recognized. These reductions were not as controversial within Indian communities as has been observed in other situations; many tribes had argued with the Bureau of Indian Affairs over high levels of cut for some years. Interestingly, many tribes are able to handle salvage operations after fire and windthrow without long delays. Part of the reason is some shielding from the National Environmental Policy Act; but another major reason is that forest planning processes within tribes, supervised by tribal councils, lead to plans with broad tribal public support. Because the plans protect important non-timber values, salvage operations are not feared to be ruses for cuts that compromise those values. Flexibility in implementation, with approval of tribal councils, is easily attained in most cases.
Other federal laws. The application of the term, "trust resources," has been extended by laws such as the Antiquities Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act (as amended), the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and an Executive Order on Indian Sacred Sites (#13007). The current NFMA regulations refer to the general purpose of many of these acts, the recognition of sacred sites and sites of archeological and historic importance. This is the only concern of the many listed above that receives explicit attention in the regulations, although only in the principles section. In planning and implementation, the Forest Service must comply with these laws, and in doing so must seek meaningful consultation with tribal governments.
Tribal treaty rights and federal laws create a stronger relationship between tribes and national forest land than that of the general public; rights are involved. Thus, regulations must recognize that the Forest Service needs to forge these stronger relationships. In addition, development of the capacities of tribal governments through the Indian Self-Determination Act has enabled tribes to become true cooperators. Many tribes have a strong record in sustainable forest management, and many tribal concerns regarding the many values that forests provide communities are the same concerns that the Forest Service is now learning to address. The Forest Service should not be reluctant to actively seek the cooperation of tribes in planning.
The circumstances of rural Hispanic communities in the Southwest present another compelling example of how the Forest Service can make important contributions to local communities. Before 1848, most of the Southwest belonged to Spain, succeeded by Mexico. Then, in the United States-Mexico War, the United States annexed New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. The United States promised in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that it would respect the land rights of Mexican citizens. The United States failed that pledge. Through a well-documented pattern of fraud and deceit, Hispanic landowners and communities lost millions of acres.
Today, many of those former Spanish and Mexican grant lands are within national forests. Yet, especially in the Rio Grande watershed in northern New Mexico and parts of southern Colorado, traditional Hispanic communities remain tied to the land economically and emotionally. These communities, many of them poverty-stricken, use the national forests for many purposes critical to their land-based lifestyle, including firewood gathering, grazing, hunting, and, in a few instances, commercial timber harvesting. In addition, those communities can be severely disadvantaged by land management practices within the national forests. Most notably, acequias -- the traditional Hispanic water distribution cooperatives -- suffer when the national forest watersheds fail to provide steady flows of clean water.
Unlike Indian tribes, whose rights stemming from treaties and federal statutes remain in force, Hispanic communities generally do not possess explicit legal rights in the national forests, however much the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo might have intended otherwise. Nevertheless, those communities have powerful historical and contemporary equities that should be reflected in Forest Service policies. The first duty in the stewardship of the national forests and grasslands must be to protect ecological system integrity. [Charles’ original concluding sentence: Once that is assured, however, the Forest Service should plan and manage land-grant national forest plans to benefit local Hispanic communities.] [Potential alternative concluding sentence: Once that is assured, however, the Forest Service should plan and manage land-grant national forest lands in a manner that acknowledges and respects the special relationship of these lands to the Hispanic communities, a relationship that goes back centuries. The Forest Service has a particular obligation to recognize and accommodate the unique needs of these communities.]
Economic and Social Sustainability:
When are the National Forests and Grasslands fulfilling this responsibility?
The notion of economic and social sustainability speaks to the very capacity of a society to ensure the long-term well-being of people and the communities they inhabit. The lands and resources of the national forest system provide products, uses, and services that contribute to economic and social sustainability. However, the challenge for communities and economies is to develop community leadership to join in public planning processes, foster stewardship capacity to conserve the national forests, and act to improve the general well-being of communities by energizing them to take action.
Measuring economic and social sustainability entails measuring whether communities and economies can persist over time through innovation and adaptation to new conditions. Just as a few static measures of plant or animal abundance are not representative of the dynamic and process-oriented components of ecological sustainability, measuring social and economic sustainability is equally complex. Simple measures of employment or income levels or numbers of recreation visitor days tell us little about whether or not conditions are improving; whether or not the contributions are sustainable; whether or not the communities have the capacity to pursue their desired future.
Furthermore, objectively assessing community well-being is not a simple task and is partly a discovery process undertaken by a community reflecting upon its own history and current status. Developing a comparative understanding of the organization and relationships of communities and economies needs to also engage individuals with sociological and ethnographic training. Quantifying the value over time of wide-ranging uses, values, products and services, both tangible and intangible, is difficult for even skilled and experienced economists. For the Forest Service to do so in a manner that the American people will find meaningful and acceptable will require both scientific assessment, participatory social and economic assessments, and independent review.
In addition to the tangible goals of economic and social sustainability, the planning process itself can contribute to building leadership capacity, stewardship capacity and the information and ability to identify new resources and adapt to new opportunties. Thus, the planning process can also be assessed in terms of its contribution to sustainability.
Questions that could be asked of the forest planning process include:
The essence of sustainability is adaptation and innovation in response to new conditions and this capacity rests on the presence of sufficient social capital. Today the American people are more interested than ever before in actively participating in planning for and providing stewardship of the national forests and grasslands. Understanding and actively cultivating this public commitment can significantly improve the stewardship of the federal lands and in turn sustain the communities and economies integral to these lands.
SIDEBAR: Lessons in SUSTAINABILITY from Indian communities
Managed Indian forests serve as models of sustainability. Reservations are permanent homelands where Indians live intimately with the environmental and economic consequences of forest management actions. Indians want their forests for a complex mix of uses--timber harvest, livestock grazing, hunting, plant gathering, fire wood, fishing, scenic beauty, spiritual sanctuary--and have a compelling need to balance competing interests. They have a well-recognized commitment to protect the resources that are both their heritage and legacy.
American Indian communities provide some clear examples of different ways in which sustainability can occur. Cultural sustainability means the continuation of a way of life that connects to past ways of living but that is changed by interaction with the industrial market system and its consequences. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin is sustaining their way of life through managing their forest for the production of sawtimber while preserving species diversity within their forest. The philosophy, "don’t put all your eggs in one basket" supports this goal; they cite the devastation of elm trees as evidence of the wisdom of species diversification. They have a tribal mill which provides employment and revenue to the tribe. Among the fundamental beliefs of the Menominee is that the current generation is borrowing from their grandchildren; hence an agreed-upon social goal is the maintenance of their forest and its productivity. Annual allowable cut is determined by observed growth in the previous planning period. Continued harvest of timber from their forest is part of their conception of the good life. Mature trees above the age the Menominee have selected as the rotation age are not present in great numbers in their forest, although the Menominee let their trees grow well past the rotation ages of industrial forestry, in order to have quality timber as well as quantity. In managing their forest, the Menominee use fossil-fuel powered equipment; they also manage a major casino and engage in non-forest related economic activity in order to support the population. As population expands, residences are not allowed in the forest; the Tribe purchases new land for housing.
Another tribe, the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, sustains its culture through reliance on the watershed which contains Blue Lake. The Taos, unlike the Menominee, do not use their forested land to produce sawtimber. Wildlife and clean water are much more important. The lake is sacred and the people keep it undeveloped. The pueblo itself sits on both sides of the stream where it leaves the watershed that is their land; people can drink directly from the stream. Their homes--the traditional ones in the old Pueblo, at least--are not powered by electricity; the Taos thus restrict the level of energy subsidy they accept from outside of their ecosystem.
In these cases, cultural sustainability is the maintenance of a way of life defined by family, community, and spiritual and aesthetic values. Although the contents of the conceptions are different, and the relationship with the land is different, the examples illustrate the maintenance of the goodness of a way of life shared by an entire group. Their place is part of the definition of their identity; and the character of their place is in turn a result of how they care for that place.
The two American Indian examples differ in the extent to which the land in question is connected to the surrounding landscape. The Menominee Reservation is a forest in a landscape of dairy farms and cut over forest; the Wolf River flows through the reservation. The Taos Pueblo’s land contains most of a single watershed with boundaries determined by ridges. Downstream from the Pueblo, the non-Indian town of Taos creates important economic and social connections with Hispanic and Anglo communities. These communities are a potential source of employment. Both communities have economic connections to the surrounding area. With their international trade in wood products, the Menominee have global connections.
END OF SIDEBAR
DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES FOR SUSTAINABILITY
The American public lands have a distinctive democratic tradition. The 1872 reservation of Yellowstone Park exemplified this new tradition when it set the purposes of the reserve to be a "pleasuring ground for the American people" and a place where the "processes of nature dominate." In a nation founded on democratic principles, the people are the sovereign. In 1891 the forest reserves were established as "protection forests" for water flow and watershed protection purposes – public purposes not to be abrogated for private profit. In 1897 the expansion of public purposes included protection of the ecological processes of the forest itself and a continuous supply of timber for local use, not large scale commercial profit. It is on this basis that we recognize that these are "the people’s lands."
Democratic process means taking a participatory approach in making public policy and creating collaborative stewardship capacity to carry out public policies. A participatory approach includes deliberation of public purposes, participation in making public decisions, and assessment of public performance. Collaboration is when two or more individuals or organizations act together to carry out public purposes. Stewardship capacity is the combination of collaborative relationships and organizations with the formal laws, agreements, policies, jurisdictions and land ownership duties of the broader institutional environment.
Sustainability connects social and economic welfare with the maintenance of long term land and resource productivity. Achieving this integration requires democratic processes in which people participate in designing effective strategies and collaborate in carrying them out. Thus, the simple premise that people participate in making decisions about issues important to them lies at the heart of sustainability. Indeed, working toward sustainability allows this generation to act on behalf of future generations as well.
Sustainability necessitates working across political, geographic, social and cultural boundaries by forging new relationships with other agencies, governments, communities and individuals. Stewardship capacity is the sum of agreements, laws and processes of public, private and community-based organizations to carry out actions contributing to sustainability. Thus, collaborative stewardship of national forest system lands engages those who have information, knowledge and expertise to contribute to developing courses of action (i.e., other agencies, governments, universities, tribes, NGOs, community partnerships). Those who have sole control or authority over other lands and activities adjacent to national forest system lands (i.e., other public and private landowners). Those who have the skills, energy, time and resources to carry out stewardship activities (i.e., communities, individuals, organizations, other agencies). Those who can help monitor and assess on-the-ground consequences of management actions in order to help better inform future decisions (i.e., other governmental agencies, tribes, communities, NGOs, individuals). Those who can independently validate the credibility of stewardship decisions and the reality of achievements (i.e., scientific experts and knowledgeable people).
Key elements that can enhance Stewardship Capacity:
Democratic processes in planning
Planning is the process where public purposes are deliberated and public decisions made affecting the National Forests. Thus, planning processes need to be based on a participatory approach to making and assessing public decisions and ideally, build collaborative relationships to carry out complex public purposes.
Deliberation of public purposes means bringing people together to define issues of public concern and engage in extended public discussion about the meaning of the issue for the conservation and management of the national forest system lands and the implications of potential resolutions for sustainability. Public issues vary widely in terms of whether there is sufficient scientific and technical information available to understand them and the implications of alternative solutions. They also vary in terms of their contentiousness: some issues involve multiple goals and require extended public discussion about how the goals. Other issues are relatively simple in that they involve a single resource use or purpose. Thus, different issues necessitate different deliberation strategies and the planning process needs to incorporate the flexibility to treat issues differently. The following typology suggests strategies for deliberation under different information and conflict conditions.
|Single use/resource||Multiple use/resource|
|Sufficient Information||Routine Deliberation with periodic Review||Public Deliberation with Expert Review|
|Tentative Information/Gaps/research Needed||Expert Deliberation with Public Review||Public and Expert Deliberation with Public and Scientific Review|
Ongoing deliberation builds familiarity with public issues, the diversity of public viewpoints, and the complexity of the ecological and social systems. When planning is not an "event" but a continuous activity, then deliberation can build trust and legitimacy for public action. Essential to the development and maintenance of trust is open, external review of decisions. The above typology incorporates external review in all forms of deliberation, with the combination of public and expert review needed when public purposes must be negotiated in the context of tentative information and expert judgments. But external review needs to become a cornerstone of public deliberation in order to build the capacity to come to public judgment about desired courses of action.
Coming to public judgment is a time-consuming process when overlapping public purposes have to be integrated within complex strategies for land and resource conservation and management. This process cannot be rushed, but it can be expedited by maintaining ongoing dialogue. Ongoing processes of civic engagement create a reservoir of public understanding that can be drawn upon when difficult issues arise or unexpected events occur, like hurricanes, floods, and fires. In this way, strong civic capacity can provide for efficient action by providing the context for considering what to do in light of past decisions and the capacity to organize to take action. This is the "payoff" for building deliberative capacity.
Engaging the American public in deliberating the future of the National Forest and Grasslands is more than just talking to people living near the forests and grasslands. Pinchot set forth the principle that local decisions should be made on local grounds at a time with local meant "people living nearby." Today, people who live great distances from the forests and grasslands feel strong attachment to them and want to participate in making decisions about them. Just as transportation systems have changed the meaning of "local" in decision-making, so have information technologies transformed the abilities of people living far from national forests to join in deliberating their future. New methods of public dialogue need to be invented in order for planning to effectively engage the American people. This is one of the key design principles for our new planning process.
To facilitate communication and learning, all information about the National Forest should be available on the Internet. The planning process should include a participation strategy designed for the Internet so that interested parties living away from the area can participate in planning for it. Working analyses and discussion papers should be continuously available and contributions invited. The planning process should make every effort to invite participation from people living too far from the area to participate in frequent meetings.
People know best how public policies will affect them. This simple premise is fundamental to democracy and its corollary is that people should participate in making public decisions that affect them. Decisions about the conservation, use and management of the national forest system affect the American public as a whole. But not everyone everywhere is affected the same way. For some the knowledge that the ecological processes are protected is of prime importance. For others, the wildness of the forests distinguishes them from other lands and needs to be protected from the encroachment of human resource demands. For still others, the lands and resources of the national forests and grasslands provide livelihoods ranging from mushroom and huckleberry gathering to grazing and logging. The mandate of the national forest system lands sets forth the principles of multiple use and sustainability to guide the balancing of these many interests.
Thus, the planning process needs to build public decisions from the deliberative processes. Public decisions then carry the legitimacy formed by considered judgment about complex issues and multiple interests. A public agency has the authority to carry out public decisions, but it cannot make them alone.
Assessing public performance is more than just a cursory review of expenditures and production of goods and services. Complex strategies for conserving and managing the resources of the national forests and grasslands necessitate careful, independent review by outside scientists, interested parties and knowledgeable people. The same careful balancing used to craft policies meeting many diverse interests needs to inform a public review process. Expert and scientific review alone is not sufficient to ensure public acceptability or simple common sense.
Assessment of public performance is a public duty and needs to be an essential part of the planning process. One aspect of this assessment is the development of a monitoring process to measure performance against expected outcomes. While the design of a monitoring process may be as simple as measuring water temperature and water flow and carried out by school children, it can also be as complex as a research experiment and engage the research community. Without measurement and maintenance of good records for historical comparisons, it is difficult to assess long term performance. But measurement and monitoring processes are not enough.
Two other qualities are essential to assess public performance: long term perspective and memory plus the capacity to learn from mistakes and unexpected results. Both of these qualities again necessitate engaging the public as individuals, but more importantly as communities and organizations.
Civic Inquiry and Organizing to Learn through Collaboration
Civic inquiry is how communities learn from experience. Taking a long-term view is difficult for individuals but easy for communities. Communities are built on long-term relationships, and thus naturally maintain history in the process of maintaining their identity and initiating newcomers. This historical sense is generally missing in the development of resource management decisions as well as in the assessment of their outcomes. What happened before, what followed events of significance, what lessons can we draw? Communities maintain the answers to these questions. Thus, the planning process needs to effectively engage the many communities associated with the public lands. Some communities are communities of place and they have the special knowledge of how a place has changed over time and how events have shaped its present condition. Other communities are communities of interest and they have the special knowledge of how society and economy have changed over time and redefined the nature and qualities of resources. Some communities exist only through sharing a perspective and common frame of reference, like scientific communities. Yet, each of these communities also provides a different perspective on understanding the past and current conditions of the land and resources.
Learning is part of civic inquiry. Communities are founded on the capacity to learn from mistakes. An essential aspect of any community is inquiry and testing. Learning from experience and remembering what works and what doesn’t is a part of everyday life, and is passed on through the generations. This civic inquiry process can be a powerful resource for keeping track of how well complex resource management strategies work over time. Places vary enormously and so it is difficult to generalize performance. Thus, the capacity of different kinds of communities to observe, test, and remember the outcomes of management actions can greatly enhance the ability to assess public performance. Engaging these multiple communities in deliberation, public decisions and assessment of performance is the cornerstone of effective planning.
Simple individual learning is when clear evidence of failure of one procedure leads to the development of another to achieve the same end. Social learning is when people join in assessing experience and develop new goals, new relationships, and new methods. Effective resource management needs more than just simple learning. Rather, experience and results lead to reconsideration of goals and strategies. This kind of learning requires people and organizations to be open to new ideas, flexible in their approach to problems, and ready to engage in self-reflection. Collaboration creates organizations that can engage in social learning.
Collaboration is when two or more individuals or organizations act together to carry out public purposes. The beauty of collaboration is that it joins together individuals, programs, budgets, and authorities across several organizations to achieve what no one of them acting alone could accomplish. Participation is one way in which collaborative relationships evolve, but oftentimes, far-sighted individuals within organizations come together and collaborate in developing a public decision and gathering the resources to implement it.
We believe that planning will be more successful if it takes a "collaborative" approach in which people, communities, tribes, businesses and governments are full partners in defining issues, developing options for addressing them and garnering the resources to act. Collaboration, quite simply, is based on the "old adage that ‘two heads are better than one’ and that one by itself is simply not good enough." Two heads can be "better" in many different ways. They bring more issues, perspectives, and ideas to discussions. They bring more resources, time and energy to the resolution of issues and the implementation of plans. They foster better decisions; decisions that are better informed, better understood, better accepted, and more apt to be implemented.
With such a simple premise, but applied to so many varied contexts, it is not surprising that "collaboration" is not a uniformly structured process. Instead, collaborative processes work precisely because they are always tailored to fit the particular situation of concern. Consequently, there are many varied shapes, sizes, functions and outcomes of collaborative processes that can be observed across the landscape of resource management activity. What is important is not the precise formula or the rigid structure, but rather that each is guided by some fundamental principles. They strive to be inclusive, open, representative, guided by clear expectations and objectives, flexible, but at the same time, linked to existing law and procedures, and having clear decision rules and authorities. They build on current scientific understandings and knowledge and seek out relevant expertise as needed.
There is no magic to collaboration. And, there are only two key ingredients that must be present and that all successful collaborative efforts share in common. Effective collaborative efforts involve individuals who, first, share a concern about a place, an issue or a problem and, second, are committed to working together on its behalf. Shared concerns and commitment are the essential ingredients. It is worth noting that one element in many of the promising approaches that COS heard about was that those individuals involved -- Forest Service and non-Forest Service alike -- viewed what they were doing to be an experiment and learned and adapted accordingly. They were "in it together" and consequently expectations and behaviors within the process were very different than they were in the traditional planning process; views of responsibilities differed; the Forest Service planner’s role was more flexible and adaptive; hence, those involved seemed more open, forgiving and motivated by the process. This is what collaboration is all about, working together on issues of mutual concern in a manner that best fits the needs of the people, place, and issues of concern.
