Readers: here is a proposed summary of the Committee of Scientists Report. It was used in the Conference Call on Dec. 15. As with previous drafts, it is subject to major revision. Norm Johnson

 

 

 

SUMMARY

 

The Committee’s Assignment: Suggest A Framework For Planning Under Current Law And Policy That Could Last A Generation


In December 1997, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman convened a Committee of Scientists to review and evaluate the Forest Service’s land management planning process and identify changes that might be needed to the planning regulations. Key phrases from that Charter include: "...make recommendations on how to best accomplish sound resource planning within the established framework of environmental laws and within the statutory mission of the Forest Service," "...provide technical advice on the land and resource management planning process, and provide material for the Forest Service to consider for incorporation into the revised planning regulations...," and "...recommend improvements in Forest Service coordination with other federal land management or resource protection agencies, state and local government agencies, and tribal governments while recognizing the unique roles and responsibilities of each agency in the planning process."

In his initial meeting with the Committee, UnderSecretary Lyons emphasized that he wanted the Committee to develop a framework for land and resource planning that could last at least a generation. Thus, the UnderSecretary asked the Committee to dream a little--to develop a set of concepts and principles that land and resource planning could work toward.

The Committee’s Approach: Building on the Innovation Occurring in the Forest Service Across the Country

The Committee traveled around the country, visiting each Forest Service region and hearing from Forest Service employees and many interested members of the public who offered their ideas and shared their concerns about planning and management of national forests and grasslands.

As the Committee learned more about the latest innovations in the planning of the national forests and grasslands, it became clearer that different parts of the Forest Service were rapidly developing the elements of a new planning framework as they struggled to update and revise their plans. Understandably, the planners, specialists, and mangers can’t wait for a committee of scientists to suggest a design for planning. In response to crisis, experience, and need, innovation in planning abounds on the national forests and grasslands across the land.

Many of the approaches and innovations suggested here are already being tried in different regions across the country; in fact we learned of them from the critiques of planning performed by the Forest Service and others, and from our meetings across the country with Forest Service employees and the public. We have utilized these discussions in three ways. First, they helped us learn an enormous amount about planning. Second, they enabled us to test the validity and practicality of our own ideas. Finally, they provided a number of examples that we have included in the report--often in sidebars scattered throughout the report.

 

Suggested Central Organizing Principle: Ecological, Economic, And Social Sustainability as a Framework for Human Use of the National Forests And Grasslands

The national forests and grasslands constitute an extraordinary national legacy created by people of vision and preserved for future generations by diligent and farsighted public servants and citizens. They are the people’s lands, emblems of our democratic traditions.

These lands 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, these benefits depend upon the long-term sustainability of the watersheds, forests, and rangelands and the ecological, economic, and social benefits that they can provide. 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 and grasslands should provide a wide variety of uses, values, products, and services that are important to so many Americans, including outdoor recreation, forage, timber, wildlife and fish, water use, and minerals.

The concept of sustainability represents a common vision, a collective goal and standards for measuring progress. The shift from sustained yield to sustainability embodies a significant change from production techniques designed to ensure sustained commodity flows over time to a broadened focus that encompasses socio-economic contributions and benefits, the participation of people especially in rural communities, and multiple environmental benefits while maintaining the potential to respond to evolving demands. International agreements all define sustainability as composed of interdependent components - social, economic, ecological and often institutional. These components are inextricably interrelated and apply everywhere to lands, waters, and people.

As a common vision, the essence of the concept of sustainability is the integration of social, economic and ecological systems. As a collective goal, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. As a vision and goal, sustainability marks a change from a focus on biological systems separated from their social and economic context. It is a matter of history and common sense that sustainability must include people and economic relationships if ecological systems are to continue to support the current and future generations.

As a standard for measuring progress, principles of sustainability and criteria for measuring the extent to which conditions and actions meet them are established in world-wide agreements and may soon be part of a global convention on forests. Key principles include: maintaining ecological functions, conditions, and biodiversity; democratic processes for decision making; adaptive management; integration of ecological, cultural and economic systems including spiritual resources; intergenerational equity; ambiguity and the necessity of choice. These fundamental principles are common throughout the discussions of sustainability. From them, international agreements have defined criteria and indicators for measuring progress and achievements. Indeed, global coalitions of public and private organizations have established processes for certification of sustainable forests in private or public ownership.

Within this emerging global context of sustainability, achieving ecological sustainability is inextricably linked to social and economic sustainability. This interdependence is the reason institutional aspects of sustainability are often added as an integral component of sustainability--property systems, legal frameworks, and social and economic infrastructure are essential to support sustainability. The role of the federal forests and grasslands in the United States needs to be placed within this global context.

Ecological Sustainability--The Foundation Of National Forest Stewardship

The guiding star for planning is sustainability. Like other overarching 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 and grasslands, it becomes ever more essential that planning and management begin with a central tenant 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.

A suite of laws call for federal agencies to pursue ecological sustainability—often in terms of conservation of native species and ecological productivity. The Endangered Species Act call for federal agencies to undertake all possible means to conserve native species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The National Forest Management Act calls for maintaining the diversity of plant and animal communities to meet multiple use objectives, which in the regulations implementing the Act have been stated as providing habitat to maintain the viability of native vertebrate species, and for the protection of streams and watersheds. The Clean Water Act calls for protecting the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act calls for ensuring that multiple use and sustained yield does not impair the productivity of the land. The Clean Air Act calls for protecting the Nation’s air. Individually and collectively, our environmental laws express a profound commitment to the protection of native species and our air, water, and soil. While the laws allow considerable discretion in their interpretation, their thrust is clear.

Scientific results and common sense points out the necessity of protecting our natural systems so they continue providing the benefits that we seek. Lessons from all over the national forest system suggest that we ignore the conservation of natural systems at our peril. As an example, concerns over the effect that declining water clarity will have on tourism in Lake Tahoe has led to an intensive and expensive effort to reverse this trend. More generally, the cost of replacing the natural watersheds that supply the municipal water for many communities has caused them to become very protective of these lands. Once natural systems are pushed to the edge, the cost of recovery can be come astronomical, if at all possible, and the ability to apply the experimentation of adaptive management is significantly contracted.

In summary, the Committee of Scientists recommends that ecological sustainability provide a foundation for planning the management for national forests and grasslands within which these lands contribute to economic and social sustainability. This recommendation does not mean that we should maximize the protection of native species and ecological productivity to the exclusion of other uses. Rather, it means that planning for the multiple use of national forests and grasslands should operate within a baseline level of environmental protection for native species and ecological productivity. Choices in management still exist and the level of risk to take is a policy choice. We believe that this approach lays the necessary foundation for the economic and social components of sustainability: making contributions to strong, productive economies and creating opportunities for enduring human communities.

