Navigating Social Forestry II: Questions to Authors

Navigating Social Forestry II: Questions to Authors

Steve posted this link earlier. The study here is about two Nation Forests in Oregon, the Siuslaw and the Williamette, both of which apparently have vibrant “thinning plantations less than 80 years old” programs and an active forest industry. I’ve written to the author of the paper, who is willing to answer our questions about what they found.

Here are a couple of paragraphs that interested me..

“Based on this literature, the contemporary institutional regime surrounding federal forest management in the Pacific Northwest can be conceptualized along four main elements: 1) multiple, at times conflicting, layers of institutions from past eras that continue to influence decision making at the local level, including a series of institutional incentives and legacies that create enduring incentives to harvest commercially valuable timber; 2) a shift in funding from long-term forest management to short-term emergency management (principally fire suppression and fire risk reduction); 3) a large number of veto players and veto points that create a highly “vetocratic” system; and 4) an increasing importance of non-state actors at local to regional scales that help to fill in for missing capacity, funding, and legitimacy within the agency.”

It is clear that the social forestry regime implies a much-expanded role for non-Forest Service stakeholders: as conveners, as communicators, as deal-makers, and—for those performing a veto-player role—as regulators of the boundaries on management possibilities. The Forest Service is dependent upon these non-agency stakeholders (1) to not litigate management decisions, and (2) for access to financial resources and the capacity needed to reach restoration objectives. This dependence results in part from the agency’s funding structure, which continues to be tied to timber harvest, even though management objectives have diversified. Additional funding for the agency’s non-timber (and non-fire) objectives is generally tied to connections to collaborative, external partners, such as stewardship groups, other collaborative groups, or watershed councils. Beyond helping to identify pathways through the maze of various veto players, these relationships may also provide the personnel capacity needed to plan and implement projects. The current social forestry regime thus appears to be an example of network governance, making the USFS less autonomous than the agency famously described by Kaufman in 1960. Furthermore, it is an agency increasingly grappling with gaps in funding and capacity, further reinforcing its dependence upon networks of non-state actors. Street-level forest managers, thus, operate within a decision space constrained by both capacity and legitimacy, and frequently search for ways to fill these gaps while simultaneously meeting their statutory mandates and timber targets.

This study points to the need to think beyond the current manifestation of social forestry (largely centered on local-scale actors and concerns) to consider ways to address management needs over larger scales and longer time periods and inform local-scale decision-making. Issues such as climate change, associated patterns of fire and insect activity, and others will require governance processes beyond the local scale. Policy changes that eliminate or reduce the influence of timber targets, provide long-term funding for projects with both ecological and social merit, and engage veto players in collaborative learning and information-sharing would seem to hold promise in this regard. Given that many USFS units around the country have indeed moved to planning over longer time frames and larger spatial extents, the dynamics we observed on the Siuslaw and Willamette may be characteristic of a particular set of circumstances—in other words, their “equilibriums” may be more limited than those of forests with different sets of economic, ecological, and political variables.”

There is also a discussion of the lack of management for early seral species.

So far we have Jon’s question about “how does/did forest planning fit into this?” Here’s a question for current employees “wasn’t there an effort to combine timber with other BLI’s into a joint vegetation management BLI? How did that turn out? I have a question to the authors about whether they see these equilbria as necessarily leading to more local “control” over land management decisions. Please add the quotes you are interested in, and any questions to the authors, in the comments below.


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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