Organizing for learning will mean rethinking how the Forest Service is structured. Stewardship capacity cannot be effectively established without an organizational context that promotes ongoing learning and appropriate change. Like in communities, organizational learning is the ability to learn from experience, remember the lessons, and create new approaches to test. Learning is an on-going process, but the capacity to develop institutional memory is an essential element for effective, long-term learning.
The Forest Service is a large organization, with its own internal mix of knowledge, values, skills, experiences, creativity and attitudes towards change. Adoption of new approaches to planning will not come about overnight. As one Regional Planner commented to COS, "we can’t turn on a dime." Consequently, one key element of a different approach to planning must be that it is structured to encourage ongoing learning across the agency. New mechanisms need to be put in place to foster this essential understanding, learning and skills-building.
Key characteristics of learning organizations
Organizational learning and change requires a supportive and open environment in which the organization -- both its leadership and its members -- want to learn and are willing to change. This desire to learn and willingness to change cannot be forced from the top down nor acted upon at lower levels without approval and support from above. An organizational desire to learn comes from a common understanding of the need for change and a shared perspective on the direction that change should take. In other words, it needs a vision that all involved find compelling and motivating.
Healthy and dynamic organizations have diverse activities occurring simultaneously within them. In particular, they encourage experimentation and learning in times of crisis. In times of change, it is particularly important for an organization to support those who are willing to take risks and try new things. Organizations can provide opportunities for evaluation of what can be learned from the experiments of risk-takers in order to create organizational learning from individual experiences. Organizations can create processes to diffuse innovations throughout the organization and support the application of new approaches. Individual learning is important as a first step, but organizations learn through social learning and need to become comfortable and capable of reflecting on their goals and the methods of achieving them in light of experience and new conditions.
A synthesis of the core findings contained in the organizational learning and change literature suggests principles that the Forest Service might consider as it begins pursuing new approaches to planning and management. Very briefly, the key characteristics of learning organizations are that they:
1) recognize that they need to be learning and acting on that learning;
2) view their task as an experiment; and recognize that the point of an experiment is to learn from its results and modify succeeding steps accordingly;
3) encourage team approaches that bridge skills, expertise, and interests;
4) lend helping hands and share ideas and responsibilities;
5) provide the flexibility that prompts creativity and innovation;
6) learn from what hasn’t worked;
7) shine spotlights on endeavors that did work;
8) provide skills, training, resources and similar kinds of support;
9) have constructive feedback loops in place;
10) have champions who provide the leadership and enthusiasm for the learning process; and,
11) support and encourage, but seldom dictate,
12) encourage independent review.
Organizational learning is a process that rests on the ability of an organization to recognize the lessons of experience, use an adaptive approach to developing and carrying out policies, and engage others in the continuous review of goals and methods.
Encouraging Collaborative Stewardship as a Path to Sustainability
In sum, sustainability can be better achieved by taking an integrative democratic approach that works with people, communities, tribes, businesses and governments to conserve the lands within and around the national forests and grasslands. Policies and projects will need to be developed and implemented through collaborative relationships within clusters of organizations – other public agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses, community associations, and interested citizens – based on shifting alliances centered around the accomplishment of specific programs or policies. No longer can agencies acting alone carry out conservation strategies that involve large areas, numerous resources, and multiple interested parties. Rather, effective planning and implementation entails building strong relationships with other agencies, organizations, governments and individuals whose formal programs or informal efforts can contribute to achieve a common goal.
Proposed actions and Recommendations
1. Formation of Advisory Boards
In order to enhance social sustainability, the planning process must invite participation by all interested individuals and groups from the beginning. Furthermore, the process for communication needs to be institutionalized so that it is continuous and continuously accessible. To that end, National Forests (or aggregates of national forests, as appropriate) should establish formal groups to discuss the management of the forest in its broad ecological and social context. These groups should contain representatives of the diversity of interested institutions and individuals.
NFMA includes the authorization for the convening of advisory boards as part of the overall processes for public participation.
Sec. 14 Public Participation and Advisory Boards:
Although some forests had advisory boards in the past, few are formally recognized today, largely for reasons beyond the control of the Forest Service. It may be worth revisiting the concept now. While not every forest needs an advisory board, some may. For example, where issues are complex and actively interested parties are numerous, an advisory board would provide the opportunity to gain representative, structured, focused public interactions.
Formal advisory boards, chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, will not always be necessary but in many instances could provide an immediate, legitimate, representative structure providing a ready interface for the agency and the public. Ideally, advisory boards would be a public forum that is predictable, understood, and ever present. In addition, they could facilitate the organization of various localized efforts to address issues of specific concern or work with localized small landscape plan. Overtime, the discussions hosted by advisory boards can build the trust necessary for people to engage on the issues of direct concern to them, without necessarily feeling they have to be vigilant about all issues all of the time.
2. The planning process should include a qualitative assessment of social sustainability as part of large-scale landscape planning. The nature of the assessment should be designed for each landscape, to account for the specific condition of the local economic, social, and cultural community.
Chapt 3A. Diversity of Plant and Animal Communties and the Productive Capacity of the Land
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPOSED ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY REGULATION.
Because ecological sustainability is the foundation of national forest stewardship, the Committee believes that a strong provision on ecological sustainability must be included in the regulations. While some degree of agency discretion is desirable for administering ecological sustainability, we believe that specific language is necessary to provide rigor and scientific context for this critical issue. Accordingly, the Committee has drafted a proposed regulation on ecological sustainability and recommends it to the Forest Service and the Secretary.
We consider the protection of ecological biodiversity at three hierarchical levels — ecosystems (including landscapes), species, and genes — all of which are necessary parts of a strategy to achieve ecological sustainability. Although all three levels of diversity are essential to the production of nature’s goods, services, and values, the most developed scientific knowledge and assessment strategies relevant to broad scale forest management occur at the ecosystem (especially landscape scales) and species levels. Accordingly, this section primarily addresses ecosystem and species diversity.
Explicitly describing and managing all elements of diversity and their interconnections within a single assessment or planning effort is beyond the capacity of the agency. The challenge in providing for both ecosystem and species diversity, therefore, is to identify surrogates that rely on a subset of ecological measures, that are sensitive to management, and that are indicative of overall biodiversity.
In the regulation that follows, we emphasize the protection of ecosystem diversity and species diversity in a two phase approach. First, we call for sustaining the variety and functions of ecosystems across multiple spatial scales, from microsites to large landscapes, to provide for ecological conditions that maintain spatial pattern, structure, species composition, and natural dynamics of these ecosystems. Key habitats to sustain include fine-scale biological features such as fallen trees on the forest floor, or unique physical features such as seeps or springs, as well as coarse-scale features such as old growth forests and wetlands. Disturbance processes, such as fires, landslides, and floods, must also be sustained to meet these ecological goals. Often the historical level and variation in these features and processes are used as a reference point in defining whether forests, rangelands, and watersheds are in a sustainable condition or how their condition might need to be altered to achieve sustainability. In this approach, we attempt to maintain the diversity of native plant and animal communities and the productive capacity of ecological systems by providing for the habitats and ecological processes that have formed these ecosystems.
Second, we call for the agency to provide directly the ecological conditions necessary to protect and, as necessary, restore habitat for the viability of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species and of "focal" species that indicate habitat conditions for a broader suite of species. This provision serves two purposes: 1) to test the degree to which the effort to maintain ecosystem diversity (first phase) is sufficient to protect habitat for particular species, and 2) to adjust and improve the conservation strategies of the first phase to address the habitat needs of particular species of concern. In the terminology of the times, this second phase uses a "fine filter" to catch the requirements for species that fall through the "coarse screen" of the first phase. As the agency becomes more and more effective in applying the "coarse filter" approach to ecological sustainability, it should need fewer and fewer adjustments when it addresses the requirements of particular species.
In the proposed regulation that follows, the Forest Service has leeway to develop and apply scientific methodologies. This is consistent with the Committee’s view that the planning regulations generally should provide discretion to Forest Service officials in order to promote creativity and allow for change over time. The agency will decide the appropriate scale — for example, particular watersheds or landscapes — for assessing ecosystem diversity. Forest Service research scientists and resource specialists have broad latitude in selecting focal species and in choosing a method to determine species viability. In the area of genetic diversity, where the research is not as advanced as with ecosystem and species diversity, the proposed regulation does not include specific requirements. It should be noted that, in other sections of this report, we recommend periodic checks on the consistency of the approaches taken to apply this regulation with the state of scientific and technical knowledge.
The Forest Service has maintained that the existing regulation addressing species viability, 36 CFR Sec. 219.19, needs to be amended because it creates an impossible task for the agency. Among other things, the regulation provides that the agency must "ensure" viable populations. Of course, the Forest Service could never accomplish this in a literal sense because many factors — most notably resource development outside the national forest boundaries or natural phenomena such as El Niño — remain beyond the agency’s control. While the courts have given the Forest Service considerable leeway in administering the regulation, we agree that it is appropriate to revise the current regulation.
The species diversity provision of the Committee’s proposed regulation seeks to define a framework for specific prescriptions yet remains pragmatic. The provision focuses on the intent of Forest Service decisions, with a clear obligation to conserve species, yet recognizes that some conditions and decisions may be beyond the agency’s control. As an overall matter, the thrust of the proposed regulation is to leave the means of achieving the goals of species diversity to agency research scientists and resource specialists; the Committee recognizes that the science on biodiversity is evolving rapidly and that agency research scientists and resource specialists need flexibility to respond to the advances that surely will come. Thus the level of habitat protection necessary to achieve viability remains a matter of technical and scientific judgment. As an example, the Northwest Forest Plan defined a threshold level of habitat condition for species viability that was used to screen different alternatives relative to their achievement of viability. We view that approach as consistent with the regulation suggested here.
While the agency should choose the analytical methods, the Committee intends that the Forest Service rigorously adhere to the goal of achieving species viability. The key phrase is in section D(2) of the proposed regulation: "The decisions of resource managers must be based upon the best available scientific information and analysis to provide ecological conditions necessary to protect and ,as necessary, restore habitat for the viability of focal species and for threatened, endangered, and sensitive species." By the phrase "based upon the best available scientific information and analysis, the Committee means that such information and analysis will be used, understood, and relied upon. Managers must hew toward viability. Species viability is at the center — scientifically, economically, socially, and morally — of natural resources stewardship, and the Forest Service should take a strong stand in its agency regulations.
This proposed regulation is set forth in full below.RECOMMENDATION 2
Committee’s Proposed Regulation on Ecological Sustainability
36 CFR Sec. 219.____ Ecological Sustainability.
A. Goals. Nature provides many goods, services, and values to humans. These ecological benefits occur as two major, interdependent forms: the variety of native plants and animals, and the products of ecological systems, such as clean water, air, and fertile soil. The most fundamental goal of the National Forest System is to maintain and restore ecological sustainability — the long-term maintenance of the diversity of native plant and animal communities and the productive capacity of ecological systems. Ecological sustainability is the foundation of national forest stewardship and makes it possible for the national forests to provide a wide variety of benefits to present and future generations.
B. Diversity. Ecosystems are inherently dynamic; changes regularly result from natural events such as floods, fire, or insect outbreaks. Human intervention, such as through forest cutting and water diversions, also is often substantial. Thus, because species must have the capability and opportunity to respond adaptively to changes in their environment, species diversity and ecosystem productivity can only be sustained if the essential elements of the natural dynamics of ecosystems are recognized and accommodated when human intervention occurs. Planners and managers must apply the best available scientific information and analysis so that the diversity and adaptive capability of ecosystems will be maintained and restored.
1. Levels of diversity. Ecological diversity must be considered at three hierarchical levels — ecosystems, species, and genes — all of which are necessary parts of a strategy to sustain species values and ecological goods and services. Ecosystem diversity, including landscape diversity, is the coarsest level of resolution in this hierarchy. Ecosystems are physical environments and associated communities of interacting plants and animals. Ecosystem diversity can be described by the variety of components, structures, and processes within an ecosystem and variety among ecosystem types and functions across broad areas such as watersheds, landscapes, and regions. Ecosystem diversity provides essential elements for sustaining individual species and the productive capacity of ecosystems. Species diversity refers to variation in the number and relative abundance of species (including subspecies and distinct populations) within a given area. To maintain species diversity, individual species must have the capability and opportunity to respond adaptively to their environment. Genetic diversity, at the finest level of resolution in this hierarchy, refers to the degree of variation in heritable characteristics (including life histories) within and among individual organisms and populations.
2. Use of surrogate approaches. Biological diversity is expressed at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Explicitly describing and managing all elements of diversity and their interconnections within a single assessment or planning effort is beyond the capacity of the agency. Thus planners must identify surrogate approaches that rely on a subset of ecological measurements that are sensitive to management and indicative of overall biodiversity. Although all three levels of diversity are essential to providing ecological sustainability, the most developed scientific knowledge and assessment strategies relevant to broad scale forest management occur at the ecosystem (especially landscape scales) and species levels. Accordingly, this section primarily addresses ecosystem and species diversity.
C. Ecosystem diversity. The first step in providing for ecological sustainability is to strive to sustain the variety and functions of ecosystems across multiple spatial scales from microsites to large landscapes in order to maintain the diversity of native plant and animal communities and the productive capacity of ecological systems.
1. Management standards: ecosystem integrity. Ecosystem integrity means an ecosystem that, at appropriate spatial and temporal scales, maintains its characteristic diversity of major functional groups, productivity, soil fertility, and rates of biogeochemical cycling in the presence of the cumulative effects of the human and natural disturbance regimes. The decisions of resource managers must be based upon the best available scientific information and analysis to provide for ecological conditions that support ecosystem integrity sufficient to meet the goals of this section. These conditions will serve as a "coarse filter" in providing for species diversity and ecosystem productivity. As part of this effort, planning must address instream flow needs and, where appropriate, establish the quantity and quality of water needed to fulfill such instream flow needs.
2. Use of regional assessments. Management standards should be developed in regional assessments based on scientific principles and knowledge of local conditions. As national forests and grasslands may comprise only a portion of the landscape under consideration, coordination with other landowners and institutions concerning probable future conditions is critical. Planning documents must explicitly set forth the constraints and opportunities for sustaining ecosystems presented by jurisdictional patterns and varying land management objectives. In general, in assessing and planning for ecosystem integrity, the planning process must address the larger physical landscape — its historical legacy, its current condition, its biological potential, and its expected changes over successional time — both within and outside of the national forests and grasslands.
3. Validation. The assumption that coarse filter elements can serve as a basis of sustaining native species diversity shall be validated through monitoring and research. The best available scientific information and analysis shall be used to assess this assumption in a timely manner. If this assumption is invalid, then additional coarse filter elements will be required or modification of the coarse filter approach will be needed.
D. Species Diversity. A second step in providing for ecological sustainability is to sustain the diversity of native plant and animal communities through maintaining and restoring the viability of the species that comprise them. The goal of this section is to provide the ecological conditions necessary to protect and, as necessary, restore the viability of native species.
1. Focal Species. The primary obligation is to provide for the diversity of native species. However, since it is not feasible to assess the viability of all species, this section will employ focal species to serve as a "fine filter" in providing plant and animal diversity. The status of a single species, or group of species, such as a community assemblage of species, can convey information about the status of the larger ecological system in which it resides or about the integrity of specific habitat or ecosystem processes. Regional assessments shall select an appropriate number of focal species that represent the range of environments within the planning area, serve an umbrella function in terms of encompassing habitats necessary for many other species, play key roles in maintaining community structure or processes, and that are sensitive to the changes likely to occur.
2. Management standards: species viability. The decisions of resource managers must be based upon the best available scientific information and analysis to provide ecological conditions necessary to protect and, as necessary, restore the viability of focal species and of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species.* A viable species shall be defined as consisting of self-sustaining populations that are (a) well-distributed throughout their range, (b) sufficiently abundant, and (c) have sufficient genetic diversity to display the array of life history strategies and forms that will provide for their persistence and adaptability in the planning area over time.
3. Validation. The assumption that focal species are providing reliable information about the status and trend of species not being directly monitored shall be validated through monitoring and research. The best available scientific information and analysis shall be used to assess this assumption in a timely fashion. If this assumption is invalidated for a given focal species, then such focal species shall be replaced by species that better meet the criteria.
E. Implementation. The determinations required regarding ecosystem integrity and species viability shall be made at the appropriate planning level. Decisions at each level must be consistent with such determinations. For example, viability determinations for wide ranging species are best made at the regional scale. Planners and managers must then demonstrate consistency with this determination in all subsequent decisions made at finer scales of planning, including the project level.
F. Monitoring. Effective monitoring is a critical aspect of achieving ecological sustainability. Monitoring, which must be an ongoing process, provides a better understanding of how to sustain ecosystems and serves as an "early warning system" to detect declines in ecosystem integrity and species viability before irreversible loss has occurred. The monitoring program must designate critical values as indicators of ecosystem integrity and species viability; develop methods for measuring such critical values; obtain data to determine whether such critical values are being attained; and interpret those data in relation to past and potential management decisions. If such analysis and assessment concludes that such critical values are not being attained, then the appropriate plan must be re-evaluated to determined whether amendments are necessary to comply with the provisions of this section.
G. Development and Evaluation of Conservation Strategies. Regional assessments shall develop methods for assessing ecosystem diversity and viability of the selected focal, threatened, endangered, and sensitive species for use in planning and shall propose conservation strategies for use in planning to test the effectiveness of the planning alternatives in supporting ecosystem diversity and conserving the selected species. The following steps should be taken: (a) an evaluation, as part of the planning analysis of the ability of each alternative to provide for ecological conditions necessary to support ecosystem diversity and viability of the selected species, and (b) an independent review by Forest Service and other scientists of the effectiveness of the planning alternatives in meeting the goals of this section. The results from this work should be made available to the public.
* NOTE: Sensitive species should be defined in the definitions section of the planning regulations (219.2). This definition will read as follows: Sensitive Species. Those species identified as sensitive under the Forest Service’s sensitive species program, currently set out in the Forest Service Manual, Chapter 2670.
In simplest terms, a watershed comprises a land area that drains to a common point. Thus, the use of watersheds as a planning unit focuses efforts on a physically connected portion of a broader landscape that is ultimately delineated by topographic features at the margins (i.e., ridges and watershed divides). Implicit in a watershed perspective is the crucial role of gravity in the general movement of water, nutrients, sediment, organic matter, and others in a down-slope or down-valley direction. This movement of various ecosystem outputs and products to lower elevations provides for process "connectivity" within the watershed whereby downslope areas are "connected" or influenced by activities and processes occurring on upslope areas. For example, altered water quality in a headwater stream may contribute to downstream changes in water quality or aquatic habitats. In similar fashion, a landslide initiating along a ridge may carry far enough downslope such that it significantly changes the character of a stream reach. While the conveyance of ecosystem products within a watershed most commonly occurs from higher to lower elevations, there are mechanisms by which materials and processes are transferred in an up-valley direction. For example, the return of adult salmon from ocean environments to their natal streams for spawning also represents a significant nutrient capital. After spawning and death of the adults, their carcasses provide a food base and source of nutrients that are utilized by a wide variety of aquatic and riparian biota. Additionally, alteration of a stream channel at a specific location by natural or anthropogenic causes may initiate the upstream migration of channel widening and gullying. The ecological impact of these physical processes can cause more than an increase in sediment production to downstream areas. In some situations they may represent a major alteration to aquatic and riparian habitats or significantly increase hillslope erosion rates. It is this "connectivity" of various products and processes within watersheds that can provide an important ecological basis for undertaking watershed-based planning efforts.