Conserving the habitat for native species and the productivity of ecological systems is the heart of ecological sustainability

The Committee believes that conserving native species and the productivity of ecological systems is the surest path to maintaining ecological sustainability. We suggest the use of two general approaches in tandem to conserve these key elements of sustainability . First, we suggest assessment of the characteristic composition, structure, and processes of the area being studied. We call this the "ecological integrity" of the area. The "historical range of variability" is often used in this analysis as a first approximation to characteristic conditions. Then the conditions that will be created under any management scenario are compared to these characteristic conditions. The more that these conditions differ from the characteristic conditions, the higher the risk to native species and ecological productivity.

Second, we suggest focusing on the viability of native species themselves. Because it is impossible to monitor the status of all species and assess their viability, it is necessary to focus on a subset. We propose the generic term "focal species" to allow a variety of approaches for selecting the species to monitor and assess for viability. The key characteristic of a focal species is that its status and time trend provide insights into the functioning of the larger ecological system. The habitat needs of the focal species are developed and assessments are made of the habitat that will be needed for the species to be considered "viable". A viable species, by the Committee’s definition, would be one with self-sustaining populations well-distributed throughout the species range. Self-sustaining populations, in turn, can be defined as those that are sufficiently abundant and have sufficient 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. The habitat that will be created under any management scenario is compared to the habitat needed for the viability of each selected focal species. The less adequate the habitat for each species, the greater the risk to native species and ecological productivity.

In many cases, of course, the national forests and grasslands are unable to conserve native species and ecological productivity by themselves. Other landowners and agencies often control key elements of the ecosystems being analyzed. Thus, at most, the national forests and grasslands can contribute to the achievement of ecological sustainability in some cases.

The approach, in concept, is similar to that in the existing regulations. In implementation, it attempts to build the knowledge we have gained over the last 15 years.

This approach is similar to the existing regulations implementing the National Forest Management Act. These regulations (1982) have an extensive section on "Management Requirements" that calls for provision of adequate habitat to maintain viable populations of existing native vertebrate species, protection of streams and watersheds, and many other conservation measures. These requirements were intended to provide a framework (decision-space) that would set sideboards on management planning, much like our call for ecological sustainability to be the foundation of national forest stewardship.

In its details of implementation, however, the approach proposed by the Committee on ecological sustainability differs somewhat from the existing one, reflecting over 15 years of experience. We continue to focus on habitat for native species as the core of ecological sustainability, while broadening the focus from vertebrates to all native species. At the same time, we recognize that ensuring the viability of all native species, through individual analysis, is an impossible task. Therefore, we suggest a three-pronged strategy: 1) focusing on a set of selected "focal" species and their habitat needs, 2) maintaining, in a more general sense, conditions (called "ecological integrity"), 3) monitoring the effectiveness of this approach in meeting the goals of conserving native species and ecological productivity.

In addition, we place great emphasis on the development of scientifically-credible conservation strategies for species and ecosystems through a call to use the best available scientific information. As discussed below, we rely on a four-part process to insure that the best available science will be used : 1) scientific involvement in selection of species of interest and development of measures of species viability and ecological integrity and the definition of key elements of conservation strategies, 2) independent scientific review of proposed conservation strategies before plans are published, 3) scientific involvement in designing monitoring protocols and adaptive management, 4) a national scientific committee to advise the Chief on scientific issues in assessment and planning.

This suggested approach to assessing the risks to ecological sustainability under any suggested management scenario provides a scientific framework for analysis and a starting point for planning the management of the national forests and grasslands. It leaves undeveloped many of the details of implementation. In fact, we argue below that regional assessments should fill in these details with the significant assistance of the scientific community. In many cases, detailed studies of particular species and measures of ecological productivity do not exist; rather, the assessments must be done by panels of experts using best judgment.

The Committee’s recommendations provide a set of concepts for thinking about and assessing ecological sustainability--major public policy issues about the emphasis on ecological sustainability remain to be resolved in the policy process.

Our work leaves unresolved the major public policy issues surrounding the degree to emphasize the attainment of ecological sustainability in the planning and management of the national forests and grasslands. On the one hand, it might be argued that ecological sustainability would be highest if humans did not exist. On the other hand, we do exist and the charter of the national forests and grasslands calls for use by people to satisfy their wants and needs--conservative use, yes, but use nevertheless. In addition, given the condition of the resource, active management is needed in some cases to move the forests and rangelands toward sustainability.

With use can come risk, and decisions about the acceptable risk of extinction are value-based, not science-based decisions. Some of the risk can be reduced by modeling use after natural processes and moderating the level of use, but decisions about the acceptable level of risk usually remain. They must be made through the political process. Thus we can help provide the framework for analysis; we can not decide what is "balance".

Members of the Committee worked on a regulation on ecological sustainability that updated the current regulation for the scientific developments of the last fifteen years. We have included it in the body of our report as an example of how the concepts that we suggest here--focal species, ecological integrity, and the use of scientific information--could be integrated into the regulations implementing the National Forest Management Act. It has become increasingly clear, though, that crafting such a regulation pushes the Committee into policy making and away from its role of providing scientific and technical advice--other versions of the regulation could be written that encompass these principles but put in place different standards and emphases. Therefore, we do not make this work a recommendation, but see it as more of an illustration of one way in which regulations might be written to encompass the ideas discussed here.

Contributing To Economic And Social Sustainability: Provide For A Wide Variety Of Uses, Values, Products, And Services, And Enhance Society’s Capability To Make Sustainable Choices.

The national forests and grasslands have long provided for the multiple uses — outdoor recreation, forage, timber, wildlife and fish, water use, and minerals — 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." Starting with the Organic Act which focused on securing favorable conditions of water flows from these lands and furnishing a continuous supply of timber for the citizens of the United States, this mandate was broadened in the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act to include outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish.

Assess the contributions of national forests and grasslands to society

The land and resource planning process for national forest system lands provides an important opportunity to better understand and define the many connections between forests and rangelands and their associated economies and communities. Because 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. 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 ecological system. It is nonetheless essential that important uses and values be recognized, assessed, and accommodated as practicable and appropriate.

 

Recognize the interdependence of forests, rangelands, and watersheds with economies and communities.

Many communities depend on the national forests and grasslands for much of their economic, social, and cultural sustenance. Although the Forest Service cannot be expected to single-handedly sustain existing economies and communities, the National Forests and Grasslands nonetheless contribute 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 people today and tomorrow — is at the heart of the Forest Service’s role in economic and social sustainability. In this role, planning must take generous account of compelling local circumstances. This includes the needs of ranching, farming, timber, and Indian communities, and the many Hispanic communities in the Southwest who depend on the resources in former Spanish and Mexican land grants. Within the context of ecological, economic, and social sustainability, planning should consider the needs, resilience, and vulnerability of economies and communities in selecting long-term management strategies.

Search for strategies and actions that provide for human use in ways that contribute to long-term sustainability

The national forests and grasslands should direct much of their planning and implementation energies toward developing, applying, and rewarding strategies and actions that enable the multiple uses to occur in ways that promote long-term ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Finding strategies and actions that contribute to long-term sustainability, rather than working against it, is the surest way to increase the predictability of these uses. As part of this effort, planning searches for strategies that produce revenue from human use.

Help develop realistic expectations though a broad-based understanding of the vital interrelationship between human use and the sustainability of forests, streams, and watersheds.

By building upon a foundation grounded in sustainability, planning can encourage realistic expectations about long-term uses, values, outputs and services contributed by the National Forests to economies and communities.

 

Recognize the rights of American Indian Tribes.

Indian tribes possess unique and important rights recognized by federal treaties, statutes, and executive orders. The agency has a general trust responsibility to federally recognized tribes and a duty to acknowledge them as sovereign governments and to work 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.

Consider The Larger Landscape In Which The National Forests And Grasslands Are Located To Understand Their Role In Achieving Sustainability

Past 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 and grasslands can make. Ideally, land and resource planning integrates the broader geographic, political, and social landscape with the potential contributions of the forests, rangelands, watersheds, and grasslands. Achieving sustainability 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.

In every sector of the country, the Forest Service and the national forests and grasslands 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 and grasslands. Other agencies, governments, corporations, and citizens manage land in and around these areas. Still others have a keen interest in the national forests and grasslands and can affect the way the political process views Forest Service action.

Sustainability of watersheds and other natural areas in which national forests and grasslands are located will inevitably depend upon activities on nearby federal lands, tribal, and state lands, and private lands and on the actions and attitudes of a wide variety of agencies, governments and citizens. These landowners will vary in their abilities as well as their interest in providing the mix of uses, products, values, and services that people seek from forests and rangelands. Planning, therefore, must be outward-looking with the goals of understanding the broader landscape in which the national forests and grasslands lie and achieving the highest values for management of these lands within the context of how people, businesses, and governments will conserve, regulate, and use the lands within and around the national forests and grasslands.

Recognize the special role that national forests and grasslands play in regional landscapes.

The national forests and grasslands often have special responsibilities in the context of all ownerships. They will increasingly be called upon to provide the backbone of regional conservation strategies to conserve species and ecosystems. Also, they are counted upon to provide municipal water and dispersed recreation for an increasingly developed and settled landscape. In addition, in some areas, they are the only substantial source of timber supplies.

On the one hand, our growing national and international population will place demands on our natural resources to provide goods and services including wood products for a multitude of uses. Without careful planning to enable continued production of wood and other outputs from the forests of the United States, our demands may be transferred to other countries with uncertain environmental effects.

This planning will often call for national forests and grasslands to provide the anchor of regional conservation strategies for protection of species and ecosystems, thus contributing to a stable environment for the production of timber and other products across all ownerships. This strategy is intended to allow conservation of species and ecosystems without undue requirements on nonfederal lands; thus enabling the production of timber and other commodities from these lands. The argument for this approach has three sources. First, in this country, we have evolved, though law and policy, a strategy that the federal lands should take the primary responsibility for protection of species and ecosystems. Second, the federal lands often have the best remaining habitats and ecological conditions. Third, they are inherently less efficient in the production of timber and other products because of their special planning processes to ensure protection of the environment.

Recognize the national and global implications of management.

Planning should acknowledge how management of the national forests and grasslands can contribute to ecological, economic, and social sustainability on a national and international scale. As an example, with the concern over climate change, the national forests and grasslands should consider the effect that their management will have on carbon sequestration and consider alternatives that increase the amount of carbon stored.

 

Make Effective Use Of Scientific And Technical Analysis And Review

In the first round of land and resource plans under NFMA, scientists, by and large, sat on the sidelines, as managers and inter-disciplinary teams developed the plans using scientific results as best they could. A series of lawsuits, and a growing realization of the important role of science in planning, led the Forest Service and other federal agencies to call for "scientifically credible conservation strategies" for species and ecosystems. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that a scientific framework is needed to understand how the national forests and grasslands can contribute to economic and social sustainability. Thus, we have suggested a number of roles for science and scientists

in land and resource planning.

Involve the scientific community in developing strategies for protection of species and ecosystems

We discuss the crucial role for "assessments" to provide the information base for planning. As part of that effort, scientists would help identify the focal species for analysis of species diversity and suggest procedures for estimating the viability of these species in planning. In addition, they would suggest measures of ecological integrity and procedures for obtaining these measurements. Finally, they would suggest important elements of conservation strategies to conserve species and ecosystems for use in planning. Recent work in the northwest (FEMAT and ICBEMP) illustrate this approach.

Establish independent reviews on the use of technical and scientific information in planning and the consistency of management proposals with current knowledge.

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 that plans and their implementation are science-based. They can highlight and reward creative approaches to the challenging issues faced in the management of the national forests and grasslands. 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. An example is the "science consistency" check recently pioneered in the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan (Everest et al., 1997) —a technique that evaluates whether the information transferred from scientists to policy makers and planners was understood and used appropriately.

Involve the scientific community in designing 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 for designing effectiveness-monitoring procedures for the millions of acres in a strategic plan. This deficiency especially holds true with the limited funds available for such work. Selecting an efficient, yet dependable, set of measures will require scientific involvement.

Establish a national science and technology advisory board

A national science and technology advisory board could help 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.

Develop new institutions in Forest Service Research with the objective of assisting assessment and planning.

The Forest Service is blessed with its own research organization—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. Although 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. Forest Service Research must shoulder major responsibilities for the contribution of science and scientists to land and resource planning. Although 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 require an expanded mission for this branch of the Forest Service and for new institutions and funding to make it work; otherwise, the shift of resources to assist planning will undercut the major research mission of the organization.