From a human perspective, watersheds represent an prominent component of our culture. We commonly name them after the streams and rivers, or other landmarks, that arise within their topographic divides. Thus, there is strong sense of place and identity associated with specific watersheds that individuals of society can, and do, relate to. In many instances, this "sense of place" may transcend other cartographic or political designations society has developed (e.g., township and range, county). Part of this human association with specific watersheds is perhaps related to the fact that each watershed has unique features by consequence of its position in a larger landscape, by its size, by the character of its streams and rivers, by the spatial distribution of vegetation types, by the types and abundance of animal species, or by any combination of these and other factors. The underlying geology, topography, climatic patterns, plant communities and their distributions, drainage patterns, and other attributes differ for each watershed. This uniqueness not only contributes to the appeal for using watersheds as a basis for many types of planning efforts, but also challenges managers of national forests and grasslands to understand and consider these unique qualities in the development of plans and management decisions.
While there are often distinct advantages of using watersheds to address several types of ecological and regulatory concerns (e.g., fisheries, riparian management, and clean water) on national forests and grasslands, there are also situations where a differing landscape perspective of ecosystem conditions and issues may be more useful and more appropriate. For example, watersheds with subdued topographic relief may not have well delineated watershed divides. Where watersheds have significant relief, the distribution of specific forest types and plant communities are typically arrayed along specific elevation bands; these vegetation types usually connect with those of adjacent watersheds. Because many animal species frequently range across watershed divides, ecological assessments addressing wildlife and other issues (e.g., recreation use) may best be addressed using planning areas that involve multiple watersheds or components of them (e.g., physiographic region). Similarly, air quality issues may be best addressed from an "airshed" perspective. The important point with regard to the selection of planning areas is to choose boundaries that allow planners to efficiently focus on the issues to be addressed while also allowing collaborators to effectively participate in the planning process.
Watershed Integrity and Restoration
Because watersheds are typically imbedded within broader biophysical regions, their individual characteristics, functions, and processes have an important role in the maintenance of biodiversity. And, while watersheds per se are simply geographic areas, the degree to which ecosystem functions and process operate within them provides an important perspective regarding the overall "integrity" (i.e., the quality or state of being unimpaired, sound) of any given watershed. A loss or degradation of watershed integrity can occur in many ways -- a loss or reduction in specific species or their abundance, a change in the timing, amount, or quality of ecosystem outputs, or some combination of these and other factors. Historically, a wide number of anthropogenic uses have occurred on national forests and grasslands; many of these have contributed to altering watershed integrity, both locally and at landscape scales. For example, loss of watershed integrity might be represented by a reduction in beaver populations, alteration in the abundance and distribution of wild ungulates, a change in fire regimes, extensive use of short-rotation and even-aged silvicultural systems, modification of streamflow and sediment regimes, introduction of exotic plant and animal species, season-long grazing, high density recreation use, private landuses associated with adjacent landowners (particularly where mixed ownership patterns prevail), and others. Because anthropogenic effects at a variety of landscape scales, either individually or collectively, have influenced the character and integrity of many national forests and grasslands, there is an increasing need to protect those areas where watershed integrity remains and to restore those areas where it has been significantly modified.
Watershed protection has always been a central theme in national forest law and policy. When Congress authorized the President to establish forest reserves in the 1891 Creative Act, the overwhelming reason was to meet the request of municipalities and irrigation districts for watershed protection. In the 1897 Organic Act, the first listed purpose of the forest reserves was "securing favorable conditions of water flows". Timber production was the other announced purpose but logging proponents regularly assured Congress that watershed functions would not be compromised. The Weeks Act of 1911 was also a watershed protection statute. The Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 listed watershed purposes as one of the multiple uses and, taking the long view, provides for "the maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level of regular or periodic output" of the multiple uses "without impairment of the productivity of the land." While the NFMA of 1976 indicates timber, range, and other resources were important multiple uses of National Forest System Lands, this law also had provisions directed at the protection of watercourses and watershed conditions. Furthermore, Congressional findings in the NFMA emphasized the importance of long-term sustainability: "Sec. 2. (6) the Forest Service....has both a responsibility and an opportunity to be a leader in assuring that the Nation maintains a natural resource conservation posture that will meet the requirements of our people in perpetuity"
Interestingly, the NFMA law provides few watershed constraints related to livestock grazing, instream modifications, mining, recreation, or other practices that can potentially cause serious and adverse effects to watershed conditions, species viability, or aquatic habitat. If protection of relatively intact terrestrial, riparian, or aquatic systems and the restoration of others is a National Forest System goal, it would seem that proponents of a particular landuse must be able to substantiate the compatibility of that use relative to protection and restoration goals of national forests and grasslands.
Where watershed conditions, functions, or processes on national forests and grasslands have been significantly altered by human activities, the restoration of those conditions, functions, and processes should assume a high priority. From an aquatic perspective, the National Research Council (1992) defined restoration as representing:
"reestablishment of pre-disturbance aquatic functions and related physical, chemical, and biological characteristics;...it is a holistic process not achieved through the isolated manipulation of individual elements". From a larger watershed or ecosystem perspective, restoration should also include the conditions, functions, and processes of riparian and terrestrial ecosystems.
Restoration of watersheds and their ecosystems can often represent a major scientific and management challenge. Forest and range systems are relatively complex (have many components and processes), are adaptive (conditions and the biota may respond over time to changing environmental conditions and human uses), and their responses to environmental conditions and human uses are often non-linear (e.g., antagonisms and synergisms are common). While "restoration science" is currently developing a better understanding of factors affecting restoration trajectories of various ecosystems, managers have few models of restoration success from which to emulate in their planning efforts. Never-the-less, some restoration principles are beginning to emerge:
(1) The historic range of natural variability of ecosystem conditions and processes at watershed and bioregional scales needs to be considered and understood as a context within which to consider planning decisions across a variety of spatial scales.
(2) An important component of natural systems is that they have developed in conjunction with, and in response to, disturbance regimes (e.g., varying hydrologic patterns at landscape and micrometeorologic scales, fires, insects, and diseases, etc.). Thus, where such regimes have been significantly altered, their reestablishment will generally be a high priority.
(3) Because vegetation is a key component of natural ecosystems and often experiences the effects of landuse activities (e.g., grazing, timber harvest, fire control policies), the ecological role of plant species and communities needs to be understood relative to terrestrial, riparian, and aquatic systems. While some of this information is available in the scientific literature, it will almost always be incomplete at some level, or it may not be fully applicable to specific watershed conditions. Thus, local "reference sites" or demonstration areas of functionally intact plant communities need to be identified, protected, and used to gain local understanding and experience of related functions and processes.
(4) The history of resource development and landuse patterns associated with national forests and grasslands needs to be understood within watersheds and across bioregions. This information may be critical for not only understanding the present status and trends of various resources but also identifying potential reasons for existing conditions. Because many watershed effects have occurred prior to the current generation of resource managers, understanding historical trends in resource conditions often provides important insights for developing restoration strategies and plans.
CHAPTER 3. INTERPRETING THE NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT IN THE CONTEXT OF SUSTAINABILITY
3D CONSIDERATION OF THE SILVICULTURAL ASPECTS OF NFMA
Silviculture is the process whereby humans tend, harvest, and re-establish forest stands and landscapes. The various silvicultural practices, such as timber harvest and prescribed burning, can assist in the attainment of stand-level management objectives relative to species composition and structure and in the attainment of landscape objectives relative to the abundance, size, shape, and pattern of patches of different stand conditions. Many stand and landscape objectives can be expressed in terms of these variables and they should be the focus of regulations giving silvicultural instruction for land and resource planning.
Under ecosystem management, there is a general desire for these actions to emulate, to some degree, the natural disturbance processes such as fire, wind, insects, and disease in the effect they have on the forest. This applies both at the stand and landscape levels. In managed forests, regeneration methods (clearcut, shelterwood, selection) can be analogous to natural coarse scale disturbances which have periodically reinitiated succession. These methods, in fact, represent a gradient of disturbance intensities. Silvicultural systems (even-aged, two-aged, uneven-aged), achieved and maintained through various silvicultural activities, are analogous to structural conditions resulting from different types and intensities of disturbances.
The classic silvicultural systems were designed to achieve natural regeneration, as the technology for planting stock (seedlings) had not yet developed. We suggest that, for reasons of genetic diversity, natural regeneration and the systems that provide it be considered specifically in the regulatory process.
In our discussion below, we emphasize the need for regional assessment to provide guidance on the characteristics of stands and landscapes that historically occurred in the different forest types and landscape units. This information would then be used, in turn, to guide and limit the silvicultural approaches to achieving stand and landscape objectives, including silvicultural systems and restocking standards.
Whatever regulations are written, it is important that they allow flexibility in designing methods and systems to create and maintain the desired species compositions, stand structures, and abundance, size, shape, and pattern of forest stands of different condition on the landscape. NFMA was most prescriptive in its silvicultural sections: compare the very prescriptive sections below, for example, with the broad language on biological diversity in NFMA. We believe that adequate flexibility is provided for conditions of today, and hopefully for tomorrow, by our interpretations of the law below.
Silvicultural Aspects of NFMA
6(g)(3)(D) "...permit increases in harvest levels based on intensified management practices ... [the "allowable cut effect"]
From a silvicultural perspective, the linkage between intensified management practices and increases in harvest levels is certainly understandable. Intensified management often means increased growth which, in turn, translates into increased harvest levels under an even-flow (or nondeclining yield) constraint. The reality, however, is that the intensive silviculture implied in this provision has not always materialized in the past, and it is problematic as to whether it will be a primary focus of future investment on much of the National Forest System lands.
Allowable sale quantities (ASQs) for many forest plans were derived from stand-level growth and yield estimates based on assumptions of fairly intensive silvicultural practice (e.g., precommercial thinning, commercial thinnings, fertilization in some cases). The stand-level projections, in general, were reasonable if the intensive silviculture had been done. In many cases, however, these systems have not been implemented at the scales envisioned in the plans. For this and other reasons, the projected ASQs have proven overly optimistic. If estimates of future timber yields are to be part of planning analysis, they should be based on realistic land-use allocations as well as realistic assumptions concerning investment in silvicultural practices. Put another way, a silviculture system designed to capture the potential timber productivity of a site is simply a theoretical exercise if there is little likelihood of implementing the system.
6 (g) (3) (E) insure that timber will be harvested from National Forest System lands only where ... (ii) there is assurance that such lands can be adequately restocked within five years after harvest.
In this context "harvest" applies only to regeneration cuttings, i.e., harvests which are intended to result in the establishment of a new age class such as selection, clearcutting, or the regeneration harvest of a shelterwood or seed tree system We presume that it does not refer to thinning, sanitation or other harvests not intended to regenerate a new stand. We believe that the intent of this provision is to minimize situations in which combinations of difficult sites and inappropriate silvicultural methods result in regeneration failures. There are still, for example, many acres of poorly stocked spruce-fir clearcuts in the Central Rockies dating from the 1960s.
Two major questions immediately surface in interpreting this provision: 1) when does the five year clock begin in regeneration methods that remove the overstory in a sequence of harvests? and 2) does the clause require that the sites in question "will be" restocked within five years or "could be" restocked within that period?
We believe that "...adequately restocked within five years after harvest" should correspond to the period following a regeneration cutting, e.g., five years after clearcutting, five years after a seedtree cutting, five years after an establishment cutting of a shelterwood and five years after selection cutting. An alternative, and the current regulation, would be to start the five year clock at the final harvest, regardless of the silvicultural system employed. While this alternative works in an acceptable way for clearcuts, it makes no sense for other even-aged regeneration harvest methods, such as shelterwood or seed tree, where some trees are retained after the regeneration harvest to ameliorate microclimate impacts on regeneration and/or provide seed for natural regeneration. With shelterwood or seed tree systems, the biological clock should begin at the regeneration harvest, not the final harvest: in these latter two systems, final harvest is not intended to occur until regeneration is deemed successful, at which time no clock should be necessary.
We further believe that the clause should be interpreted as "could be" adequately restocked rather than "will be" adequately restocked within constraints discussed below. Our reasoning is as follows. Under ecosystem management, we believe that it will be important to consider natural regeneration for maintenance of genetic diversity. Interpreting the clause to mean that sites "will be" restocked within five years of harvest rather than "can be" restocked could have a chilling effect on the willingness of managers to give natural regeneration a chance.
Consider, for example, a situation in which a shelterwood is determined to have a very high probability of achieving successful natural regeneration and that this natural regeneration is considered appropriate for maintenance of genetic diversity. If the expected interval between good seed crops is several years, there is the distinct possibility that, to insure success within the five-year window, artificial regeneration will become the norm and perhaps even the default. This may occur even though, under "natural disturbance" such as a fire, regeneration on such sites may have taken more than five years, on the average for re-establishment. This has important implications ranging from economics to conservation biology. O'Hara et al. (1994) argue that "it is ironic, and possibly prophetic, that well-meaning policies designed to cure previous failings in forestry (regeneration delays) have produced a legacy (high-yield stands with no range in age and little species diversity) that is now under indictment."
Thus we make the following proposal:
1) Any proposal for regeneration harvest should be based on the objectives for the stand and broader landscape and on an assessment of appropriate reproduction methods for each combination of major forest type and landscape unit within each major region (see discussion concerning 6 (g) (3) (F) and 6 (g) (3) (F) (iv) below). The regional assessment would highlight the potential for successful regeneration on the major forest types and conditions likely to be encountered in the region as a beginning point in this analysis. Through this process, the assessment would rule out forest types/landscape conditions in which it had not been shown, though experience or research, that it was possible, using established techniques, to restock an area within five years after regeneration harvest. "Within five years after harvest" should correspond to the period following a regeneration cutting, e.g., five years after clearcutting, five years after a seedtree cutting, five years after an establishment cutting of a shelterwood and five years after selection cutting. This analysis, would serve as a first step in addressing lands "marginal" for restocking within five years.
2) An assessment of the potential for artificial and natural regeneration should accompany each silvicultural prescription associated with a proposed regeneration harvest. Regeneration harvest can be considered only if the site can be adequately restocked within five years after regeneration harvest.
3) In the silvicultural prescription, the basis for a conclusion that the site can be successfully regenerated within five years would be presented. Potential evidence for this conclusion could include successful regeneration within five years on similar sites, based on research findings or past experience. This process serve as a second screen in eliminating lands "marginal" for restocking.
4) Natural regeneration would be permitted, even if it took more than five years, if conditions were being established through regeneration harvest that would allow for restocking as has "naturally" occurred throughout history in the type and condition, and is meeting appropriate ecosystem goals. Permanent openings many be created for wildlife habitat improvement, vistas, recreational uses, and similar practices, but, for the purposes of this section, successful natural regeneration of the stand is the goal.
5) Any determination of an allowable sale quantity must include realistic calculations of the likely time until restocking, based on the likely regeneration methods.
6) We expect that the technical and scientific review of assessments, strategic plans, and project implementation, discussed elsewhere in this paper, will have a priority to examine the analysis and rationales underlying regeneration guidance and decisions.
7) Regional silvicultural guides incorporating ecosystem management principles will be the primary guide for regional assessments concerning the minimum number, size, distribution, species composition, and natural restocking potential of regeneration. These guides will define adequate restocking within the guidelines of regulations under 6(G)(3)(E).
6 (g) (3) (F) ... insure that clearcutting, seed tree cutting, shelterwood cutting, and other cuts designed to regenerate an even-aged stand of timber will be used as a cutting method on the National Forest System lands only where: (i) for clearcutting, it has been determined to be the optimum method, and for other such cuts it is determined to be appropriate, to meet the objectives and requirements of the relevant management plan.
With respect to clearcutting, the intent of this clause seems fairly obvious: clearcutting should be used only where it can be demonstrated to be the best regeneration method for meeting the objectives for the stand and landscape, and that it certainly should not be the default method that it had become in the 1960s. There are many species and ecosystems for which a convincing argument can be made for the "optimality" of clearcutting. Such an argument could in principle be made for most species which regenerate in essentially even-aged stands following natural catastrophic stand-replacing disturbances (e.g., red alder in the Pacific Northwest, lodgepole pine in the Rockies, aspen in the Lake States). It should be noted, though, that the size, shape, and pattern of opening from these natural catastrophic stand-replacing disturbances varied considerably between these different species.
It is important to note that while clearcutting may be an obvious choice for the regeneration of such pioneering species, clearcutting is not the only way that they can be regenerated and managed. Suitable conditions for regeneration can almost always be created with a range of alternative reproduction methods, e.g., clearcutting-with-reserve-trees (retention forestry), a shelterwood, and even large group selection.
There is the additional requirement that strictly even-aged reproduction methods and silvicultural systems, such as seed tree and shelterwood, are to be used only when they, and presumably the even-aged stand structures that result, meet explicit objectives of the plan. This requirement provides a great deal of latitude, but seems to suggest that
strictly even-aged stand management should not be the default and that alternatives should be seriously considered. It is important to note that the requirement to explore alternatives to even-aged stand management is not a requirement to adopt classic uneven-aged management. Arguably, there is not a requirement to consider classic uneven-aged management. Non-traditional reserve tree silvicultural systems can be used to create and maintain a broad range of stand structures that fall between the extremes of classic even-aged and uneven-aged silviculture. The choice of an appropriate reproduction method and silvicultural system needs to be made within the context of the regeneration ecology of the species and the structural objectives for the stand and landscape.
As discussed in the previous section, any proposal for even-aged regeneration harvest should be based on the resource objectives for the stand and landscape and an assessment of appropriate regeneration methods for each combination of major forest type and landscape unit within each major region. These assessments should also address the size, shape, frequency, and pattern of these harvests (see discussion concerning
6 (g) (3) (F) (iv) below).
At times there have been attempts to list the situations under which clearcutting will be considered. We believe that this approach is fraught with difficulties because of the impossibility of predicting all the different situations that might occur. With such a list, forest managers left to fit any of the circumstances under which they would like to consider clearcutting into some category on the list, whether it really fit or not, would lead to the inevitable cries of deception and fraud. We believe that cases where managers would like to use clearcutting should be clearly justified as the best regeneration method for that situation and that each case should be judged on that criterion.
6(G)3(F)(iii) - cut blocks, patches, or strips are shaped and blended to the extent practicable with the natural terrain;
In general, there are abundant patch cuts where such blending with the natural terrain has not been done, and others where it has been done quite well. We believe the shaping of cut blocks has a critical visual impact, and only through careful attention to shaping will the use of clearcuts of whatever size be consistent with acceptable visual resource impact. Straight lines are sometimes unavoidable, but we believe that the intent of the law, even with the proviso "to the extent practicable" needs to be reemphasized in the new regulations.
6 (g) (3) (F) (iv) ... according to geographic areas, forest types, or other suitable classifications the maximum size limits for areas to be cut in one harvest operation ...
At the time NFMA was passed, there was concern and controversy over the large clearcut squares that were appearing on the national forests. Much of this concern was from a visual perspective. This clause was one attempt in NFMA to address the clearcutting issue and it unsightly effects. Setting upper limits on clearcuts and other even-aged methods seemed a useful way to address the problem at the time. In the context of
ecosystem management, though, the limits can result in detrimental, unintended effects.
Careless implementation of this provision could be a prescription for fragmentation of the forest into patterns that have not been experienced historically though natural disturbance. As we have become interested in management (and silviculture) reflecting natural disturbance, it has become less certain that simply restricting the size of the patch created by even-aged harvest is the best approach for determining the size of disturbance created through harvest. To emulate natural disturbance, it may be important to set minimum sizes as well as maximums and to have objectives for the overall pattern of disturbance on the broader landscape.
Questions of disturbance sizes and patterns are of considerable ecological, economic, and social importance and should be addressed in regional assessments for each major forest type and landscape unit within the region. The assessment should include an analysis of appropriate sizes and patterns of disturbance and the types of silvicultural systems potentially useful in the recreation of these disturbance characteristics. Out of this analysis should come minimum and maximum sizes of disturbances in different forest types and landscapes and also guidance on frequency and pattern of disturbances that should be sought.
CHAPTER 4. A PLANNING PLANNING APPROACH TOTO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABILITY AND DEEPEN PUBLIC AND AGENCY ENGAGEMENT
The primary purpose of land and resource planning on the national forests is to sustain our watersheds, forests and rangelands and provide for multiple use of these lands. As discussed in other sections, the most fundamental goal of the National Forest System is to maintain and restore ecological sustainability — the long-term maintenance of the diversity of native plant and animal communities and the productive capacity of ecological systems. To achieve this goal, planning must apply the best available scientific information and analysis so that the diversity and adaptive capability of ecosystems will be maintained and restored.
Building on the foundation of sustainable ecological systems, planning should provide for sustainable contributions to our economic and cultural systems and to our communities. To accomplish this goal, planning should seek to provide a wide variety of uses, products, values, and services to society.
A democratic process is the guiding framework for a planning process capable of striving for ecological, social and economic sustainability. Democratic processes rest on the premise that citizens should participate in deliberating, forming and assessing public policies that affect them. The planning process needs to integrate the identification, analysis, and resolution of public issues of national, regional or local interest with the development of scientifically-credible conservation strategies. This challenge requires a multi-level planning process, designed for flexible application depending on the geographic scope and complexity of conservation strategies and public issues.
SUSTAINABILITY--THE TRADITIONAL FOCUS OF PLANNING
Over the last 400 years, an overriding goal of public forestry has been to sustain the productive capacity of its forests. First in Europe and then in the United States, foresters have attempted to meet this goal by providing a sustained yield of commercial timber volume. As in Europe, the emergence of forestry in the United States in the late nineteenth century occurred after a long period of deforestation due to rapid harvest to clear lands for agriculture and settlement, build cities, provide fuel for individuals and commerce, and ship lumber to foreign markets. The concept of sustained yield forestry stood in stark contrast to this rapid harvest.
The forest reserve movement at the end of the nineteenth century sought to protect watersheds and the productive capacity of the forests by creating public forests. Advocates of forestry and conservation argued that a public forestry based on sustained yield principles would provide for both ecological and social sustainability--overexploitation of resources would be prevented and a continuous supply of wood would be available to help stabilize local economies and communities.
From the very beginning, planning for the use and management of the forest reserves, later renamed the National Forests, began with an analysis of the sustained yield of timber. The size of the planning area was a "working circle", or an area large enough to provide a local mill with sufficient timber on a continuing basis. Regulation of use (timber, grazing, mining, and recreation) and protection (from fire, insects and disease, and poor timber harvest practices) were the primary roles of public forest managers. As harvest levels rose after World War II, management analysis focused more on timber yield estimates, the effects of intensive management, and later, in the 1970s, on the environmental and economic implications of allowing short periods of higher harvest levels as compared to an "even-flow" policy.
The NFMA was written at a time of change in public values as expressed in the Wilderness Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, to name only a few of the many environmental protection laws of the time. The NFMA called for public forest management to explicitly address the environmental consequences of commercial timber harvest and to designate areas that were unsuitable for timber harvest as a result of environmental considerations. Thus, "forest planning" focused on determining the sustained yield level of timber harvest for each national forest, subject to providing at least minimal levels of protection for species and ecosystems.
In the 1980s, scientific knowledge of ecosystems grew rapidly, and new analysis technologies allowed complex interactions to be understood and predicted based on different management scenarios. Management strategies based on sustained yield of timber simply did not provide adequate protection for many plant and animal species or for ecological system functions necessary for long term productivity. In addition, in a dynamic global economy, a localized emphasis on a sustained supply of commercial timber could provide neither economic nor community stability.
But the forest planning process was too far down the track to recall. So the heart of the plans continued to be a sustained yield of commercial timber volume. And, once completed, they were almost immediately made obsolete, in many parts of the country by the emerging emphasis on the conservation of the diversity of plants and animals to ensure ecological sustainability.
The purpose of this section is to suggest a planning process and structure that first recognizes the maintenance of sustainable ecological systems as the foundation of national forest management and then, within that context, attempts to provide sustainable contributions to the social and economic well-being of communities and the nation. This chapter builds upon the existing legal framework for planning and management in the Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA) as amended by the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA). It is also consistent with criteria and indicators proposed in the Santiago Agreement for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests signed on February 3, 1995.
We begin with a discussion of the national assessment, program and annual report required by the RPA. To provide an historical context in which to understand the proposed planning structure, we describe the key elements of the current system of planning. We then turn to a new conceptual framework for planning that integrates information gathering, public issue identification and deliberation, and collaborative stewardship into a multi-level process designed for flexibility, learning, and adaptive management.
THE ROLE OF THE NATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND PROGRAM
The RPA assessment was originally intended to be a vehicle by which the status of all lands and resources in the United States would be periodically assessed relative to current conditions and future expectations. This information was anticipated as a tool for public and private planning at all levels so as to better coordinate land uses across multiple ownerships. Given its historical context, it especially emphasized the supply and demand for the different multiple uses such as timber and recreation across the different ownerships. It paid relatively little attention to characterizing ecological conditions, especially those that had a strong regional flavor such as threatened and endangered species.
Today things have changed. Sustainable forest ecosystems are now a global priority. Criteria and indicators for nations to use in assessing the status of their forests have broad international agreement. The RPA assessment can provide national level information on the current and anticipated status of forests and land use at the national level. Thus, the RPA assessment has a new role in providing national information to the international community, and in addition, to providing a performance assessment for the US on the status of our forests and other lands. This performance assessment is directly linked to the Government Performance and Results Act requirements. The role of RPA is essential in providing a broad context for understanding the contribution of the national forest system lands to the broad goal of sustainability. It cannot, however, be expected to provide a detailed evaluation of ecological sustainability in the different regions of the country. Developing that information needs to be done through bioregional assessments as discussed below.
The RPA national assessment of land and resources can contribute to national forest planning in a number of ways: 1) It shapes our understanding of the conditions on all forest and range lands across the country as well as likely demand and supply considerations. The regional analyses on forest and rangeland trends on nonfederal ownerships are especially valuable. 2) It provides linkage to international ecological and social issues like the role of forests in addressing global climate change policy, protecting biodiversity, and sustaining temperate and tropical forests. 3) It provides a forum for discussing the institutional and policy framework for sustainability on diverse ownerships, including the principles and mechanisms for sustainable forest management on private forest lands. 4) It can highlight ecological systems at risk.
The RPA Program was originally envisioned as a master plan for the management of the national forests, and assumed that the inputs (especially budgets) that would be needed to provide high levels of outputs (especially commodities) would naturally follow. It has rarely worked as intended in the 25 years since its passage. The RPA Program, for all its good intentions, called for input and output goals that become divorced from the land and the dynamic management that goes on at the local level. Its targets have forever lagged behind the changing conditions and values expressed at each unique National Forest and Ranger District. In addition, both Presidents and Congress have largely ignored the Program, responding more directly to their own priorities for management of the National Forests and the realities of limited budgets. Similarly, both Regions and National Forests have largely ignored the RPA program in planning--not a surprising result since it is difficult to express the goals for management of each National Forest as a set of functional resource production targets set at the national level.
We believe that the RPA Program (and its successor) could provide overall policy guidance for the National Forests by recognizing their role in the context of other ownerships, as specifically required in the law. At its best, the RPA program can be a strategic vision of the management emphasis for the national forests in the context of the management of all lands, including lands in other countries, pointing out the unique contributions of the National Forests. With this vision the RPA program would be a policy guide when developing the large and small landscape plans discussed below. As an example, the recent statement of the Chief of the Forest Service regarding the importance of watershed protection in achieving ecological sustainability is the beginnings of such a strategic vision. It is critical to distinguish a strategic vision from a top-down strategic directive that is merely to be implemented by lower level functionaries. Rather, a strategic vision sets the course for the agency and across the country the tremendous diversity of localities and special meanings of places are guided by this vision in their conservation and management.
The Annual Report to Congress called for in the RPA is the direct connection to the Government Performance and Reporting Act. The planning process proposed below should make it possible to track actual improvements in land and resource conditions, actual achievements given budget appropriations, and necessary changes to meet the primary goals of the national forest system. It is essential that the Annual Report become an integral part of the overall planning process so that when actual performance is assessed it is possible to identify needs for strategic change, needs for new management approaches, needs for new research, needs for new partnerships to achieve common goals. The Annual Report would provide the "big picture" for the units of the national forest system as they engage in their own annual performance review and evaluation processes.
OVERVIEW OF THE EXISTING APPROACH
The planning regulations now in effect were proposed in 1979 and revised and approved in final form in 1982. The current regulations resulted in three sub-national planning levels in addition to the national Assessment and Program. Each planning level is considered a NEPA action, and thus has an EA or an EIS associated with it.
|Type of plan/responsible official||Geographic Boundary||Purpose|
|Regional guide/Chief||Forest Service Region||Reflect RPA goals and objectives; Display tentative RPA resource objectives (targets) for each planning area; cover standards and guidelines for addressing the major issues which need to be considered at the regional level to facilitate planning (maximum clearcut sizes, approp. silvic. method, management strategies for wide-ranging species, etc.)|
|Forest plan/objectives, Regional forester||National Forest||Develop multiple use goals and identify the quantities of goods and services to be produced, subject to minimum management requirements for protection of wildlife habitat, soil and water quality. Ensure viability of vertebrate species. Address local issues and develop alternatives showing minimum resource development and maximum biological potential, with costs and benefits. Toward these purposes, allocate land among different management emphases, set standards and guidelines for mgt. within each emphasis, calculate the land suitable for timber production, calculate an upper limit on timber removals, estimate ecological, economic, and social effects on a programmatic basis; set project goals and aggregate budget and human resource requests for projects. Develop monitoring and evaluation requirements. At least one alternative was to be directed toward meeting the RPA targets stated in Regional Guidance.|
|Project/??||Depends on objective of project||Propose actions to achieve goals of plan, assess site-specific effects; estimate budget needed and outputs that will result. Mitigate adverse environ. effects.|
The current planning process has ten steps intended to be followed in order, because they mirror the process requirements for developing an EIS. The initial steps identify public issues and management concerns, define planning criteria and develop an assessment of the current conditions and management of the national forest or grassland. This assessment is called the "analysis of the management situation", and it included: demand and supply conditions for resource commodities, services as well as their production potentials. These analyses were production oriented calling for benchmark analysis of the minimum and maximum physical and biological production capabilities of significant goods and services with associated costs and benefits, monetary benchmarks that maximize present net value of major commodity resources, estimates of current production of goods and services, and projections of demand.
Thus, although the RPA expected that "the new knowledge derived from coordinated public and private research programs will promote a sound technical and ecological base for effective management, use and protection of the Nation’s renewable resources" (RPA Sec. 2(4)), the 1982 Regulations reflected the commodity production orientation of the time. As a result, the information developed for and used in forest planning did not generally address the ecological issues of increasing concern for scientists and the public, and therefore led to underestimated or downplayed environmental effects of commodity production in EIS analyses.
Our proposed approach retains a hierarchical planning structure, emphasizes the use of ecological boundaries, especially those that have social meaning, separates the information gathering from planning and urges a collaborative approach with other federal agencies, tribes, state and local governments, and the public. It is intentionally more flexible than the current design to allow for a diversity of approaches across the country and to encourage experimentation. The process, though, has a set of core design characteristics that we feel are essential for effective planning, and by which any planning process and structure should be judged:
1) the development and use of scientifically credible strategies for the protection of species and ecosystems,
2) a set of goals and proposed actions for management of these forests that puts them on the path to ecological sustainability, contributes to economic and social sustainability, and provides for the multiple uses.
3) a deepened public engagement in planning, including development of a sense of joint inquiry into the conditions, capabilities and potential of the national forests, the encouragement of joint public/agency stewardship of these lands, and the restoration of trust in Forest Service management.
4) a deepened agency engagement in planning by connecting planning more centrally to the issues faced by national forest managers,
5) the encouragement of organizational learning through adaptive management, information sharing, ongoing public dialogue, and independent review,
A key component of this process is that public issues are addressed at the scale appropriate to the issue. Thus, issues concerning the conservation of wide-ranging species must be addressed at the scale of the range of the species. It is at this scale that conditions can be assessed and conservation strategies formulated. These large-scale conservation strategies set the ecological context for more localized planning processes. However, this should not be understood as a "top-down" process, but rather a multi-level planning process based on the scale and scope of public issues.
Public issues range from national to regional to local. Our planning process relies on the sense of public identity with national forests to animate and coordinate a public planning processes. However, the planning areas typically follow ecological and social boundaries rather than administrative ones. These planning areas will be delineated based on both the logical ecological area for analysis and the social meanings attached to the landscape. As a multi-level process, our planning structure is highly adaptable to issues of multiple scales, issues which overlap administrative and jurisdictional boundaries, and issues that necessitate a comprehensive understanding of all lands in a region. Rather than a rigid structure, we intend our process to provide an open architecture that can be adapted to regional and local conditions and that enhances the building of collaborative stewardship capacity.
Within an issue-based planning process, independent information that is considered an objective and realistic protrayal of conditions is a necessary basis for public deliberation. We believe that it is important to recognize assessment as a distinct task organized as a joint inquiry involving the federal agencies, other governments, and the public. It should meet the expectations of RPA for creating "coordinated public and private research" relationships to "promote a sound technical and ecological base" of information.
In the past, the analysis of ecological and social conditions and trends was done, to one degree or another, as part of regional guidance and national forest planning. We believe that assessments have such an important role in providing a credible information base for national forest planning that they should be organized as a separate task. Assessments are not decisions and should not be made to function under the NEPA processes associated with planning. By recognizing assessment as a separate task, everyone in the assessment process will more easily focus on conditions, trends, problems and risks instead of on the development of planning alternatives.
In our approach, the way information is developed and synthesized and by whom is as important as what the content. Based on our analysis of various current assessment processes, we think that assessments can have a number of functions--identifying issues of special importance, creating forums for joint learning between scientists, managers and the public, improving inventories, encouraging landscape level thinking that transcends national forest and agency boundaries, building cohesion among different levels of the Forest Servive and between the Forest Service and other agencies, and providing a context for national forest planning. For participants, they also help develop leadership abilities and provide a crash course in adaptive management.
Another lesson from our analysis of current assessment processes is that just producing information is not enough. Assessments provide the context for proposing ways to achieve long-term goals of sustainability. Thus, our proposal includes an additional element at the bioregional level--the development and application of scientifically credible procedures for evaluating ecological sustainability. The analysis of ecological sustainability will require a critical mass of scientists, working independently, but reporting periodically to a broader group to enable critique, discussion, and joint learning. An example of this approach is the recent work on aquatic ecosystems in the ICBEMP (sidebar). Without the development of these scientifically credible approaches to assessing the effect of planning alternatives on ecological sustainability, it is difficult to see how planning the management of the national forests can be successful. With the development of these strategies, assessments should be able to prove their worth to managers and planners.
In this process, it will still be important to retain the linkage between assessment and planning. The primary purposes of assessments are two-fold: first, to develop information related to striving for ecological and social sustainability, and second, to develop the organizational and social capacity for planning so that planning can proceed. This linkage will help define not only the boundaries of the assessments, but also their organization and staffing. Planners and resource specialists need to participate in these assessments in order to contribute their knowledge, better understand the body of information that is produced, get experience with adaptive management processes, and be better prepared to use the information in planning and management.
We envision two scales of assessments:
|Bioregional||Ecological||Assess ecological sustainability (species viability and ecosystem integrity) under current polices across all ownerships. Suggest strategies for sustaining ecological systems where problems are detected. Assess the current and potential contributions of the national forests to economic and social well-being. Use a participatory approach as well as independent scientists to assess the social context and history of the region, including demographic changes, economic patterns and trends, and institutional arrangements. Address a variety of scientific and technical issues as suggested by public issue groups. Develop a sense of social identity with the region so as to allow local issues to be connected to a regional context.|
|Watershed||Landform||Use information from bioregional assessments and large landscape plans to refine desired future conditions (and landscape pathway assessments to those conditions). Address local issues of ecological sustainability and multiple use, including those defined by local issue groups. Use a participatory approach to assess current economic and social conditions and pathways for long term social and economic sustainability.|
The purpose of planning is to develop scientifically credible strategies for ecological sustainability, options for multiple use management that respond to public interests and issues, and the organizational capacity to implement them. While the Forest Service can plan for its contribution to these goals, it cannot necessarily carry them out alone. Thus, planning has the third element listed above because several federal agencies, as well as state and local governments and others need to work with the Forest Service for it to achieve its goals. The more that the planning process across federal agencies can be coordinated and harmonized, the greater the capacity for a consistent conservation strategies and policies to be formed and carried out. This is reason why collaborative stewardship is so important to create as an outcome of the planning process – it makes implementation possible.
Recognizing these limitations to Forest Service planning, our approach proposes a landscape scale, strategic planning level complemented by a smaller scale integrated implementation planning level. In our view, however, planning could be done through either two or three levels, depending on whether strategies for ensuring ecological sustainability are developed at the bioregional level separate from the large landscape plans or as a part of them. We explain the planning hierarchy in terms of a three-level approach and then also illustrate its structure when two levels are sufficient.
|Type of Plan/responsible official||Geographic Boundary||Purpose|
|Bioregional Guidance/Regional Forester||Ecological||Provide strategies to ensure sustainable ecological systems (species viability and ecosystem integrity) and sustainable multiple use options across large areas.|
|Large landscape plans/Forest Supervisor(s)||Ecological/social||Interpret strategies for ecological sustainability and provide for multiple use; address issues defined by public participants; set desired future conditions for different parts of the landscape and actions permitted within them, choose strategic pathways to move toward desired conditions, set input and outcome measures for judging progress toward desired conditions, set land suitable for resource management, estimate ecological, economic, and social contributions on a programmatic basis. Develop monitoring and evaluation process, including independent review.|
|Small landscape||Ecological/social||Propose actions that move toward desired future conditions; consider all projects in combination to the degree possible within the planning area; estimate site-specific effects; estimate budgets needed for action, estimate outcomes that will result, estimate cumulative effects, provide a context for action. Specify monitoring criteria and expected outcomes, including experimental efforts and areas of uncertainty.|
This approach retains the three-tiered planning framework that has developed over time based on the existing (1982) regulations: 1) overall guidance at the "regional" level, 2) a second level, smaller in geographic scope although still perhaps covering millions of acres, at which the long-term plan is developed considering the multitude of issues that surface during the planning process, and 3) a site-specific level to develop the actions needed to carry out the long-term plan. Based on the experience of the last 20 years, we would suggest a number of changes and refinements in this overall approach to better address the provision of ecological and social sustainability. Many of these suggested changes are already being tried in different regions across the country; in fact we learned of many of them from the critiques that the Forest Service and others have done about planning and from our meetings across the country with Forest Service employees and the public:
Focus bioregional guidance on the development of scientifically credible strategies for ecologically sustainable use. In the past regional plans often fell short in their guidance on ecological sustainability. National forests, as a result, were left without a firm policy foundation on which to build their plans. Significant effort in the future in bioregional planning must be placed on constructing scientifically-based strategies for the conservation of species and ecosystems.
Focus large landscape planning on desired future conditions and outcomes and on the pathway to achieve these desired states. In the past, national forest planning often focused on the relatively short-term issues of land allocation and timber harvest levels. While these are still important issues, we believe that, consistent with the emphasis on ecological and social sustainability, national forest planning should emphasize the development of desired long-term landscape conditions and outcomes that will provide this sustainability. We believe that establishing these long-term goals is the most constructive place to start in the collaborative planning of the future and provides an essential guide for management. Visualization of the future landscape through pictures and computer simulations will be a crucial element in this work. Using information on current conditions, from the bioregional assessments and elsewhere, the large landscape plans should also build a pathway from the current state to the desired future state that includes an estimate of actions and budgets that will be needed.