 

Develop new institutions in the National Forest System to utilize scientific results and principles

While Forest Service Research has an important and central role to fulfill in enhancing science-based planning, it cannot and should not shoulder this responsibility alone. Care must be taken to ensure the ongoing credibility of Forest Service Research and maintain its solid foundation of basic research. The National Forest System technical staff must adopt a more central role, as interface between policy-makers and the research community, and between policy-makers and managers, on issues bearing on the scientific basis for decision-making. While Forest Service Research can, for example, help create and evaluate science-based protocols for monitoring or assessments, help develop the scientific basis for creating, evaluating, and modifying standards and guides, develop science-based frameworks, and provide or secure independent review of the scientific foundation of plans, National Forest System technical staff should bear responsibility for assisting, enabling and ensuring managers’ ability to apply this guidance to their day-to-day management decisions.

 

Management Flexibility is Needed At The Local Level--Ensure Accountability With Independent Project Review

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 broad 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 interagency PACFISH reviews could serve as a model for this effort, assuming that the interagency committee’s assignment was broadened to consider all the values recognized in the plans.

 

Collaborative Planning for Sustainability

(Introduction to different parts of planning--collaboration, assessments, planning and decisions, implementation, budgeting, monitoring)

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Engage The American People In The Stewardship Of Their National Forests And Grasslands.

The national forests and grasslands belong to the American people. For these truly to be the "people’s lands," the people must understand the lands’ condition, potential, limitations, and niche in resource conservation in this country and must be willing to help achieve sustainability. Just as the Forest Service can help the American people learn about the limits and capabilities of the national forests and grasslands, so too must the 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 and grasslands 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 these lands and in implementing these decisions.

 

Encourage extensive, collaborative citizen participation.

Land and resource planning must provide mechanisms for broad-based, vigorous, and ongoing opportunities for open public dialogue. These dialogues should be open to any person, conducted in nontechnical terms readily understandable to the general public, and structured in a manner that recognizes and accommodates differing schedules, capabilities, and interests. The participation of citizens should be encouraged from the beginning and be maintained throughout the planning process, including roles in assessments, issue-identification, implementation and monitoring.

Test the effectiveness of formal advisory boards.

The Forest Service should utilize advisory boards as one component of collaborative planning. These boards can provide an immediate, legitimate, representative structure within which public dialogue can occur. The Committee recommends that the Forest Service test advisory boards on particular national forests and grasslands across the nation, learn from this experience, and then decide whether, and in what form, they would be most useful.

Make plans understandable to the American people.

A standard rule of public participation is that people find it difficult to support what they do not understand. Further, few people have time for indepth analysis. With that in mind, the Committee conducted a survey of Regional Offices and Forest Supervisors. We asked the following question: Could you send us a simple, straightforward explanation of your plans for the lands you administer? Apparently few such explanations exist. None for the Northwest Forest Plan for Federal Forests, despite its importance and the millions spent on it. Few for the land management plans now in effect across the nation. None that give an image of the future landscape that will be achieved under the plan. Lots of thick obscure documents useful in court cases, but few if any explanations for the common man or for new Forest Service employees. We believe that for the Forest Service to regain public support for its policies and management, it must make a far greater effort to explain these policies to the people whose lands these are.

 

Build upon the human resources in local communities.

Just as local communities depend on the national forests and grasslands, so too does the condition of many forests, rangelands, and watersheds depend, in turn, on communities. Many restoration actions are needed on these lands, including programs to improve riparian conditions, reduce fuel loads, and rebuild and decommission roads. These efforts will require entrepreneurs and a trained workforce. The surrounding communities can help provide these services.

Maintain the terms of the public controversy.

There is a tendency in planning to eliminate controversy in defining the issues to be analyzed. 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. For this to occur, the public must define the issues, and those definitions must illuminate the terms of the controversy. A critical feature of the issue-definition process is for everyone to understand the reasons for controversy among the diverse set of interests and perspectives. In sum, creating open forums for discussion of important public issues is the essence of public planning. Recent examples of planning that retains the terms of controversy and creates a forum for public discussion include the Manestee-Huron.

Build stewardship capacity

The planning process must 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 will build implementation capacity by defining problems in ways that make them everyone’s responsibility.

Recognize that planning and management of these public lands proceeds in the face of legitimate, but often divergent, interests.

The Committee’s recommendations will not eliminate all conflict over management of the national forests and grasslands. While it may be unreasonable to expect consensus on particular management decisions on these lands, there is a clear national consensus on the importance of sustaining the resources and their contribution to the social and economic welfare of the nation. Our report rests on this national interest in sustainability, and allows the planning process to work toward regional and local management strategies reflecting areas of agreement and issues of continuing conflict. Our strong reliance upon external review stems from our recognition that conflicts will necessarily remain and can only be addressed through continuing opportunities for public and agency dialogue and learning.

 

Utilize Assessments to Develop a Credible Foundation of Information for Planning

In the past, the analysis of ecological and social conditions and trends was done, to one degree or another, as part of planning. We believe that assessments have such an important role in providing a credible information base for policy planning and decision making 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. Rather, assessments provide the foundation of information from which policies, strategies and decisions can be built, evaluated and changed. Recognizing assessment as a task separate from planning will enable more focus on assessing conditions, trends, problems, and risks instead of on the development of planning alternatives.

Undertake a joint public-scientific inquiry that builds a knowledge base for planning and also builds institutions and relationships

The way information is developed and synthesized and by whom, is as important as the content. Ideally, assessments are organized as a joint inquiry undertaken by scientists and other knowledgeable people and involving the federal agencies, other governments, and the public. 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 Service and between the Forest Service and other agencies; and providing a context for planning. For participants, assessments also help develop leadership abilities and provide a crash course in adaptive management. The Southern Application Assessment is an example.

Assessments must also provide the context for proposing ways to achieve long-term goals of sustainability--identifying the elements of needed conservation strategies and scientifically credible procedures for evaluating ecological, economic, and social sustainability. The analysis of 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 Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project.

We envision two primary scales of assessments. Assessments over large areas ("bioregions"), such as the Sierra Nevada or the spotted owl region, will generally be needed to provide the context for landscape planning. Watershed assessments at the more local level will be needed to help translate plans for large landscapes into action. Nearly half of the National Forest System lands have a recent bioregional assessment of some form.

 

In Planning, Recognize the Need to Make Different Decisions at Different Levels

 

 

Develop overall guidance on sustainability for "bioregions"

Special focus on regional guidance on scientifically credible strategies for conservation of wide-ranging species and large ecosystems. 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, and, when challenged, these plans often could not withstand judicial review. Significant effort in the future in bioregional planning must be placed on constructing scientifically-based strategies for the conservation of species and ecosystems. Recent examples of successful efforts to construct these strategies include late-successional species and ecosystems and salmon stocks in the Northwest (FEMAT), red cockaded woodpecker (south), goshawk (southwest), and the multi-species strategies developed as part of the Tongass land and Resource Management Plan (Alaska). The Congressional language in the 1998 budget bill calling for the development of regional strategies for fish, wildlife, and forest health in the Columbia Basin is also an example of this approach.