Focus small landscape planning on the mix of activities and projects needed to meet the goals in the strategic plan--to implement the strategic plans. Projects should be developed in combination, to the degree possible, with attention to cumulative effects, and include implementation schedules, measurable performance standards, budget plans and staffing plans. New activities can be added to the overall plan with consideration of cumulative impacts and consistency with the general strategic intent of the plan. This is the planning level that is based upon Adaptive Management, meaning that it is a continuous cycle of activity, evaluation and review, adaptation and change.
The need to consider connected actions and cumulative effects, and to enable the public to see the geographic context within which the actions will occur, argues for an approach to project planning that considers a larger geographic area than that usually covered by a single project. These areas of interest will rarely follow national forest boundaries. Current examples are sometimes called "site-specific" landscape plans, and following this experience, we anticipate that small landscape plans will cover from 10,000 to 150,000 acres. There may be individual projects that are highly controversial and that require a longer time for public discussion prior to reaching a decision on their outcome. In such cases, it would be appropriate to evaluate them separately, but the cumulative effects of the project must be analyzed with the others before including them in the small landscape plans.
An Overall Planning Structure
The following schematic represents our vision of the overall planning process when a strategy for ecological sustainability is developed as a decision separate from the large landscape plans.
Bioregional Bioregional guidance assessment ------------------> for ecological sustainability l D l D l V l--------------------------------->Large landscape plans l D D D D D D D D D "Strategic plans" l D D l D D l D D l D D V V V Watershed--------------------->Small landscape plans (landscape) "Implementation plans" assessment D D V Actions Information flows: -------------> or l or ^ l l V l Decision flows: D D V where V or > indicates the end of an arrow.
(In the interest of simplicity, some of the feed back loops on the diagram have been omitted.)
An Alternative Planning Structure
An alternative planning structure would combine the bioregional guidance for ecological sustainability with the development of the large landscape plans. The following schematic represents our vision of the overall planning process when a strategy for ecological sustainability is developed as a decision within the large landscape plans.
Bioregional assessment l l l l--------------------------------->Large landscape plans l D D D D D D D D D "Strategic plans" including the development l D of guidance for ecological sustainability l D D l D D l D D l D D V V V Watershed--------------------->Small landscape plans (landscape) "Implementation plans" assessment D D V Actions
Each of these planning structures has advantages and disadvantages. Developing strategies for ecological sustainability at the bioregional level ensures that a coherent conservation strategy for species and ecosystem processes is available for use as the foundation for large landscape plans. We expect that the range of many species and ecosystems cover the area of multiple large landscape plans. Therefore, attempting to develop conservation strategies as part of the large landscape planning process puts pressure on the planning teams to work together across large landscape planning areas as they craft their plans. It will undoubtedly require something close to simultaneous development of large landscape plans and raises the importance of an independent "science-consistency" check on the proposed plans.
The Role of the "Traditional" Land and Resource Plan for a National Forest.
The NFMA calls for development of an integrated land and resource plan for each National Forest. Where does that fit here? In some cases, the area of a large landscape plan will be identical to that covered by an individual national forest or a cluster of national forests. In those cases the land and resource plan called for under NFMA would be equivalent to the large landscape plan. In many cases, though, different areas on a national forest will be part of different large landscape plans.
Regardless of the boundary used for planning, it is important to integrate all planning direction into a single document at the appropriate scale. One problem created by varying the scales and boundaries of planning is the creation of multiple overlapping planning direction for a single national forest unit. This is confusing not only to the public, but also to the field personnel charged with implementing the plan who must refer to the planning direction and resolve differences in that direction among multiple planning documents.
Thus, individual national forest plans still have an important role in compiling the results of large landscape plans and connecting them with specific actions, i.e., with small landscape plans. These plans are a logical focal point for summarizing budgets and staffing needs for proposed activities, measuring performance, and monitoring results. These plans provide a framework for the administration of a NF in a context of federal agencies and jurisdictions, state and local governments, tribes, local associations and other landowners. They are important sources of identity for many of the participants in forest planning.
We envision the "Forest Plan" as a "living document" holding in its covers the current agreements and strategies affecting a particular national forest or grassland. The boundaries of national forests may not be appropriate as planning units, but they can be the primary administrative unit for carrying out management of these lands.
We would predict that each of the three levels in the planning hierarchy described above would need a NEPA document--an EIS or EA associated with it. We believe that, as described here, the ‘Forest Plan" would not be part of a NEPA process when it served as a vehicle for compiling the results of a set of large landscape plans and small landscape plans.
Integrating Budgets into Planning
Past forest plans developed both the goals for forest management and also a set of actions for the decade expected to achieve these goals. The activity set was generally developed without limiting budget needs to current experience. Rather the plans were developed to help define the budget that would be needed, based on conclusions reached by the Forest Service after much analysis and public involvement. This approach often led to disappointment during plan implementation as Congress appropriated less money than envisioned and targeted the funds it did allocate to a different mix of actions and outcomes than called for in the plans.
For planning to be meaningful, it needs to bear a relationship to the current and likely future situation. To achieve this there must be some relationship between the plan and the budget available to undertake the plan. As discussed above, the strategic plan should concentrate on setting the long-term goals and the associated desired future conditions, and make a first estimate of the pathway (mix of actions) over time to achieve these conditions. The estimated rate of attainment of desired conditions should be keyed to expected budgets, along with analysis of how increased or decreased budgets will affect the rate of progress. The details of actions to achieve progress toward these goals, however, should be left to implementation planning. As part of strategic planning, the budget needs of maintaining the desired future condition should be examined; if they appear unrealistic, less budget-intensive desired future conditions should be considered and options for building partnerships to increase stewardship capacity actively sought..
The actions outlined in the small landscape plans, updated on a yearly-basis, should be the basis for the budget requests. Budget short-falls will affect the actions taken and the rate of progress toward goals; they do not automatically trigger a revision in the strategic plan. If it becomes clear over time that Congress is unlikely to fund accomplishment of the management goals, then the large landscape, strategic plan itself may need revision. During plan revision, a comparison should be made between the expected and actual budgets in the past so that future strategies are based on realistic budget expectations.
As part of the Annual Report, there should be an analysis that outlines how the budget for the year is affecting progress toward long-term goals as related to the strategic plans. This is also an opportunity for identifying areas where goals are not being met and for which attaining them will require a broader approach than just the planning process.
We envision the relationship between large landscape plans, small landscape plans, the national forest plans, and budgeting as follows:
Large landscape plans D D D D D D "Strategic plans" D D V D National B B B B B B B > Budgeting D forest B D plans < B B B B B B B B B B V ^ Small landscape plans B "Implementation plans" B B B B B B B D D V Actions Information flows: -------------> or l or ^ l l V l Decision flows: D D V where V or > indicates the end of an arrow. Budgeting (requests flow up; money flows down): B B B B
Some Key Elements in our Proposal
We have listed 11 key elements of our proposal below:
1) Designate as the responsible official a manager whose responsibilities cover the area of the planning unit. Currently, the Chief is responsible for regional plans and the Regional Forester is responsible for national forest plans. This approach inhibits change and adaptation in regional plans and national forest plans. We believe that the Regional Foresters should be responsible for bioregional plans and that the Forest Supervisors should be responsible for large and small landscape plans and the integrated "forest plan."
2) Emphasize ecological boundaries for assessment and planning, but also consider their social meaning in choosing them. In the past, planning boundaries were generally based on political/social boundaries--states, national forests, timber sale boundaries. Over the last 20 years, it has become increasingly recognized that assessing and planning for ecological sustainability needs to use ecological boundaries—for example, the area used by wide-ranging or key wildlife species, major watersheds, mountain ranges, vegetative types. Using ecologically meaningful planning boundaries will enable not only the development of comprehensive plans for the conservation of species and ecosystems, but also the ability to measure the cumulative effects of current and future management actions. This is especially true for the bioregional assessment and guidance for ecological sustainability: the logical species range or other ecologically meaningful area should be used as the assessment boundary. Examples are the bioregions defined by the range of the northern spotted owl, the watershed formed by the Columbia River, and the vegetative/watershed boundary for the Southern Appalachian Assessment.
Rarely, however, will a single boundary be sufficient for the assessment of ecological sustainability--rather different boundaries will be needed for different species and ecosystems in the assessment. In our discussion below, ‘bioregion’ refers to the area formed by the union of all the different species’ ranges and ecosystem boundaries. This is a crucial concept in that within a "bioregion" there will be several "boundaries" depending on the issue, species or ecological process. Some aspects, like the atmospheric component in the Southern Appalachian Assessment, will extend well beyond the boundaries of terrestrial processes. Similarly, aquatic ecological systems will often link a bioregion with its surrounding area. In this way, a bioregion will form an integrative ecological area for purposes of organizing ecological and social information.
Planning at the large and small landscape level should use ecological boundaries, but these boundaries should also have social meaning. "Large landscape plans" might be based on a geographic area that includes a single national forest, a cluster of national forests, or pieces of one or more national forests. Examples would be the Grande Ronde drainage within the Columbia River, the Lake Tahoe watershed in California, the collection of watersheds containing the three southern Idaho National Forests, or the northern, central, and southern parts of the Sierra Nevada. "Small landscape plans" for implementation would cover areas large enough to provide a context for action, and to measure cumulative effects, and small enough to enable site-specific analysis of proposed actions. They also should have some meaning to people as a ‘whole’. Examples are the Little Applegate River on the Rogue River NF, the Seven Buttes area of the Deschutes NF, and the Chattooga Watershed Conservation Plan in the Southeast.
3) Consider the larger landscape in which the national forests are located in order to understand the role of the national forests in ensuring ecological sustainability and contributing to human use. Past national forest planning tended to look inward at what the forests can produce rather than outward at the larger landscape and the special contribution that the national forests can make. Ideally, land and resource planning integrates the broader geographic, political, and social landscape with the potential contributions of the national forests, rangelands, watersheds and grasslands. Maintaining the diversity of native plant and animal communities and the productive capacity of ecological systems usually depends, in part, upon the activities on other public, tribal, state and private lands. Thus, the planning process must be outward looking with the goal of understanding the broader landscape in which the national forests and grasslands are located. The assessment of social, cultural and economic conditions and trends should provide a useful synthesis of current information regarding demographic changes and migration patterns, economic patterns and relationships, social organization, current institutional arrangements, and relevant historical context. This assessment will allow planners to have an independent "picture" of the social environment, which can be refined and become more "place-based" in the planning process.
4) Address all federal lands and work with all affected federal agencies in a coordinated fashion. Past national forest planning tended to go its own way. We have realized that effective assessment and planning for our federal lands requires a coordinated approach across affected federal agencies. Federal agencies have made great strides in improving their coordination in recent years, such as the interagency development of the Northwest Forest Plan. Still much work needs to be done. The Committee has repeatedly heard that state, tribal, and private groups are becoming overwhelmed by the multitude and complexity of federal land and resource planning processes.
Federal agencies should coordinate their planning processes, especially where there are adjacent federal managers within a regional landscape (Applegate sidebar). Harmonizing and coordinating the different statutory priorities, geographic areas of consideration and implementation time frames of the various federal agencies is no small task, but the potential benefits are enormous. Integrating and coordinating these separate planning processes is essential to developing integrated strategies for ecological and social sustainability and for adapting these strategies to changed conditions over time.
Despite differences among agency programs, the principles and recommendations set out in this report have broad application among the various federal agencies responsible for management or regulation of natural resources. Integrated federal planning will not magically solve difficult scientific and social issues, but it should enhance public understanding and confidence in the various federal planning and regulatory programs. It should also provide the public with a clearer picture of desired future conditions for entire landscapes, from watersheds to river basins (Sidebar with a check list for the public to judge whether coordinated planning is occurring including whether agencies jointly plan and map their activities, whether they have synchronized their strategic planning, etc.). With the federal "shop’ in order, collaboration with state and tribal governments, groups, and the public can become more efficient and effective.
5) Use a issue-based approach to developing large landscape and small landscape plans. In the past, the Forest Service developed alternative management approaches largely independent of the public issues and concerns, and then asked the public as well as other governments and tribes "which one they preferred." We believe that planning will be more successful if it takes a "participatory" approach in which people, communities, tribes, businesses, interest groups and governments are full partners engaged in defining issues and, most importantly, in developing options that specifically address issues of public concern.
It is important to recognize that public issues provide the agenda and context for all parts of the planning process. The national strategic vision, as exemplified in current statements regarding the importance of watershed restoration, is a response to issues of national concern. The bioregional assessments address issues of regional as well as national concern and provide a context for underestanding local issues. The large landscape planning process is founded on the identification and deliberation of issues of public concern with the expectation of creating collaborative stewardship as strategies and approaches for addressing these issues emerge. (Huron-Manistee example)
One approach to developing an issue-based approach that should be given serious consideration is the formation of a "public planning group" associated with National Forests or Grasslands since this is where integration of direction needs to occur and a stable area of with public identity. (see sidebar on White Mtn/Green Mtn/Finger Lakes process) This group would work with the planning team to review public issues and comments, develop a list of public issues for the planning process to address, identify issues which require scientific assessment, develop short descriptions of each issue to identify additional analysis needs, ensure the planning process addresses these issues, review proposed decisions based upon the public issue analysis, and work with the FS planning team to identify alternative approaches to resolving public issues. When large landscape plans include portions of several NFs, these groups could identify several members to work jointly with people from other areas, thereby providing a direct linkage between issues necessary to address at a large scale and those that affect a smaller locality. For small landscape plans, this group could develop sub-committees which could add additional members from the locality.
The NF should develop a process for identifying people to become part of a public planning group, including advertising in the local and regional media for applicants. While this group would form a core citizens group, anyone could participate, as they wish, at any time. This group would probably need to function as a FACA Committee and would serve the role outlined in NFMA for "Forest Advisory Committees". From time-to-time, this group might need technical and scientific assistance; identifying knowledgeable people that could help them would be an important part of the process.
The public planning group would help characterize the planning alternatives. Alternatives are intended to identify different, integrated approaches for achieving the goals of the national forest system within the ecological and social context of the area. Alternatives should reflect different future visions of the area so that scientific and technical analysis can further public understanding of the implications of different courses of action. Alternatives would also be presented in tentative form on the Forest Home Page so that all interested parties can contribute to their definition, analysis and review.
To further facilitate communication and participation, all information about the NF should be available on the Internet. The planning process should include a participation strategy designed for the Internet so that interested parties living away from the region can participate in planning for it. Working analyses and discussion papers should be continuously available and contributions invited. Minutes from the public planning group discussions should also be available on the internet. The forest should make every effort to invite public participation from people living too far from the area to participate in frequent meetings.
6) Maintain the terms of the public controversy. The planning process needs to be issue-based and not eliminate the controversy in the issues. The planning process should create an open forum for public and organizational inquiry in which issues of key public concern are deliberated, analyzed and questions defined so that all can actively work on developing solutions to them.
Conflict can be a source of creativity rather than division when diverse perspectives are deliberated in open, accessible forums. Creating open forums for discussion of important public issues is the essence of public planning. Reaching agreement on decision criteria and evaluation criteria has to be a key part of the discussion, before debate begins. Having the information from the assessments will greatly facilitate the ability of individuals to understand the implications of their ideas and those of others.
7) Encourage collaboration by inviting citizens, as well as governments and groups, to become stewards of the land. At all stages and levels, the planning process needs to enable citizens as well as other agencies and organizations to become stewards of the land, not merely its clients and customers. Collaboration links individuals and organizations into new relationships that can both contribute to defining and integrating goals for the national forest system and provide some of the capacity to carry them out. By building collaborative relationships, the planning process can build implementation capacity by defining problems in ways that they are everyone’s responsibility.
8) Be efficient in achievement of multiple goals The national forests should be efficient in their management in the context of meeting their other goals. This mandate does not require the Forest Service to manage these lands to maximize monetary return. Rather, it requires them to maximize social returns, including both returns transacted in markets and those that are not. It requires that planning methodologies do two things: 1) attempt to minimize the trade-off in achieving different goals and 2) demonstrate economical use of public funds by attempting to provide each alternative combination of conditions and outputs, that they consider, at least cost.
Conservationists may recoil from pursuit of "efficiency" in resource analysis, in part, because they feel that it serves only to justify commodity production from forests. We would argue that efficiency analysis, broadly interpreted to address nonmarket, as well as, market outputs, serves an important function in planning the management of forests. Whenever multiple goals are being sought, efficiency analysis can reduce the conflict in goals that might otherwise exist. Also, with the increasing scrutiny that budgets for forest management will receive in the future, it will become increasingly important that mangers can demonstrate that they are not "wasting" resources. Efficiency analysis enables managers to make this demonstration.
9) In the long run, consider organizing administration (budgeting, performance standards, monitoring) around the landscape units associated with the large landscape plans.
Individual national forests have an important role to play in organizing budgets and staffing needs for proposed activities, measuring performance, and monitoring results. Their plans provide a framework for integrative administration of a NF in a context of other federal agencies and jurisdictions, state and local governments, tribes, local associations and other landowners. Even when the national forests are not the unit of planning, they are the administrative location for staff, budgets and coordination necessary for developing both large and small landscape plans, and implementing the resulting policy direction and project activities.
We rely upon this administrative capacity of the national forest system, but suggest a move toward an organizational structure keyed to the boundaries of the large landscape plans in some places. Without such a change, the potential for inconsistent, wasteful actions within the large landscape units is high. In addition, making the large landscape unit, drawn on ecological boundaries, as the administrative unit, should make it easier to communicate to the goals of management to the public. An example of such a unit that currently exists is the Lake Tahoe Basin, which is the watershed of Lake Tahoe and which previously, was administered by four national forests in two bioregions. An example of a unit that needs to be established is the Applegate Watershed, which is currently administered by two national forests and two BLM Districts (sidebar).
10) Measure plan performance through the achievement of actions and outcomes. Traditionally, plan performance has been measured through attainment of output targets. We feel that measurement of plan performance should primarily be done through 1) comparing the expected actions from the strategic plans to actions undertaken through the small landscape plans on an annual basis, and 2) comparing progress toward the desired conditions every few years. Either of those measures might have four results: 1) concluding things are fine, 2) adjusting the actions that would be undertaken to achieve the mix assumed in the strategic plan, 3) considering a change in the mix of treatments in the strategic plan, or 4) considering a change in the desired future conditions.
11) Make science-based planning a reality. In the first round of forest plans under NFMA, scientists, by and large, sat on the sidelines as managers and inter-disciplinary teams developed forest plans. A series of lawsuits, and a growing realization of the central role of science in planning, led the Forest Service and other federal agencies to call for "scientifically credible conservation strategies" for species and ecosystems. Throughout the country, in recent years, the Forest Service has embraced the notion of planning based on science as one of the tenets of forest management.
Science-based planning incorporates current scientific thought into the planning process and the plans that result, with the understanding that this knowledge is a set of working hypotheses informed by experiments, demonstrations, argument, and reflection, and that over time these hypotheses may be retained, revised, and discarded as needed. Scientists will be asked to assist in a wide variety of ways under our proposal including: creating knowledge of relevance to forest planning, working on the integrative science of bioregional assessments and planning, helping managers understand the application of this scientific and technical knowledge to management problems, and helping to design effective monitoring procedures and the experiments needed under adaptive management. Managers will need to work with people from another culture (science) and to treat management as an experiment.
12) Establish independent reviews to provide an "outside check" on the use of technical and scientific information. The credibility of the planning process rests in part on the routine application of an "outside check" on the use of technical and scientific information. These reviews can provide independent verification of the science-basis of plans and their implementation. They can highlight and reward creative approaches to the challenging issues faced in the management of the national forests. The knowledge of an evaluation at the end of the planning process should, by its very presence, encourage collaboration between managers, specialists and scientists as the plans are developed.
There should be an evaluation of the use of scientific and technical information in large landscape planning, i.e., an evaluation of the consistency of strategic planning and plans with scientific and technical understanding. A potential role model for this effort is the "science consistency" check recently pioneered in the Tongass National Forest land management plan (Everest et al., 1997)---a technique that evaluates if the information transferred from scientists to policy makers and planners was understood and used appropriately.
Field reviews of projects should also be conducted to ascertain whether implementation would meet the goals of the plans from a scientific and technical viewpoint. The interagency PACFISH reviews could serve as a model for this effort, assuming that the interagency committee was broadened to consider all the values recognized in the plans.
Independent review is a critical element of adaptive management and planning. In addition to the scientific and technical role for independent review, the review should also evaluate the process itself to identify information bottlenecks, and evaluate whether there is adequate interdisciplinary representation, coordination of planning and management across administrative boundaries, opportunities for discussions with scientists, and open communication across functional areas and with upper levels of administration. This part of the review process should especially look to see if the planning process provided an opportunity for the agency to develop new ideas, new approaches to solving problems, and new relationships with other governments, agencies, tribes, communities and the near and distant public. This part of the review should be developed as a separate paper available for public review and comment and should be included in the annual performance evaluation of the NF.
Appendix: Characteristics and Tasks of Assessments and Planning
We have tried to summarize below the characteristics of the different assessments and plans and the tasks they should undertake.
These assessments should have the characteristics described earlier:
They address all lands within the geographic area being studied on which they report conditions, trends, risks, and other issues of interest.
National forests and other federal agencies with responsibilities within the bioregion help coordinate the assessment so that it covers all federal lands and issues.
They work on joint fact-finding with collaborative groups formed by relevant federal, state and local agencies as well as tribes, various organizations, local associations, and citizens as they attempt to develop a shared base of information. At their best, these assessments should create forums in which scientists, managers, and the public can collectively understand the assessment findings.
They are completed in a relatively short period of time--within a year for a bioregional assessment and within six months for a watershed assessment.
The trust of participants and non-participants alike is enhanced when the assessment process includes independent review as a normal part of the process. For example, in the case of the Southern Appalachian Assessment, a multi-stakeholder group reviewed the scientific and technical adequacy of the Assessment. This group included professionals from local and national non-government organizations, which greatly contributed to the perception of independence and openness.
Bioregional assessments are driven by need to understand the current state and trends on forests, rangelands, and watersheds, relative to ecological and social sustainability. These assessments provide needed inventory information on which to build a foundation for addressing the conservation of species and ecosystems as well as other regional issues. The Southern Appalachian Assessment is an example of an assessment designed to inform the planning processes on five national forests so that each of them could address issues of regional concern in context, as well as more clearly understand their unique and important contributions to the larger region (sidebar). The Science Assessment of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan (ICBEMP) attempts to provide an assessment of species and ecosystems in the Columbia Basin as the foundation of bioregional guidance and planning (sidebar). Thus, bioregional assessments are directly linked to bioregional guidance and to large landscape planning processes.
These assessments are problem-based and issue-driven scientific and technical analyses of what is known about the lands and resources within a large geographic area. These areas of interest often will not follow national forest boundaries. As an example, the Deschutes National Forest is neatly divided in half by two bioregions of interest: 1) that of the northern spotted owl and 2) that of the interior Columbia Basin. Given the large area often covered by bioregional assessments, they will require the participation of other federal agencies, tribes, state and local government, tribes, and the public.
These assessments should synthesize and develop an integrated analysis of the best scientific and technical information about the diversity of native plant and animal communities, the productive capacity of ecological systems in the bioregion, the social and economic context of the region and existing institutional arrangements and their stewardship capacity. To achieve this goal, assessments should at least:
1) Define the focal species for use in the assessment of species diversity in forest planning and develop procedures for estimating the viability of focal species, threatened and endangered species, and sensitive species. They should also apply these approaches to estimate viability under likely management on the different ownerships in the region.
2) Define measures of ecosystem integrity and develop procedures for estimating the level of ecosystem integrity in different ecosystems in the region including the characteristic diversity of major functional groups, productivity, soil fertility, and rates of biogeochemical cycling. They should also apply these procedures to estimating ecosystem integrity under likely management on the different ownerships in the region.
3) Suggest approaches to addressing the difficulties in ecological sustainability discovered in the analysis.
4) Make estimates of the range of historical variability for a number of resources, including the range in the size and patterns of openings in the different forest types.
5) Develop an analysis of the demographic changes and migration trends, economic patterns and trends, social organization, and assess the stewardship capacity of existing institutional arrangements.
6) The bioregional assessments should compile or develop the best scientific and technical information on the contribution of the national forests to the economic and social well-being in the bioregion, identifying those uses, products, values, and services of special significance to the region.
7) They should also respond, to the degree possible, to technical and scientific questions developed by the collaborative groups participating in the assessment.
"Watershed assessment" is the common name for information development processes for relatively small, ecologically identifiable geographic areas. Boundaries for these assessments range from small river basins, mountain ranges, or other landscape units that can logically connect the bioregional assessment and large landscape plans to local conditions. In some parts of the country, most notably the southeastern part of the US, small scale assessment boundaries do not follow watershed boundaries and other terms are commonly used. We have adopted the watershed name for its easy recognition, but encourage other, regionally specific, names to be adopted so as to provide that same sense of identification with scale.
These assessments share many common characteristics with bioregional assessments: federal agencies with responsibilities within the regions use a coordinated effort to address all lands within the geographic area being studied, on which they report conditions, trends, risks, and other issues of interest.
As with bioregional assessments, watershed assessments need a collaborative approach to create a mutually understood base of information regarding a specific area, involving relevant federal, state and local agencies as well as tribes, various organizations, local associations, and citizens. People often think about and care about lands and resources at the scale of watersheds. This "sense of place" should make it easier to meaningfully engage them in watershed assessments than can occur in bioregional assessments. A participatory process should be used whereby communities and groups assess their social and economic well-being using the larger regional social and economic assessment as a base of information for comparative analysis. When successful, these assessments will also have a collection of stories and reflections from the people of the area in addition to quantitative and qualitative analyses of resources and conditions.
Watershed assessments generally come after the development of a strategic plan for a larger landscape. They address the following tasks:
1) They interpret the implications of the goals in the strategic plan for the area, in the context of site-specific information and analysis.
2)They develop a "place-based" analysis that provides context for developing small landscape plans.
3)They identify important ecological, social, economic and institutional variables to monitor during management implementation.
4) (More to come)
These efforts develop scientifically credible conservation strategies for species and ecosystems. These strategies are then employed as the foundation on which large landscape and small landscape plans are built.
They develop strategies for conserving the focal species defined in the bioregional assessment and for threatened, endangered, and sensitive species, using the procedures for estimating species viability developed in the bioregional assessment. They also develop strategies to conserve ecosystem integrity, using procedures for estimating the level of ecosystem integrity in different ecosystems in the bioregion developed in the bioregional assessment.
The develop strategies for increasing the stewardship capacity of current institutional arrangements, government programs, and community-based conservation organizations in order to achieve the goals of the national forest system.
They also provide guidance on other regional issues.
Large and Small Landscape Plans
Both strategic plans and implementation plans should address all lands within the geographic area. They should build on the plans already in existence, reacting to issues and problems with these plans as identified in a collaborative effort. The likely management of non-federal lands is considered to estimate the context and likely cumulative effects of federal land management. A coordinated plan for all federal land would ideally be the result at both levels. These plans should be done collaboratively in partnership with other federal agencies, states, and local governments, tribes, and the public. In this way, the federal land management plans are coordinated with plans or anticipated activities that states and localities have for some or all of the area. From the perspective of public participation, these planning process utilize a knowledge base on which there is at best tentative agreement among the interested parties and consider values that are often ambiguous and conflicting. Thus, they require extended stakeholder and expert deliberation and cannot be reduced to "routine" decisions.
Large Landscape Plans (Strategic Plans)
Large Landscape Plans (Strategic Plans) have the following characteristics: they provide a set of strategies to achieve sustainability and place management of the national forests in a regional context based on the bioregional assessments and other information. They set resource management goals for different parts of the national forests including criteria and indicators for measuring accountability and effectiveness. They create a policy dialogue that involves public as participants and employ a technical review process to assess the use of knowledge in developing the strategic plans. Generally, the plans should be completed within one year and updated as issues arise or conditions demand.
We have named the strategic planning level the "large landscape plan" because the ecological scale of the resource issues often extends beyond the boundaries of a single national forest. Measuring the ability of plans to conserve the species and ecosystems of interest can occur only when the implications of plans for these species and ecosystems are "added up". The plans must "fit together" in this aspect. If bioregional guidance is available, that will be used to make sure these plans, in aggregate, provide the needed protection. If the large landscape plans are to develop the needed conservation strategies, coordination of large landscape plans will be needed to address specific species and ecosystems.
One of the primary purposes of having these plans involve all federal agencies and producing a coordinated plan is to enable cooperation across arbitrary administrative boundaries in an effort to significantly strengthen their joint stewardship capacity. In other words, we expect coordinated strategic plans to enable joint decision making at the implementation level across ranger districts, across national forests or grasslands, between national forest system lands and other federal land managing agencies, and with regulatory agencies sharing jurisdictional responsibility. These plans should be anticipatory and future oriented so as to reduce the need for "after the fact" consultation. While consultation will no doubt continue to be a part of the implementation process at the small landscape level, we would expect that it would be related to the specific issues posed by a specific set of conditions.
Strategic planning of large landscapes should:
1) Set goals for different parts of the landscape expressed in terms of the desired future landscape condition, and the uses and outputs, to achieve ecological sustainability and contribute to economic and social sustainability. Developing a vision of the future landscape conditions and outcomes needed to achieve this result should be a central focus of planning. Given the likely conditions that will occur on nonfederal land in the future, the federal agencies need to develop a vision of the future condition of forests, rangelands, and watersheds that will be sought and the goods, values, uses, and services that they will provide.
2) Compare the current condition of the landscape, derived from the bioregional assessment and other information, to the desired condition,
3) Develop a strategy for moving to the desired condition. Make an estimate of the suite of actions (type, amount, budget) needed to move the existing conditions to the desired conditions in the context of likely unplanned disturbances, ie., propose a pathway from the current conditions to the desired future conditions in terms of the suite of proposed actions (type, amount, budget) and resulting conditions through time.
4) Estimate likely affects on species and ecosystems and (qualitatively) on economies and communities over time. This work would estimate the viability of focal, threatened and endangered, and sensitive species and of the level of ecosystem integrity.
The purpose of strategic planning is to set a clear course of action for a specified period of time. These Plans should answer the question: "What are conditions and outcomes that we should seek on the national forests to provide for ecological sustainability and to contribute to economic and social sustainability, how will their accomplishment be measured, what kinds of actions do we need to take to achieve them, and what will it cost?
Small Landscape Plans (Implementation Plans)
Determine the mix of activities and projects needed to meet the goals in the strategic plan--to implement the strategic plans. A key information component will be the watershed assessments that will facilitate the development of management options within a participatory framework. Projects are developed in combination, to the degree possible, with attention to cumulative effects, and include implementation schedules, measurable performance standards, budget plans and staffing plans. A technical field review process helps evaluate effectiveness of the projects in meeting the goals. Plans are developed within 6 months and remain in effect for the duration of the activities. New activities can be added at any time to the overall plan with consideration of cumulative impacts and consistency with the general strategic intent of the plan. This is the planning level that is based upon Adaptive Management, meaning that it is a continuous cycle of activity, evaluation and review, adaptation and change.
From the process of defining activities to meet the goals, planning teams will be able to estimate the kinds of staff needed to accomplish these activities, the budgets necessary to carry them out, and the kinds of cooperative actions necessary to build sufficient implementation capacity. Once there is a relatively clear set of proposed activities at the field level of the organization, the planning analysis then "backs up" through the structure of the agency, always focused on how the next level up in the organizational hierarchy can best help achieve the proposed activities. In this way, the resource planning process is integrated with the management planning that includes the staff and budget resources required to carry out the specified projects and activities. It is difficult to estimate the budgets, resources, and outputs that will be forthcoming at the strategic planning level. Only in the proximate activities of a site specific implementation plan can accurate estimates of inputs and outputs be established, clear accountability measures applied, and links to budgets for multiple purpose projects be clearly defined.
The need to consider connected actions and cumulative effects and to enable the public to see the geographic context within which the actions will occur argues for an approach to project planning that considers a larger geographic area than that usually covered by a single project. These areas of interest will rarely follow national forest boundaries. Current examples are sometimes called "site-specific" landscape plans, and following this experience, we anticipate that small landscape plans will cover from 10,000 to 150,000 acres.
There are times when individual controversial projects or decisions may threaten to derail a small landscape planning process; in such cases experience suggests that they need to be "worked on some more" before they can be incorporated into the small landscape plans. Sometimes these issues are controversial because of their immediate effects, for example a decision to close part of a campground because of the presence of bald eagle nesting sites. Other times, the controversy stems from strongly different perspectives on the issue or resource. And other times, there are extremely important, but very site-specific issues, as in the case of a rock sacred to several Indian tribes but also of important local interest. In all such cases, it is reasonable to allow for highly contextualized planning processes to emerge from the nature of the problem. Decisions made in these cases can be added to the small landscape plans when ready. In such cases, it would be appropriate to evaluate them separately, but the cumulative effects of the project must be analyzed with others before including them in the small landscape plan.
Since planning is a creative, educative and learning process, effective problem solving at the level of the "site-specific" small landscape depends on allowing flexibility to local managers to recognize and work within local conditions in achieving the desired conditions of the landscape. This approach rests on utilizing the creative powers of national forest managers and the collaborative group assisting the mangers in planning for the management of these complex systems. It relies on this discretion to improve the reliability and effectiveness of the policies at the local level.
Part and parcel with this discretion is the need for independent evaluation of how well these site-specific implementation plans achieve the strategic goals, including highlighting creative solutions and innovative approaches. Without the independent evaluation of the specific projects and their implementation, it is difficult to justify flexibility at the local level. Issues of trust, the ability of local managers to develop local actions to address strategic goals and the success of implementation all increase as the amount of discretion increase. Yet the key to successful implementation is to harness the creative talents of national forest managers and interested members of businesses, communities, tribes, state and local governments and the public. Thus, there is a need for an evaluation of the site-specific landscape plans and their implementation. The difficulty for organizations to engage in self-critique argues for an independent assessment. The recent review of implementation of PACFISH offers an example of how an independent team can assess and improve implementation of a strategic plan.
Performance evaluation of complex strategies depends on the ability to "add up" the cumulative effects of multiple projects and multiple activities at the large landscape scale. Measurement of plan performance would be done through 1) comparing the expected actions from the strategic plans to actions undertaken on an annual basis and 2) comparing movement toward the desired conditions every few years. Either of those measures might have four results: 1) concluding things are fine, 2) adjusting the actions that would be undertaken to achieve the mix assumed in the strategic plan, 3) considering a change in the mix of treatments in the strategic plan, or 4) considering a change in the desired future conditions.
CHAPTER 4. PLANNING TO ACIEVE SUSTAINABILITY AND DEEPEN PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
4B THE CHALLENGE OF SCIENCE-BASED PLANNING
As a general principle, the COS believes that forest plans and planning should be based upon our knowledge of the world while recognizing the uncertainties surrounding that knowledge. One aspect of this knowledge comes from science and scientists.
Over the last decade, the notion of "science-based" planning for natural resource management has taken hold inside and outside of the Forest Service. Managers seek it, interest groups call for it, and the public expects it. For planning and plans to be credible in the 21st century, they must reflect our latest findings and thinking about how the world works. And a major part of that knowledge comes from science.
Many people in our hearings have called for the plans to be "science-based". By that, we believe they mean the forest plans and planning should incorporate and reflect the cumulative knowledge from science about the portrayal of relationships and processes. In addition, others have called for the use of indigenous ecological knowledge.
This section attempts to answer two questions: 1) what is "science-based" planning?, 2) how can the scientific community help make it work?
In the first round of forest plans under NFMA, managers and inter-disciplinary teams sorted though the available information to design strategies that would allow the maximum sustain yield of commodities and amenities subject to "minimum management requirements" for protection of species and ecosystems. Scientists, by-and-large, sat on the sidelines. A series of lawsuits in the Pacific Northwest about the adequacy of protection for old-growth species and salmon stocks in these plans revealed that the strategies for these species on federal land would not hold up to scientific scrutiny. This led the Forest Service and other federal agencies to call for "scientifically credible conservation strategies", first specifically for the northern spotted owl and then for old growth species and salmon stocks in general.
Scientists, under the leadership of Jack Ward Thomas, moved immediately from the side lines to center stage to construct scientifically credible strategies for management of the federal forests of the northwest. These efforts through four studies resulted in a set of alternatives for management of these lands, along with estimates of the ecological, economic, and social effects of these alternatives. One of these options, with some modification, became the President’s plan for Northwest forests, and finally, the federal forests had a plan that could withstand legal challenge.
Rumblings about the adequacy of protection of species and ecosystems in the forest plans also occurred in the early to mid 1990s in the southwest, south and most other regions in the country through protests, lawsuits, and attempts for Congressional action. Many of these dustups resulted in a call for science and scientists to help sort out the competing arguments.
The work in the Northwest created ripples far beyond that region in terms of the role of science in forest planning and management. In both the interior Columbia basin and the Tongass National Forest, as an example, the heavy involvement of scientists has continued, although now in a slightly different form. In these efforts, scientists are heavily involved in assessing current conditions and trends, while managers craft conservation strategies and make initial estimates of effects. Both are involved in identifying the issues to be analyzed and setting up the conceptual framework for analysis. Scientists then review the consistency of these estimates with scientific understanding and publish a report.
Throughout the country, the Forest Service has embraced the notion of planning based on science as one of the tenants of forest management--even if we do not yet have institutions and procedures for making it a reality.
WHAT IS SCIENCE-BASED PLANNING?
Science-based planning is planning that incorporates current scientific thought into the planning process and the plans that result. The relevant scientific results and informed judgment of scientists are known, critically evaluated, used, and relied upon. Issues in planning that have a significant scientific content include whether the temporal and spatial scales being considered are appropriate for the questions being asked, whether all relevant information is considered, whether it interpreted in a manner consistent with current scientific understanding, whether the level of risk to species and ecosystems associated with the alternatives is acknowledged, and whether the uncertainty of our knowledge is recognized.
In the application of science to managing large landscapes, we generally are not talking about classic application of the scientific method. Hypothesis testing at the landscape scale though controlled experiments is difficult. Rather, we are talking about scientific knowledge as a set of working hypotheses which are informed by experiments, demonstrations, argument, and reflection. Over time these hypotheses are retained, revised, and discarded as needed. Scientists expect them to change--eternal truths are hard to find. Often their revision occurs at the most inopportune time for managers
In science-based planning, the scientific community can expect to be asked to help with at least five different tasks:
1) Creating knowledge of relevance to forest planning: Scientists are often asked to research specific problems encountered in planning and summarizing the state of knowledge about them. Science traditionally proceeds by breaking problems into smaller pieces and redefining them to enable the formation and testing of hypotheses about the way the world works. Forest planning certainly uncovers many of these types of problems that need scientific analysis whether it be the habitat requirements of owls, the effectiveness of fuel breaks in stopping wildfires, or whether increasing the natural look of clearcuts makes them more palatable to the public. Scientists also are often asked to prepare "white papers" that summarize the state of knowledge about different problems or issues such as the owl, fuel break, and clearcut design problems mentioned above.
2) Working on the "integrative science" of regional assessment and planning. Many of the scientific problems of regional assessment and strategic planning, however, address the whole rather than the pieces. As an example, recent issues tackled by scientists included how to assess the state of different fish stocks in the 160 million acre Columbia basin, the state of forest health in the northern Rockies, and approaches to analyze the implications of placing roads in roadless areas. What to measure and on what scale to provide a scientific foundation for a conservation strategy? Answering these questions require integration of different types of information and at scales not usually encountered in traditional science.