In addition, regional guidance may be needed on economic and social sustainability. This guidance can highlight special roles of the national forests and grasslands in contributing to economic and social sustainability in the region. It also can direct planning to consider the differing resiliency and vulnerability of communities across the region.

Undertake strategic planning of large landscapes within regions

A second level, smaller in geographic scope although still perhaps covering millions of acres, at which the long-term strategic policies and decisions are developed that consider the full range of goals, multiple uses, and public issues of concern in the area. We believe this large landscape planning should focus on desired future conditions and outcomes and on the pathway to achieve these desired states. In the past, land and resource planning often focused on the relatively short-term issues of land allocation and timber harvest levels. Although these are still important issues, we believe that, consistent with the emphasis on ecological, economic, and social sustainability, strategic planning should emphasize the development of desired long-term landscape conditions and outcomes that will provide this sustainability. Current attempts at this " large landscape" planning include the coordinated efforts on plan revision in the southern Appalachians, three southern Idaho national forests, and the national forests of the Sierra Nevada.

Conduct operational planning of small landscapes

A "small landscape" level helps identify where the actions needed to carry out the long-term strategic goals and policies are developed within the context of the particular place. 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 is usually covered by a single project. There will often be the need to evaluate individual, controversial projects separately, but the cumulative effects of the project must be analyzed in the context of the small landscape management plan. Based upon Adaptive Management, this level has a continuous cycle of activity, evaluation and review, adaptation and change. 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 100,000 acres.

 

The Role of the Integrated Land and Resource Plan: An Accumulation of Planning Decisions at all Levels and an Administrative Vehicle for Plan Implementation

The NFMA calls for development of an integrated land and resource plan for each unit of the National Forest System. How does that fit with this proposal? In our approach the integrated land and resource plan for each administrative unit of the National Forest System is the repository of the policies, strategic directions, implementing decisions, adaptive management plans made at all levels of the planning and decision process. As the foundation of administrative policy and guidance, it includes the budget and staffing needs for implementation as well as the procedures and timing of monitoring and review. It includes monitoring processes, as well as ongoing results and subsequent changes in both strategic and implementation decisions.

As critiques of past "forest planning" acknowledge and our analysis confirms, the use of administrative units as the planning units, often caused large-scale ecological, economic, and social processes to be neglected or resulted in inconsistent decisions by adjacent administrative units. Thus, we suggest a planning hierarchy above whose geographic extent at the different levels would only coincidentally be the boundaries of a particular national forest or grassland.

The physical location of the planning decisions at all levels, though, rests at the administrative unit, because an integrated land and resource management plan must also include the budgetary and staffing plans for carrying out the proposed policies and activities. Thus, the Plan is a "loose leaf notebook" that contains all of the policy direction, strategies and implementation proposals from decisions made at all levels of the planning process. It must also contain the monitoring methodologies and the evaluation results. The process of "plan amendment" is, then, a way of incorporating the dynamic nature of decisions in an adaptive management approach.

Integrate Budget Realities into Planning

Past "forest plans" developed both the goals for management and a set of actions (such as timber harvest, road construction, trail building, wildlife habitat improvement, campground maintenance) for the decade to achieve those goals. These actions were 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 outputs than called for in the plans.

Strategic plans set long-term goals; budgets affect the rate of progress to the goals

For planning to be meaningful, it needs to bear a relationship to the current and likely future budget situation. To achieve this there must be some relationship between the plan and the budget available to undertake the plan. As outlined above, strategic planning should concentrate on setting the long-term goals and the associated desired future conditions and make a first estimate of the pathway (set of actions needed/conditions expected along the way) over time to achieve these desired future 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 expensive desired future conditions should be considered.

The actions outlined in the small landscape management decisions, updated on a yearly-basis, should be the basis for the budget requests. Budget shortfalls 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, strategies and policies may need revision. During 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.

Public participation in planning will need to extend to the annual budgeting process

Land and resource planning and the budgeting to fund the plans operate under two different processes, with planning largely an administrative process and budgeting largely a Congressional process. It is important that people understand that plan implementation depends on funding from another political process and that budgeting is part of plan implementation. Without such an appreciation, people may have unrealistic expectations about what can be accomplished through land and resource planning.

(SECTION ON MONITORING/ADAPTIVE MGT NEEDED NEEDED)

 

 

Key Elements in the Collaborative Planning Process

Make "Desired Future Conditions", And The Outcomes Associated With Them, The Central Reference Points For Planning And Management

Organize planning around defining a collective vision of the desired future considering the larger landscape in which the national forests and grasslands 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 and grasslands. Pictures, maps, and computer imagery of future conditions will help people visualize what the future landscapes look like.

Establishing long-term goals is the most constructive place to start in collaborative planning, 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 strategies should build a pathway from the current state to the desired future state that includes an estimate of actions and budgets that will be needed.

Establish pathways to the desired future conditions and outcomes, and orient performance measures, monitoring and budgeting to making progress along those pathways.

Planning should estimate a schedule of management actions needed to reach desired future conditions and outcomes along with the intermediate conditions and outcomes expected along the way. The correspondence between management action and expected results should become the performance measures for achievement of strategic goals. Measurement of performance would be accomplished through 1) comparing, on an annual, basis, the expected treatment outcomes to actual treatment results, and 2) comparing every five to ten years, the rate and degree of movement towards the desired future conditions and outcomes that are expected. Either of those measures might have three possible outcomes: 1) concluding that management actions are moving the landscape toward the desired future conditions and outcomes; 2) concluding that treatments must be adjusted to more efficiently achieve those conditions; (3) reevaluating the possibility of the desired future conditions in light of the potential of the landscape to achieve them.

Budgeting by amount and type of actions needed, rather than volume harvested or some other output measure, will ensure that the needed treatments occur. Currently, there is the understandable tendency to tackle the easy treatments to get the stated volume; accountability by type of treatment will help reduce that.

The expected conditions and outcomes following a specific management action should guide the design of the monitoring program. The degree to which outcomes correspond to expectation will provide a key piece of information about progress toward the desired future condition.

 

Keep Decisions Close To The Planning Area.