3) Help managers understand the application of this scientific and technical knowledge to management problems
As new planning requirements are issued from Congress, the Administration or the courts, scientists are often called to help interpret them from a scientific standpoint and make sure that the resulting instructions to the field have scientific credibility. As an example, our proposed regulation on biological sustainability uses the concepts of "ecosystem integrity" and "species viability" as central concepts. Scientists will be involved in interpreting the meaning of these concepts.
As specialists, planners, and managers proceed with strategic planning, they have a multitude of questions about the scientific credibility of there proposals including their conservation strategies for different species and ecosystems. Answering these questions, as vital as they are to the planning effort, are not the traditional domain of research scientists.
As specialists and managers being to implement science-based strategic plans, they want the assistance of scientists to help craft creative ways to accomplish plan objectives. Strategic plans usually contain default prescriptions to implement the conservation strategy without much further analysis. As might be expected, they often don’t fit field conditions very well. Yet managers are understandably reluctant to vary far from the standard prescription without assistance and field review by scientists.
4) Helping to design effectiveness monitoring procedures and the experiments needed under adaptive management. Monitoring is a key component of science-based planning. Yet, there are few standard procedures to draw on in designing effectiveness monitoring procedures for the millions of acres in a strategic plan. This especially holds true with the limited funds available for such work. Selecting an efficient, yet dependable, set of measures will require scientific involvement.
5) Evaluating the use of scientific thought in planning and implementation. Once a strategic plan is proposed or a set of projects are outlined, along with estimates of the effects of these plans and projects, policy-makers, interest groups, and the public often ask or challenge the scientific basis of these proposals. These "science consistency checks" and field project reviews are just beginning but could become an important new role for scientists under science-based planning.
HOW DO WE ORGANIZE TO SUPPORT SCIENCE-BASED PLANNING?
For science-based planning and management to succeed on the National Forests, we make three major recommendations:
1) Forest Service Research must shoulder major responsibilities for
science-based planning. Forest Service Research must provide the day-to-day delivery of results, evaluation, and advice needed to address the seven tasks listed above. While this effort may be assisted by scientists in other federal agencies and outside the federal government, Forest Service Research must form its core. This effort will call for an expanded mission for this branch of the Forest Service and will require allocating significant portion of the energies of this organization to supporting national forest planning and management.
The Forest Service is blessed with its own research organizations--one of the finest natural resource research organizations in the world. Forest Service Research has fought for and achieved a mission that emphasizes scholarly work publishable in peer-reviewed journals and allows considerable independence from the immediate needs of the national forest system. While making science-based planning work will require efforts both inside and outside the federal government, we have reached one inescapable conclusion about the key to its success: science-based planning can succeed only if there is a strong, deep, and sustained commitment to it from Forest Service Research.
Of the suite of tasks mentioned above, only the first one has been the traditional domain of Forest Service Research on a regular basis. Requests for help on the other six have been very occasional and are seen as a "special assignment"--- an extraordinary activity not related to the "real work" of the research unit. All this must change if science-based planning is to have a reasonable chance of success.
2) Institutions and procedures need to be established to evaluate, on a regular basis, the use of scientific thought in planning and implementation. These reviews are both to provide independent verification of the science-basis of plans and their implementation, and to highlight and reward creative approaches to the challenging issues faced in the management of the national forests. The knowledge of an evaluation at the end of the planning process should, by its very presence, encourage collaboration between managers, specialists and scientists as the plans are developed.
There should be an evaluation of the use of scientific and technical information in strategic planning, i.e., an evaluation of the consistency of strategic planning and plans with scientific and technical understanding. A potential role model for this effort is the "science consistency" check, recently pioneered in the Tongass National Forest land management plan (Everest et al., 1997)---a technique for evaluating if the information transferred from scientists to policy makers and planners was understood by them. The science consistency check can be used to achieve consistency through iterative application that involve successive improvements in how the scientists state their finding and how the framers of management policy interpret the implications of those findings. In the case of the Tongass National forest planning effort, the science consistency check was itself subjected to scientific peer review. Because a finding or lack of consistency can be a point of appeal or legal challenge; a thoughtful, thorough check can help sidestep that problem. Questions that would be asked include: Are the temporal and spatial scales being considered useful for the resource conservation issues being addressed? Was all relevant information considered? Was this information interpreted in a manner consistent with current scientific understanding? Has the level of risk to species and ecosystems associated with the alternatives been acknowledged and reported? Has the uncertainty of our knowledge been recognized?
Field reviews of projects should also be conducted. These reviews should address two basic questions: 1) whether the proposed actions were a credible attempt to meet the goals of the plans from a scientific and technical viewpoint and 2) whether the actions taken in the field were consistent with what was proposed. The interagency PACFISH reviews could serve as a model for this effort , assuming that the interagency committee was broadened to consider all the values recognized in the plans.
3) The Chief of the Forest Service should establish a science and technology advisory board with a primary goal of helping science-based planning become a reality on the national forests. This board would provide highly qualified and independent advice to the Forest Service to assure that the most current and complete scientific and technical knowledge is used as the basis of land and resource management. The Board would help the Forest Service effectively accomplish the suite of tasks, such as those listed above, important to successful implementation of science-based planning. They would be especially useful in advising the Forest Service on how to accomplish the many tasks that will require new directions and energies from the Forest Service Research and the scientific committee in general.
The Board’s members would include scientists and other specialists from a broad range of disciplines -- biology, ecology, economics, sociology, and other fields. The members should come from a wide variety of organizations doing scientific work including academia, industry, independent laboratories, and native communities. There will be a variety of backgrounds represented in the diverse and well-qualified group to help ensure a broad range of outside perspectives. The membership shall consist of an interdisciplinary group of nationally known scientists and planning experts from outside the National Forest System. The variety of scientific and technical specialties on the Committee should span the range of resources, issues, values, and geographic regions encountered in national forest management.
In addition to members, the activities of the Board may be enhanced by consultants invited by a committee chair to serve on an "as needed" basis on various issues where their expertise is relevant. The number of consultants is flexible and their one-year term can be extended indefinitely. Consultants would be expected to meet the same standards of technical expertise as the members.
The 20 year history of the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency could serve as a role model for some elements of the Forest Service Board. Because the requests for projects now exceed the number that the Boards can address, the EPA SAB has adopted the following criteria for prioritizing requests:
* Impact overall environmental protection
* Address novel scientific problems or principles
* Integrate science into Agency actions in new ways
* Influence long-term technology development
* Deal with problems that transcend organizational boundaries
* Strengthen the Agency's overall capabilities
* Serve leadership interests
* Deal with controversial issues
These criteria may useful for the Forest Service to consider in establishing this Board.
Side bar on Advisory Boards
The Scientific Roundtable on Biodiversity convened by the Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forest serves as an example of how advisory boards have advised Forest Service in their land management. In this case, two advisory boards, convened in 1992, were made of teams of scientists and sociologists who subsequently provided reports that have influenced land management on these two national forests in Wisconsin. One group focused on scientific issues, particularly on biodiversity, and the second focused on socioeconomic aspects of managing the forest.
The Scientific Roundtable assessed particular risks, involving diversity in northern Wisconsin. Each risk was ranked according to its severity, possible responsiveness to changes in management, and uncertainty. The Roundtable concluded that many biodiversity concerns were best approached on a regional or landscape scale.
The Roundtable developed 23 sets of management recommendations, emphasizing how particular risks could be mitigated or eliminated and discussed how uncertainties might be resolved via future research. The Roundtable also recommended that further research monitoring is needed to more accurately detect threats to diversity and to assess how threatened elements respond to changes in resource management.
The Roundtable was successful in terms of bringing science to bear on the complex and difficult issues surrounding biodiversity. The research and management recommendations are now being used to influence management processes on these two national forests in Wisconsin.
4D. MONITORING AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT
Monitoring is the measurement of environmental characteristics over an extended period of time to determine status or trends in some aspect of environmental integrity. The challenge is to decide what characteristics of the environment to measure, to determine what their values indicate about environmental integrity, and to use that information to make better management decisions. The Forest Service recognizes three types of monitoring: (1) implementation -- have the management standards and guidelines been employed; (2) effectiveness -- are the standards and guidelines producing the desired outcomes; and (3) validation – are the basic assumptions about cause and effect relationships use to predict the management response valid. Our discussion here focuses primarily on effectiveness monitoring, though it has a very close relationship to validation monitoring.
We broadly define environmental attributes to include any biotic or abiotic features of the environment that can be measured. The convention has been to refer to the measured attributes as ‘indicator variables’ under the assumption that their values are indicative of the integrity of the larger ecosystem to which they belong. We adopt this definition, and extend it to include the concept of focal species. These are species who fulfill the indicator criterion, but in addition provide specific insights to the biological diversity of the system.
Monitoring can occur at a variety of spatial scales, and is justified for a variety of purposes. For example, monitoring is an essential component of the adaptive management process. Particularly relevant to the Forest Service planning process, however, is the value of monitoring as a tool to assess attainment of the sustainability goal. In a sense, a plan is a hypothesis about how we expect the ecosystem to respond to planned management actions. The only way we can determine the truth of this hypothesis is to observed and measure the system. A lack of concordance between expectation and observation could lead to a revision of the plan, and changes in management standards and guidelines. Thus monitoring is much more than just measurement -- it must include analysis and assessment.
Because it is impossible to monitor and manage every aspect of ecological sustainability, shortcuts to monitoring are needed. Elsewhere in this report we discuss the value of focal species as surrogate measures to the integrity of the larger ecosystem and to biological diversity in general. In addition, it is also prudent to measure attributes that act as early warning signals to loss of biological sustainability before unacceptable loss has occurred. One way to narrow the list of candidate indicators is to first list those factors -- human-induced or natural stressors -- that may compromise the sustainability goal. Given this list of stressors, one selects to measure those aspects of the environment that are most indicative of stressor action. This form of monitoring is both anticipatory, and provides insights into cause and effect relationships between stressors and expected ecosystem responses.
In the following, we summarize the key components of an effective monitoring program for those lands dependent upon Forest Service stewardship.
Specifiy the goals of ecological sustainability in measurable terms.
Characterize the threats and stressors that may compromise ecological sustainability.
Develop conceptual models that outline the pathways from stressor action to ecological effects.
Select the indicators of sustainability responsive to anticipated stressors.
Determine the necessary detection limits for the indicator variables.
Establsih critical values (or distributions) for the indicator variables that will trigger management intervention to prevent a loss of sustainability.
Establish how the monitoring results will feedback to the management decision making process.
Most public land management agencies assert they are managing the nation’s resources according to an adaptive management paradigm. In general, this suggests a structured process of reducing uncertainty about environmental responses to management by viewing management actions as experiments. The term ‘experiment’ is important here as it suggests a kind of scientific rigor based on explicit principles of experimental design. It is our opinion that this rigor is, in fact, absent from most management practices, and these actions are incorrectly portrayed as ‘adaptive management’. This requires a clarification of various ways of ‘learning by doing’.
Three primary ways of accumulating knowledge are possible if management actions are viewed as experiments. These include (1) ‘trial and error’ learning in which initial management choices are made haphazardly, and subsequent choices are based on the subset that was successful; (2) ‘passive adaptive’ management in which existing data are thoroughly reviewed prior to each management decision, and the decision selected is based on the current, best understanding of how ‘nature works’; and (3) ‘active adaptive’ management where all existing data are thoroughly reviewed prior to each decision, but a range of alternative response models are developed. A decision (selection of an alternative) is made based on an analysis of expected short-term gains versus the long-term benefits of learning which model of how nature works is most correct. That is, there is some long-term utility in reducing the uncertainty that accompanies our management decisions. What distinguishes these modes of learning is that in adaptive management a major effort is made to synthesize existing information into dynamic models that make predictions about the impacts of alternative management practices. No such synthesis or model construction occurs in trial and error learning.
All these modes of learning require monitoring the results of the management action. That is, the only way in which learning is possible is to observe if the environment responded as envisioned. A lack of concordance between observation and expectation would lead to a revised model of how the ecosystem functions and is likely to response to management action. For the foreseeable future, we will be uncertain about the short and long-term environmental consequences of our management decisions. Thus, the manager is responsible for conducting management so as to incrementally reduce this uncertainty. These methods of acquiring knowledge are all assumed responsive to the public trust because uncertainty about the ecosystem is reduced by the results of the management experiment. However, the rate at which uncertainty is reduced is greatest for the active adaptive management paradigm, and least for trial and error learning.
Active adaptive management is difficult, time-consuming, and often expensive. The challenge of managing adaptively arises from the requirements of experimentation including:
(1) replication and randomization of management treatments, and the need for control areas; (2) the formulation of competing models (or hypotheses) of how the system will respond to management; (3) an initial assessment of belief in the ‘truth’ of the different models (model likelihoods); (4) a statement of each hypotheses (model) in terms of measurable variables; (4) monitoring the results of the ‘experiment’ to determine which model is most parsimonious with the results; (5) updating model likelihoods based on the results of the experiment. The next round of management decisions is then based on the results of the previous experiment, with greater weight given to the model best supported by the existing data. The process is iterative, continuing until uncertainty about system response has been reduced to an acceptable level.
Given the stringent requirements for adaptive management, it is clear that few management actions will be correctly characterized as adaptive. Also, requiring all management actions to be cast in the context of adaptive is unrealistic. This begs the questions, "when do the benefits of adaptive management outweigh its costs", and "when should it be chosen as the appropriate paradigm for management?" We suggest that the following guideline: the adaptive management paradigm should be adopted when the environmental consequences of the action are highly uncertain, and to the degree the management action may result in irreversible loss. When these conditions are met, then an adaptive management design should be adopted. This linkage between science and management presents an obvious opportunity for collaboration between the management and research branches of the Forest Service.
CHAPTER 5. EXTERNAL INFLUENCES ON FOREST SERVICE PLANNING
5A. The BUDGET PROCESS
In this section, we address three issues that are sometimes seen as being beyond land and resource planning and yet have the potential to undercut its effectiveness. These are: 1) the budgeting process, 2) the appeals process, and 3) requirements of other laws and regulations.
1. The Budget Process and Planning
a) Independence of the planning and budgeting processes:
For planning to be meaningful it needs to bear a relationship to the current and likely future situation. To achieve this there must be some relationship between the plan and the budget available to undertake the plan. One of the issues raised regularly as a major weakness of the current process is that of the failure of plans to be implemented. Much of this problem is related to the weak link between the planning process and the budget. A common complaint that the COS heard in its hearings across the country is that the plan is often (commonly) not accompanied with a budget that comports with the plan. Thus, the budget available does not provide sufficient funding to allow for the plan to be implemented as developed.
The lack of correspondence between the budget and the plan are of two types. First, the total budget provided by the Congress is typically less than that required for the planning. Second, the Congressional budget is allocated by "programs" and bears little relationship to the configuration of the individual forest plans. Thus, for example, the budget passed by the Congress may allow funding of 110 percent of the total timber called for in the plan, but only 30 percent of the planned recreation.
Although some have argued that budgeting is an internal problem that the FS is able to circumvent, it appears to be driven more by Congressional prerogatives then agency decisions. While the FS has some discretion in developing the initial budget request and in reallocating funds among budget categories after Congressional action, the ability to fund the plans as approved is typically beyond the control of the FS.
This problem was exacerbated in the first round of plans where little consideration often was given to fiscal reality . Those plans developed both the goals for forest management and also a set of actions for the plan decade to achieve these goals. The activity set was generally developed generally without limiting budget needs to current experience. Rather the plans were developed to help define the budget that would be needed, based on conclusions reached by the Forest Service after much analysis and public involvement.
The current budgeting process is approximately as follows: a) The Forest Supervisors estimate the budget required to carry out the Forest Plan on an annual basis; b) These budgets are totaled by the FS and submitted to the Department of Agriculture; c) The Department of Agriculture provides a budget ceiling, typically less than requested by the FS; d) This budget goes to OMB and is negotiated, with the FS included in the negotiations; e) the Administration proposed budget is presented to the Congress; finally, f) Congress then produces a budget based on its priorities that is signed by the President.
The operation of the budgeting process as described above is largely independent of the planning process and the plans, except that Congress generally accepts upper limits on commodity outputs, such as the allowable sale levels, defined in the plans. Furthermore, since the final allocations in the Congressional budget are on the basis of programs, not plans, the budgeted items typically are poorly related to the various plan items. Finally, the total budget appropriated by the Congress is typically less than what is required to financial the forest plans.
This disconnect leads to a number of unfortunate results. First, the Forest Service has to patch together the different functional budget provisions to undertake the integrated management increasingly mandated by the plans and courts. Second, the unequal budgeting for different resources and outputs means that the plan goals are unequally met. Finally, it undermines public confidence in the forest planning process as people find that the hard earned compromises fought out in the forest plans cannot be implemented fully.
b) Approaches for improving the relationship between land and resource planning and budgets
In concept, the RPA and NFMA envisioned the Congress drawing-up FS budgets with reference to widely accepted forest plans. If Congress were to be attentive to the plans and their components, Congressional budgets would be informed by the plans and, presumably, funding would reflect the size and priorities of the plan.
Some have argued that alternative budgeting approaches are likely to be more efficient. For example, the National Park Service receives Congressional funding by individual park. Such an approach has been suggested for the Forest Service, and in fact, the Quincy Library legislation provides for separate funding for a part of the National Forest. If the Congress were to provide the total Forest Service budget using a line item forest-by-forest funding approach, the chances of a closer correspondence between the forest plan and the budget might be enhanced.
Within the current budgeting process, however, some changes could be undertaken to improve the correspondence between the budget and the Plan. This approach recognizes that for the Plan to have any creditability there must be some reasonable expectation that it can be implemented. In general, these adjustments would recognize that the planning needs to adhere to the likely the budget rather than assuming that the budget will adhere to the plan. At the same time, these suggestions should allow for the role of planning to describe the possibilities that might be achieve with sufficient budgets.
The central role of budgets: affecting the rate of achievement of the desired future condition
In general, as discussed in the section on planning processes, strategic plans should focus on long-term goals for management of the national forests and different areas within them, leaving the details of achievement of these goals to the tactical year-to-year implementation plans. In this model, strategic plans focus on setting the goals for different areas of the forest, the priority for these goals, and the desired future condition associated with these goals. The plans would also estimate of the pathway (mix of actions over time) to achieve these goals with the magnitude of the effort keyed to expected budgets.
It would be useful for the strategic plans to outline progress toward achieving long-term goals and the associated desired future conditions under a number of budget levels, in addition to expected budgets, and how these increased or decreased budgets would affect progress. As an example, it could be that needed hazard reduction would take a long time under current budgets and be sped up considerably under a higher budget level. This information will be useful in formulating budget requests and in altering the public as to the implications of different budget levels.
In each year, implementation analysis of the actions needed to move toward the long-term goals would provide the basis of the budget request. Resulting budgets would determine the mix of actions actually used to more toward the goals and how rapidly progress would be made.
Under this scheme, year-to-year budget variations would not necessitate change in the long-term goals of the plan or in the choice of the "desired future condition" of the forest. However, reduced budgets would likely change the time profile associated with achieving a desired future condition and so affect the time profile of the outcomes associated with meeting the future desired condition goals.
It would be useful to all those interested in management of the national forests to understand how the annual budget level and distribution among programs is affecting progress toward long-term goals. Information in the differential funding among different resources and outputs would be of special value, along with the overall level of budget. Therefore, an annual report should be published that outlines how the budget for the year is affecting progress toward long-term goals. Also, as plans are revised, they should compare actual budgets for the plan period to those that were expected.