Currently, the Chief is responsible for regional plans and the Regional Forester is responsible for National Forest System plans. This approach inhibits change and adaptation both at both planning levels. We believe that the Regional Foresters should be responsible for bioregional policy guidance and that the Forest Supervisors should be responsible for strategic, large-landscape planning. Forest Supervisors should work closely with District Rangers in developing the small-landscape, implementation plans. Forest Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that an integrated land and resource management plan is up-to-date and reflects what has happened in the area as well as what actions are anticipated over the planning horizon.

Select Geographic Areas For Assessment And Planning That Capture Ecological, Economic, and Social Effects

In the past, planning boundaries were generally based on political/social boundaries—states, national forests or grasslands, timber sale boundaries. Over the last 20 years, it has been increasingly recognized that assessing and planning for sustainability must consider the ecological, economic, and social implications of the analysis and planning units chosen, be they administrative units, river basins, or mountain basins. Using boundaries meaningful for ecological, economic, and social processes 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. 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 sustainability—rather different boundaries will be needed for different species and ecosystems in the assessment and economic and social processes.

Planning at the large- and small-landscape levels consider the ecological, economic, and social significance of the planning boundaries chosen. Large-landscape planning might focus 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 drainage, 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 implementation plans would cover areas large enough to provide a context for action and to measure cumulative effects, but 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 National Forest, the Seven Buttes area of the Deschutes National Forest, and the Chattanooga Watershed Conservation Plan in the Southeast.

Address All Federal Lands Within The Area And Working, To The Degree Feasible, With All Affected Federal Agencies.

In the past, "forest planning" tended to go its own way. We believe that effective assessment and planning for our federal lands requires a coordinated approach across affected federal agencies. Federal agencies have made 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 of Scientists has repeatedly heard that state, tribal, private groups, and the public are overwhelmed by the multitude and complexity of federal land and resource planning processes. Coordinating the federal planning processes, especially where there are adjacent federal managers within a regional landscape, would help solve this problem.

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 and ease collaboration with state and tribal governments, groups, and the public can become more efficient and effective.

It must be said, though, that the Forest Service cannot make coordinated federal planning happen by itself. Other federal agencies must want it too.

Move Toward Integrated Administration Of Jurisdictionally Divided Areas.

National Forests have an important role to play in organizing budgets and staffing needs for proposed activities, measuring performance, and monitoring results. Their land and resource plans provide a framework for integrative administration of a National Forest, within the context of other federal agencies and jurisdictions, state and local governments, tribes, local associations and other landowners. 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 planning processes in some places. Without such a change, the potential for inconsistent, wasteful actions within the large-landscape areas is high. In addition, designating a large-landscape area, drawn on ecological boundaries, as the administrative unit should make it easier to communicate the goals of management to the public. A current example of such a unit is the Lake Tahoe Basin, which is the watershed of Lake Tahoe that was previously administered by four National Forests in two bioregions.

Utilize The NEPA Review Process As An Opportunity To Coordinate Across Agencies And Jurisdictional Responsibilities In The Analysis Of Proposed Decisions.

Agency processes for planning, decision-making, and appeals tend to assume a single-agency approach. As a result, agency processes are generally inwardly focused and sometimes offer little up-front opportunity for broader involvement in the assessment, planning, and decisional processes. NEPA is intended as a process to disclose the evidence and reasoning used in making commitments of federal resources or budgets. Because it is a process that applies to all federal agencies, it is an opportunity for integrating and coordinating single-agency processes. Ideally, a more unified federal approach to planning and assessment will evolve over time, given the likelihood that the need for coordination will increase with greater attention to sustainability. In the meantime, however, the NEPA process was intended as a mechanism to enhance working relationships across agencies in the process of developing their plans and activities.

Utilize Principles Of Efficiency Analysis In Planning, Plans, And Management

The National Forests should be efficient in their management, within the context of meeting their other goals. This mandate does not require the Forest Service to manage the public lands to maximize monetary return. Rather, it requires that planning methodologies do two things: 1) reduce the trade-offs in achieving different goals, and 2) demonstrate economical use of public funds by attempting to provide each alternative combination of conditions and outputs they consider, at least cost.

Some people 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 non-market as well as market outputs, serves an important function in planning the management of forests. Whenever multiple goals are sought, efficiency analysis can reduce the conflicts that may arise or exist. Also, with the greater scrutiny that budgets for will receive in the future, it will become increasingly important that managers be able to demonstrate that they are not "wasting" resources. Efficiency analysis enables managers to make this demonstration.

With and without analysis

In the development of these large landscape plans, an analysis of the management situation should be done early in the process. It should cover the historical development of landscape conditions and outcomes along with current problems. This analysis should realistically portray likely landscape conditions and outcomes over time without active management, including the effect of natural disturbance. This analysis then becomes the basis for discussing the need for, and type of, actions that will be needed to move landscape conditions and outcomes toward the desired states.

Identify the Suitability of Land for Resource Management as an Outcome of Planning

Section 6(g) is the heart of the National Forest Management Act. It is the section that outlines the requirements that planning must meet. These requirements include maintaining diversity of plant and animal communities to meet multiple-use objectives, ensuring that timber will be harvested only where watersheds will not be irreversibly damaged, and ensuring that clearcutting will be used only where it is the "optimum method." The very first requirement mentioned in Section 6 (g) is that guidelines are to be developed which ". . . require identification of the suitability of lands for resource management." This section was eclipsed by Section 6 (k) in the previous regulations, which required the identification of lands not suited for timber production.

The suitability of land for resource management is an outcome of the planning process

We view the classification of lands relative to their suitability for different kinds of resource management as an outcome of planning for large landscapes. It is the result of the land classifications needed to support the decisions made at all different levels and incorporated into the land and resource management plan. Furthermore, we place the identification of lands not suited for timber production as a subset of the identification of the suitability of lands for different types of resource management.

This approach, then, sees the suitability of lands for resource management as a result of the planning process. Out of this planning process should come the classification (zoning) of lands by suitable types of resource management. Types of resource management include timber production, range, and different kinds of recreation. Some lands might be classified as suitable for all types of management; others might only be suitable for one type. Site-specific analysis might be necessary to refine the estimates of where activities could actually occur and the form they could take.

This analysis would lead to the following designations for each land area on the national forests and grasslands for each type of resource management considered:

A) resource management prohibited

B) resource management permitted with the understanding that these estimates might be refined in more site-specific planning.