The role of budgeting in setting the desired future condition itself
Budgets need consideration in setting the desired future condition--the long-term goals for management of the national forests--in at least two ways. First, it would be important to understand whether the budgets required to maintain the desired future condition, once achieved, are at all reasonable. As an example, some strategies for maintaining forest structures in fire-prone landscapes rely on prescribed fire every few years. It may be that the total budgets for these activities add up to a budget much higher that foreseen as likely. While it is improbable that the desired future condition would stay constant over the time needed to achieve it, an evaluation of the realism of the budget needs to maintain this condition would be instructive. If these budget levels seemed out of line with likely budgets in the long-term, forest planning would evaluate other desired future conditions more compatible with likely budgets.
Second, the long-term goals may need adjustment if it becomes clear that Congress is unlikely to fund accomplishment of the management goals. While we would not want the strategic plan to react to each years budget level and distribution, five or 10 years of budgets that systematically do not fund achievement of some goals in the strategic plan send a signal. As an example, if Congress does not fund monitoring year-after-year, then strategic plans need to be adjusted to reflect these realities, which may include limiting activities whose performance is dependent on monitoring their effects.
The importance of self-funding activities
Strategic planning and implementation planning should consider activities to accomplish their goals that at least partially pay for themselves. While these activities, such as timber harvest, may not turn out to be appropriate, it must be acknowledged that activities that can pay for themselves are often more likely to occur than those that do not.
Summary: Recommendations for improving the relationship between land and resource planning and budgeting
a) The strategic plan should concentrate on setting the long-term goals and the associated desired future condition and make a first estimate of the pathway (mix of actions) over time to achieve these conditions. The estimated rate of accomplishment of the desired conditions should be keyed to expected budgets, along with analysis of how increased or decreased budgets will affect the rate of progress. The details of actions to achieve progress toward these goals, however, should be left to implementation planning.
b) As part of strategic planning, the budget needs of maintaining the desired future condition should be examined; if they appear unrealistic, less budget-intensive desired future conditions should be considered.
c) Implementation plans, updated on a yearly-basis, should be the basis for the budget requests.
d) Budget short-falls will affect implementation plans and rate of progress toward goals; they do not automatically trigger a revision in the strategic plan
e) If it becomes clear over time that Congress is unlikely to fund accomplishment of the management goals, then the strategic plan itself may need revision. During plan revision, a comparison should be made between the expected and actual budget during the plan period.
f) An annual report should be published that outlines how the budget for the year is affecting progress toward long-term goals.
g) Both strategic planning and implementation planning should consider activities that have the potential to pay for themselves, in addition to activities that rely solely on appropriated funds.
h) The national forests should continue experiments to fund entire programs for individual national forests and should report on the experience with this approach so far.
5B. REQUIREMENTS OF OTHER LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Numerous observers, including the GAO, a former Chief and others, have maintained that the overlapping of various environmental laws, e.g., the NEPA, ESA, NFMA, CWA , etc. generates substantial difficulties. The best laid plans for the National Forests may be knocked over by these other laws under the current approach, causing despair and disdain inside and outside the Forest Service. Given Congress’s apparent reluctance to "harmonize" the environmental laws though legislation, it appears that administrative reform is the best route to overcoming these problems. Toward that end, we have made a number of suggestions throughout this report:
1) that land and resource planning be undertaken by an interagency team including representatives from agencies responsible for implementing these other laws.
2) that project review of implementation of these plans be done by a similar interagency team.
3) that a coordinated strategic plan be developed across federal ownerships within a region.
4) that the planning processes associated with the other laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, be examined and integrated with the planning process mandated under NFMA.
We realize that the regulatory agencies, especially FWS, NMFS, and EPA, are part of the check and balance system for land management agencies to ensure that these agencies do not neglect legal mandates for protection of species and ecosystems. While we fully expect continuation of that role by these agencies, we feel that the changes suggested here will reduce administrative surprise and get the concerns of other agencies addressed early in the process as opposed to after the land and resource plans are completed.
36 Code of Federal Regulations § 219.1
Purpose, Goals, and Principles
(a) Purpose. The National Forest System constitutes an extraordinary national legacy created by people of vision and preserved for future generations by diligent and far-sighted public servants and citizens. They are the people’s lands, emblems of our democratic traditions.
The national forests and grasslands can provide many and diverse benefits to the American people. These include clean air and water, productive soils, biological diversity, goods and services, employment opportunities, community benefits, recreation, and naturalness. They also give us intangible qualities such as beauty, inspiration, and wonder.
Yet all of these benefits depend upon the long-term sustainability of the watersheds, forests, and rangelands. Accordingly, the first priority for stewardship in the national forests and grasslands must be to maintain and restore the sustainability of watersheds, forests, and rangelands for present and future generations. Building on this foundation of sustainability, the national forests should provide a wide variety of uses, values, products, and services that are of importance to so many Americans, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, wildlife and fish, water use, and mining.
The objective of planning for the National Forest System is to guide stewardship so as to fulfill the purposes of the national forests and grasslands and to honor their unique place in American life. The regulations in this subpart set forth a process for developing, adopting, implementing, and revising land and resource management plans for the National Forest System as required by the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (hereafter, "NFMA"), the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Act of 1974, the Organic Act of 1897, the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Clean Water Act of 1977, and other applicable statutes.
(b) Major Goals and Principles. Forest planning shall strive to achieve the following major goals and embody the following principles:
Goal One. PLANNING STRIVES TO ASSURE THE ECOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR WATERSHEDS, FORESTS, AND RANGELANDS.
The guiding star for planning is sustainability. Like other overreaching national objectives, sustainability is broadly aspirational and can be difficult to define in concrete terms. Yet, especially considering the increased human pressures on the national forests, it becomes ever more essential that planners focus on the moral imperative that lies at the heart of the idea of sustainability, that our use today does not impair the functioning of ecological processes and the ability of these natural resources to contribute economically and socially in the future.
While one function of sustainability is to chart a broad and idealistic objective, important aspects of sustainability can also be defined and measured with some precision in the planning process. First, species viability, which is essential to biological diversity, is a powerful metric. Second, useful measurements can be made of ecosystem productivity through such indicators as fire and flow regimes, water purity, tree and grass growth, air quality, and wildlife population growth. By seeking to sustain biological diversity and ecosystem productivity — by emphasizing what we leave, rather than what we take — forest planning can play a crucial role in laying the necessary foundation for the economic and social components of sustainability: making contributions to strong, productive economies and creating opportunities for enduring human communities.
(a) Planning first provides for the diversity of native plant and animal communities and the productive capacity of ecological systems--the core elements of ecological sustainability. All aspects of sustainability depend upon biological diversity and ecosystem productivity, which make possible the economic and social benefits that national forests and grasslands can provide. Biological diversity, in turn, depends on species viability: diversity is sustained only when species persist. Ecological productivity depends both on species viability and the maintenance of characteristic ecosystem functions and processes in the face of human and natural disturbance. The obligation of planners and managers to provide for species viability and ecosystem integrity is at the center — scientifically, economically, socially, and morally — of stewardship of the national forests and grasslands.
(b) Planning , in order to achieve economic and social sustainability, uses methods and processes that enable the continued contribution of the national forests to communities, economies, and the society-at-large. Planning should illuminate and consider how to maintain, in the long run, a broad range of uses, values, products, and services of a national forest of importance to economies, communities and society at large.
(c) Planning must be based upon science and other knowledge of the natural world. The best available ecological, economic, and social information and analysis must be the foundation of land and resource planning. Planning should consider information from sources such as Native people and other knowledgeable residents.
d) Planning develops and uses an early warning system for determining the scientific credibility of management proposals to provide for ecological sustainability. Many plans in the past has been derailed because they were based on conservation strategies that wilted under scientific scrutiny, often with a disruptive effect on economies and communities. In the future, planning should build in independent review by Forest Service and other scientists of proposed conservation strategies for species and ecosystems before publication of plans.
(e) Plans include mechanisms for evaluating whether stewardship goals have been achieved. Because one of the core functions of planning is to foster informed management decisions through ongoing assessment and evaluation, effective monitoring is a crucial aspect of planning and management. Additionally, independent field review by Forest Service and outside technical and scientific experts plays an important role in monitoring. When appropriate, the results of monitoring and these independent reviews should be incorporated into the plan through amendments.
Goal Two. AS PART OF THE OVERALL GOAL OF SUSTAINABILITY, PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT PROVIDES A WIDE VARIETY OF USES, VALUES, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, AND COMMUNITY BENEFITS.
The national forests have been a grand experiment in providing for the multiple uses — outdoor recreation, range, timber, wildlife and fish, water use, and mining — of these lands on a permanent basis, following Gifford Pinchot’s dictates that the lands be devoted to "their most productive use for the permanent good of the whole people . . . always bearing in mind that the conservative use of these resources in no way conflicts with their permanent value." They should be a shining example for the entire world of stewardship that provides a wide variety of uses, values, products, and services in ways that are compatible with long-term sustainability.
(a) Planning searches for strategies and actions that provide for uses, values, products, and services while at the same time contributing to long-term sustainability. The national forests should direct much of their planning and implementation energies toward developing, applying, documenting, and rewarding strategies and actions that enable the multiple uses to occur in ways that promote long-term sustainability. Strategies and actions that knowingly place species and ecosystems at risk for short-term economic and social benefits will not be pursued.
(b) Planning searches for strategies that produce revenue from these uses, values, products, and services. While it is probably not possible for the national forests to be self-financing, it is important that they produce revenue from human use where that can be done without diminishing long-term sustainability.
(c) Planning recognizes the interdependence of healthy forests, rangelands, and watersheds with healthy communities. Many communities depend on the national forests for much of their economic, social, and cultural sustenance. Planning takes generous account of compelling local circumstances. This includes the needs of ranching, farming, timber, and tourism communities, and Indian reservations. Further, many Hispanic communities in the Southwest depend on the former Spanish and Mexican land grants, which remain critical to them for watershed protection, livestock grazing, subsistence hunting and fishing, firewood gathering, and other purposes.
(d) Planning recognizes the rights of American Indian Tribes. Indian tribes possess unique and important rights recognized by federal treaties, statutes, and executive orders. These Indian laws are not included in "The Principal Laws Relating to Forest Service Activities," but, when applicable, they are every bit as binding on the Forest Service as the ones listed in that compilation. The agency has a general trust responsibility to federally-recognized tribes and a duty to acknowledge them as sovereign governments and to deal with them on a government-to-government basis. Depending on the circumstances of particular tribes and national forests, such lands also may provide for tribal hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, access to sacred sites, protection of graves and other archaeological sites, and watershed protection for downstream Indian reservations, and fishing sites. Stewardship of the national forests must, as is the case with the many other federal laws that apply to the national forests, give full respect to applicable Indian laws and comply with them.
Goal Three. PLANNING RECOGNIZES, AND IS INTEGRATED INTO, THE BROADER GEOGRAPHIC, LEGAL, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL LANDSCAPE WITHIN WHICH NATIONAL FORESTS EXIST.
In every sector of the country, the Forest Service and the national forests are just one important agency and one important land system among many important governmental and private entities and land ownerships. Some of these agencies have statutory authority over the national forests. Other agencies, governments, corporations, and citizens manage land in and around the national forests. Still others have a keen interest in the national forests and can affect the way the political process views Forest Service action. Sustainability of watersheds and other natural areas in which national forests are located will inevitably depend upon activities on other federal lands, tribal, and state lands, and private lands and on the actions and attitudes of a wide variety of agencies, governments and citizens. Also, the different landowners will vary in their ability and interest in providing the mix of uses, products, values, services, that people seek from forests and rangelands. Planning, therefore, must be outward-looking with the goal of understanding the broader landscape in which the national forests sit and the highest values for management of these forests in the context of how people, businesses, and governments will conserve, regulate, and use the lands within and around the national forests.
(a) National forest planning is only one of the processes and procedures for planning the management of the national forests. The days of the Forest Service planning the future management of the national forests on its own are over. The Forest Service shares planning for these lands with other federal agencies (especially those agencies responsible for implementing the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act), other governments, Congress, and Indian tribes and with the broader citizenry that wishes to participate from the beginning. While there is only so much that the planning regulations for a single agency can do to address this situation, the ability to structure the planning process under NFMA to accommodate it will have much to say about the ultimate success of national forest planning in the 21st century.
(b) Effective assessments and planning of our federal lands requires a coordinated approach by all affected federal agencies. Getting all federal agencies with statutory authority over the national forests to the table from the beginning is essential, especially those charged with implementing ESA and CWA.. Obtaining participation, and joint planning, of all federal land management agencies in the area is another key to successful planning. While these regulations cannot require participation and joint planning with other federal agencies, they should accommodate and encourage it.
(c) Planning proceeds from start to finish in close cooperation with state, tribal and local governments. Success in achieving goals for the national forests and grasslands may depend upon decisions made by other jurisdictions; similarly, the Forest Service often can help other jurisdictions achieve their objectives.
(d) Planning is interdisciplinary. Planning must respond to a broad range of scientific, economic, and social concerns. Therefore, planning teams must represent diverse disciplines and work together collectively and collegially to develop information and alternatives. Consultations can be employed to tap other relevant sources of knowledge.
(e) Planning must be based on the spatial and temporal scales necessary to assure sustainability and provide for multiple use. The boundaries of the national forests and grasslands seldom provide the best units for resource planning. Instead, experience has shown that information gathered in resource assessments, at a broad regional scale, with the definition of a "region" occasionally shifting with the issues, and at the watershed level should guide planning. The plans should usually be based on information developed at both large landscape and small landscape scales — respectively larger and smaller than national forests. In order to achieve long-term sustainability, planning must take account of cumulative resource impacts well beyond the life of a plan.
(f) Planning acknowledges the limits and variability of likely budgets. Plans that are unrealistic in budget terms can seldom be implemented, and hence fail to provide proper management guidance, lead to public frustration and anger, and undermine high-quality stewardship. Plans should be resilient in the face of erratic budgets.
Goal Four. PLANNING MEANINGFULLY ENGAGES THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN THE STEWARDSHIP OF THEIR NATIONAL FORESTS.
The national forests belong to the American people. For these truly to be the "people’s lands," the people must understand their condition, potential, limitations, and their niche in resource conservation in this country. The American people can achieve their goals for the national forests only if they understand where the forests are fragile and where they are robust, what are the ecological limitations to use, and where they fit in the broader landscape in which they sit. Just as the Forest Service can help the American people learn about the limits and capabilities of the national forests, so too must these managers be educated by the unique knowledge, advice, and values of the American people. Citizens can provide a wide array of services, ranging from volunteer work on trail crews to participating in collaborative efforts aimed at resolving disputes over specific projects. The national forests should draw on this knowledge, wisdom, and energy by building relationships, dialogues, and partnerships with the groups and individuals who wish to have a role in setting the future course for the national forests and in implementing these decisions.
(a) Planning encourages extensive collaborative citizen participation. There are many institutions, groups, and individuals in American society who care so deeply about the national forests that they are willing to devote their own time, energy, and resources to the sound and sustainable management of these forests. To better inform, learn from, and work with these diverse interests, forest planning must encourage broad-based, vigorous, and ongoing opportunities for collaboration These dialogues must be open to any person at any time, conducted in non-technical terms readily understandable to the general public, and structured in a manner that recognizes and accommodates differing schedules, capabilities, and interests. Citizen participation should be encouraged from the beginning, when the issues that planning addresses will be defined, and continue through plan development, implementation, monitoring, and amendment.
(b) Planning builds upon the human resources in local communities. Just as local communities depend on the national forests and grasslands, so too does the health of many forests, rangelands, and watersheds depend, in turn, on healthy communities. Many restoration actions are needed on these lands, including programs to improve riparian conditions, reduce fuel loads, and rebuild and retire roads. These efforts will require entrepreneurs and a trained workforce. The surrounding communities, assuming that they continue to exist and prosper, can help provide these services. Planning and management must realize the full potential of these human resources to further the stewardship of the national forests and grasslands.
(c) Planning and plans must be understandable to the American people. A central purpose of planning is to speak directly to the public. The language of planning must be clear and straight-forward. Maps, tables, charts, diagrams, and photographs will almost always help bring a plan to life. Planners should freely employ technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) displays, web pages, and CD ROMs. These are the people’s lands, and planning must be welcoming to the public.
(d) Planning strives to restore and maintain the trust of the American people in the management of the national forests. Planning, which is a principal setting in which the Forest Service relates to the public, can be a valuable forum in which to reestablish the public’s confidence. Planners need to work on the premise that a good plan cannot be achieved without the public’s respect and trust. Therefore, planning should integrate the public into the process, give the public accurate and complete information in a way that can be understood, make extensive use of public input, and meet public expectations by adopting realistic plans and fulfilling their objectives until amended. And perhaps most important, the Forest Service should welcome independent field review of its plans and actions.
Goal Five. PLANNING, WHICH MUST BE AT ONCE VISIONARY AND PRAGMATIC, GUIDES DECISION-MAKING.
Planning has long been viewed as a burdensome exercise with little connection to management. In fact, planning must be an organic part of stewardship of the national forests and grasslands: plans must be working guides that Forest Service employees find useful and motivating. Given the frequency with which new issues arise, new information becomes available, and unforeseen events occur, planning should be viewed as an ongoing process, where guidance and directions are adapted as necessary to new understandings.
(a) Planning should organize a collective vision of the future considering the larger landscape in which the national forests sit. Developing a collective vision of future landscape conditions, and the uses, products, values, and services that will be provided by these conditions, is our best hope for a "coming together" of the people and groups that care about the national forests. Pictures, maps, and computer imagery of future conditions will help people visualize alternatives and reach agreement on a shared vision. A plan should begin with a short mission statement that captures this vision. The mission statement should be broad but vivid and evocative — a dream rooted in reality. A more elaborate and specific "desired future condition" will serve as the central reference point for actions on the national forests. Implementing action plans, measures of performance, budgets, and monitoring should all be oriented toward achieving the desired future condition and the outcomes associated with it.
(b) Planning establishes goals for management of the national forests and ways to achieve them in the context of this collective vision. Forests plans provide direction for management, and do not simply describe limitations on actions within the national forests. As such, they need to set goals for different parts of the landscape, measures of goal attainment, ways to achieve those goals, and mechanisms that encourage creative site-specific approaches to achieving the goals.
(c) Planners must actively seek out and address key issues, especially the toughest ones: Planning cannot avoid controversy by trying to bury it. The best guidelines will emerge from an open, candid, and collaborative process that tackles key issues.
(d) Planning should be efficient in the achievement of plan goals. Searching for strategies that simultaneously achieve multiple goals and finding the least-cost method for achieving these goals are important approaches to achieving efficient plans.
(e) Planning must be at once practical and innovative. Planning is not an end in itself but rather must be a useful endeavor that furthers real-world objectives, including serving as a working guide for stewardship. At the same time, planning must encourage risk-taking and creativity. Valuable innovations have been developed during Forest Service planning, ranging from successful collaborative efforts to multi-agency watershed and large-landscape assessments. Planners should be ever alert to new and exciting opportunities that may arise from the unique circumstances surrounding a particular forest plan.
(f) Plans must be done expeditiously. Lengthy planning efforts frustrate public participants, strain Forest Service resources, and can result in plans that are outdated when adopted. Planners should aim for the completion of a plan, from the assessment phase through the formal adoption of small landscape plans, within three years and preferably less than two. To accommodate this goal, analytical requirements should be kept to a minimum consistent with the achieving. In the future, when plans are regularly kept current through the amendment process, plan revisions should be completed in an even shorter time.
(g) Plans are dynamic and adaptable. There is no such thing as a "final plan." While a plan should strive to attain a reasonable degree of predictability in its implementation, everyone also must recognize that unpredicted events, ranging from natural disturbances to changed market conditions, will occur. Forest Service officials must respond adaptively to new circumstances through plan amendments, small and large, so the plans will remain fully current. Plans must be living documents.