The most complicated portion of this analysis addresses resource management involving timber harvest and timber production, where timber production is defined as a long-term commitment to produce commercial timber volume. NFMA states "Sec. 6 (k) In developing land management plans pursuant to this Act, the Secretary shall identify lands within the management area which are not suited for timber production, considering physical, economic, and other pertinent factors to the extent feasible, as determined by the Secretary, and shall assure that, except for salvage sales or sales necessitated to protect other multiple-use values, no timber harvesting shall occur on these lands for a period of 10 years.

Because timber harvest under this clause can occur for the "protection of other multiple use values" where the forest is not suitable for timber production, lands suitable for resource management involving timber harvest need two sub-categories: A) timber harvest is prohibited

B) timber harvest is permitted

1) for protection of other multiple use values, but timber production is not a goal

2) timber production is one of the goals.

Identifying the lands ..."not suited for timber production considering physical, economic, and other pertinent factors to the extent feasible..." has perplexed analysts since passage of NFMA. Especially the economic test for suitability has been difficult to apply for a number of reasons. First, we can place a reliable dollar value on only a portion of the values created or damaged during timber harvest. Markets for endangered species and a scenic view are largely nonexistent. Second, it is very difficult to value a particular stand, since its value in different conditions depends on the entire landscape around it.

In addition, timber harvest can occur even where timber production is not a goal to support other multiple uses. Since more and more national forest land is falling into this category, the usefulness of a suitability test to decide where timber production could occur, even if possible to do, is waning.

As with the general discussion of the suitability of land for resource management, we see the economic suitability of lands for timber production as more of an outcome of the planning process than a driver. While this can lead to abuse--set the timber harvest target high enough and all lands are suitable--we don’t feel these problems are solvable by intricate analysis of revenues and costs. Rather they argue for the scientifically credible, participatory planning process that we recommend in the rest of this report.

Water and Timber--A Traditional Focus of the Forest Service in Achieving Sustainability

From the first management guidance for the national forests passed by Congress in 1897 to the National Forest Management Act, water (watersheds) and timber have been singled out for special legislative attention. Thus we developed recommendations for these two forest resources

Key elements in a strategy for conserving and restoring watersheds

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, one major 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". The Weeks Act of 1911, enabling the purchase of the headwaters of navigable streams, was a watershed protection statute that led to the creation of the national forests of the east. 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." The NFMA calls for consideration and protection of water courses and watersheds in a number of places. First, the NFMA identifies water as one of the multiple uses. Second, it has numerous provisions about protection of water courses and watersheds when timber harvest is considered. Other federal legislation, most importantly the Clean Water Act (CWA) (1972 and as amended 1987), also mandate the conservation of water resources, with the overall purpose of the CWA being to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters."

Given the importance of water and watersheds in the legislation underlying creation and management of the national forests, the Committee has articulated a strategy for conserving and restore watersheds. The Committee suggests a six-part strategy: (1) Provide conditions for the viability of native riparian and aquatic species. (2) Maintain and restore watershed integrity, that is, maintain and restore the natural composition, structure, and processes of the watershed including the flow regimes. For degraded watersheds, improving their integrity will require the re-establishment of aquatic functions and related physical, chemical, and biological characteristics to within the historical range of natural variability. (3) Recognize watersheds in assessment and planning. (4) Develop an overall strategy for setting priorities for restoration and use. A common saying within the watershed community is to "save the best, restore the rest". From an ecological, cultural, political, and economic perspective, it is almost always easier to protect intact and functioning ecosystems than it is to restore degraded ones. Thus, it is important that assessments classify watersheds as to their ecological condition and integrity. Planning should then use this information in deciding where special protection is warranted and where land use and restoration activities should occur. (5) Energize the people of the watershed to help. Collaborative stewardship by all the landowners, along with state and local governments and the public, will be needed for successful conservation and restoration of these watersheds. Watershed councils can often motivate and direct crucial voluntary conservation efforts. (6)Monitor watershed condition over time as part of adaptive management.

 

The role of timber harvest in achieving sustainability

 

From the beginning, a major purpose of the national forests has been to organize timber harvest and timber production to achieve sustainability. The 1897 Organic Act called for the national forests to "furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of the citizens of the United States." The National Forest Management Act focused on directing and controlling timber harvest and timber production on the national forests. We have outlined below some of the key clauses in the NFMA relative to timber harvest and timber production along with our recommendations of how they might be interpreted to fit in with the overall framework described in this report.

Silvicultural aspects of the National Forest Management Act

Silviculture is the process whereby humans tend, harvest, and re-establish forest stands and landscapes. Silvicultural practices, such as timber harvest and prescribed burning, can help meet stand-specific objectives for species composition and forest structure and landscape-level objectives for abundance, size, shape, and pattern of patches of different stand conditions, in addition to aiding in the attainment of a variety of goods and services. The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) was most prescriptive in its sections on silvicultural practices involving timber harvest. Yet whatever regulations are written for the national forests and grasslands, it is important that they allow flexibility in designing methods and systems to create and maintain the species composition, stand structure, and processes that are the foundation of ecological sustainability— which, in turn, sustain healthy economies and human communities.

Regional assessments need to define the historical characteristics of disturbances as a context for selecting silvicutural methods and characteristics. In the report, we emphasize the need for regional assessment to provide information on the characteristics of stands and landscapes that historically occurred in the different forest types, such as ponderosa pine or mixed conifer forests, and landscape units, such as mountain ranges, watersheds, or the range of some species. Analysis of the historical characteristics of disturbances should be undertaken in regional assessments for each major forest type and landscape unit within the region. The assessment should consider 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 information on the historical frequency, intensity, and pattern of disturbances. This information would then be used, in turn, to guide and limit the silvicultural approaches to achieving stand and landscape objectives, including the selection of silvicultural systems and restocking standards.

When interpreting the "five year restocking clause", allow for natural regeneration.

When managing for sustainability, silvicultural practices should strive to emulate the effects of natural disturbance processes such as fire, wind, insects, and disease on the forest. This approach applies at both the stand and landscape levels. In general, silvicultural practices were originally designed to achieve natural regeneration after harvest, 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. One provision of NFMA states that the Forest Service should "insure that timber will be harvested from National Forest System lands only where . . . there is assurance that such lands can be adequately restocked within five years after harvest". From an ecological perspective, it will be important to consider natural regeneration for the maintenance of genetic diversity. Interpreting the clause to mean that sites "will be" restocked within five years of harvest, rather than "could be" restocked, could have a chilling effect on the willingness of managers to give natural regeneration a chance.

Consider, for example, shelterwoods on which natural regeneration of trees has a very high probability of success, and the trees themselves are considered valuable for maintaining genetic diversity. If the parent trees on the site are not expected to produce good seed crops for several years, artificial regeneration (planting seedlings) may be necessary to ensure that the site is replanted within five years. Artificial regeneration could become the norm and perhaps even the default. As pointed out elsewhere, it is ironic, 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. We should not continue this trend by precluding natural regeneration though regulations.

Selecting the harvest method: let nature and your goals be your guide. Another provision of NFMA calls for the FS to "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 method for meeting the objectives for the stand and landscape, and that it certainly should not be the default method that it was sometimes in the past. There are 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 that regenerate in essentially even-aged stands (e.g., red alder in the Pacific Northwest, lodgepole pine in the Rockies, aspen in the Lake States) after natural, catastrophic, stand-replacing disturbances. It should be noted, though, that characteristics (size , shape, frequency, pattern) of openings caused by these natural catastrophic stand-replacing disturbances vary considerably among different species.

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, a shelterwood, and even large-group selection.

There is the additional requirement that cuts designed to regenerate an even-aged stand of timber 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 even-aged stand management should not be the default method and that alternatives should be seriously considered. In addition to classic uneven-aged silviculture, non-traditional reserve-tree silvicultural systems that can create and maintain a broad range of stand structures might be considered. The choice of an appropriate regeneration method and silvicultural system needs to be made within the context of the ecology of the species involved and the management objectives at both the stand and landscape scale. These evaluations should draw upon the regional analysis of appropriate regeneration methods and patch characteristics.

At times there have been attempts to list the situations under which clearcutting will be considered. Such an approach is fraught with difficulties because of the impossibility of predicting all the different situations that might occur. We believe that cases where managers would like to use clearcutting should be clearly justified as the best regeneration method for that situation.

Limiting the size of harvest blocks: consider both minimum and maximum opening sizes based on the ecology of the species. At the time NFMA was passed, there was concern and controversy over the large clearcut squares that were appearing on the national forests. Setting upper limits on clearcuts and other even-aged methods seemed a useful way to address the problem at the time. Therefore a clause in NFMA calls for maximum size limits for areas to be cut in one harvest operation.

In managing for sustainability, though, the limits can result in detrimental, unintended effects. General 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 forest managers have become interested in management reflecting natural disturbance regimes, 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 disturbances, 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.

Timber removals and sustained yield: fitting traditional concepts to modern problems

The National Forest Management Act specifies limitations on timber removals as follows: The Secretary of Agriculture shall limit the sale of timber from each national forest to a quantity equal to or less than a quantity which can be removed on such a forest annually in perpetuity on a sustained yield basis; Provided, That in order to meet overall multiple-use objectives, the Secretary may establish an allowable sale quantity for any decade which departs from the projected long-term average sale quantity that would otherwise be established; Provided further, that any such planned departure must be consistent with the multiple-use management objectives of the land management plan. ....(b) Nothing in subsection (a) of this section shall prohibit the Secretary from salvage or sanitation harvesting of timber stands which are substantially damaged by fire, windthrow, or other catastrophe, or which are in imminent danger from insect or disease attack. The Secretary may either substitute such timber for timber that would otherwise be sold under the plan or, if not feasible, sell such timber over and above plan volume."

The reasons for predictable, sustainable timber harvest levels change over time, but the need is still there

In the past, this sustained-yield provision was seen as an all-purpose safeguard of sustainability. The restriction on timber harvest to the level that could be sustained in perpetuity would ensure that the forest was not plundered. An even flow of timber was seen as ensuring economic and social sustainability through contributing to community stability. In recent years, though, the identification of sustainability with sustained yield has wavered. We now look at species directly to assess ecological sustainability. The difficulty of producing an even-flow harvest level through time, for a multitude of reasons has lessened the ability of sustain yield to contribute to "community stability". Also, questions have been raised as to whether community stability is an appropriate goal.

Still, there is the desire for predictability in timber harvest from a number of quarters. Without some notion of the likely offerings, it is improbable that investment will occur in processing facilities. Then the national forests may be faced with situation in which the operators needed to undertake needed stand treatments are not available. Just as the timber industry need outputs from the national forests; the national forests need a vibrant timber industry to help achieve long-term goals for these lands. In addition, communities planning for their future would like to have some confidence in the amount of timber that will be coming off of nearby national forests.

The more that timber harvest contributes to long-term sustainability, the more predictable timber outputs will be.

To the degree that timber harvest works against sustainability--ecological, economic, or social--it will be unpredictable and difficult to achieve. Proposals to harvest old growth trees where they are relatively scarce will almost always meet with resistance. Proposals to temporarily raise timber harvests above sustainable levels to address employment problems generally meet with public dismay in the last planning process. Thinning understories to reduce fuel and produce commercial volume, on the other hand, can meet with acceptance and approval.

The total timber output from a national forest will be of more importance than the portion covered by the NFMA sustain-yield provision

Under NFMA, timber harvest can occur for the "protection of other multiple use values" where the forest has been judged not suitable for timber production, lands suitable for timber harvest need two sub categories: 1)timber harvest is allowed for protection of other multiple use values, but timber production itself is not a goal and 2) timber production is one of the goals, where timber production is the long-term commitment to produce commercial timber volume. It appears likely that an increasing amount of timber harvest in the future will come from areas where timber production is not a goal (sub category 1)--riparian areas, wildlife areas and other special designations where timber harvest is a tool to achieve the goals of the area, but where timber production is not a goal. The Committee argues that this type of timber harvest does not come under the timber removals section of NFMA. Reasons for this conclusion include wording in the Conference Report on NFMA and the difficulty in calculating long-term timber yield on areas not designated for timber production. Also, the social difficulties of placing any projected harvest under the "allowable sale quantity", with resulting suspicion that these estimates will become targets, cannot be overlooked.

Thus, some of the timber volume coming off the national forests will not fall under the timber removal restrictions of Section 11. Increasingly, in recent years, timber harvest has come from lands on which timber removal is a by-product of achieving other goals rather than a goal itself. In addition, an increasing proportion of the timber volume from the national forests falls under the category of "salvage", which is not restricted to the allowable sale level.

In the future, planning, and budgeting, and monitoring should focus on the kinds and amounts of expected actions and on the conditions and outcomes they will produce on the landscape

Under the Committee’s recommendations, forest management actions in the future will be guided by a comparison of the existing condition to the desired future condition. Where timber harvest is scheduled, these actions should be stated in terms of the acres of treatment as a prescription that focuses on the goals for treatment. The volume taken is the result of applying the prescription. While aggregating the expected volume will also be useful, planning, budgeting, and monitoring should focus on the kinds and amounts of expected actions that the conditions they produce.