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Climate & Energy
The All Hands, All Lands Approach
Susan Charnley

Over the last decade, the “all hands, all lands” approach has gained prominence as a means for restoring resilient forests and grasslands. Three central tenets of this approach are that forest management (1) on one ownership affects forest management on other ownerships in shared landscapes; (2) should therefore be addressed at the landscape scale and across land ownership East Face ownership boundary: federal land (untreated) on one side, private land (treated) on the other. Credit: Bill Gamble boundaries; and (3) may be more effective if landowners, managers, and stakeholders collaborate to achieve common goals. The all hands, all lands approach seeks to leverage the resources and expertise of multiple landowners across multiple ownerships to promote restoration. A number of current policies and programs are promoting this approach, including the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, the Forest Service-Natural Resources Conservation Service Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership, the Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule, and the Good Neighbor Authority.

When implemented on the ground, the all hands, all lands approach means that landowners, managers, and stakeholders having management interests in a shared landscape interact and make decisions about planning and/or implementing forest management activities to achieve common goals. A recent inventory of all lands projects to reduce the risk of wildland fire in Washington, Oregon, and California found that these projects take many forms, occur at many different scales, involve diverse land ownerships and participants, and entail anything from one-time restoration treatments to multiple treatments over several years, depending on the project. Thus, financial and technical assistance programs to support them, and authorities to enable them, call for diversity and flexibility. Federal and private family forest lands were commonly included in these projects; but very few included tribal lands, city or county lands, or private corporate forest lands. Government agencies often play a critical role in all lands projects, whether as initiators, leaders, coordinators, funders, or partners.Much of the success of all lands approaches hinges on building the relationships needed to undertake restoration collaboratively, and building the capacity to work across land ownerships over time.1
Figure 1. The East Face Project Area. Credit: Jamie Knight, Oregon Department of Forestry

Figure 2. Landownership in the East Face Project Area (acres) Where has the all hands, all lands approach been working well? The East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains project in northeastern Oregon is one example (Fig. 1). The East Face project was one of the first projects to receive funding through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership in 2014, and is also a National Cohesive Strategy pilot project. The goal of the Partnership is to promote an all lands approach to improving the health and resilience of forest ecosystems where public and private lands interface. The East Face project area is about 128,000 acres in size, and includes five different land ownership types (Fig. 2). The project is being implemented on all but the private corporate forest lands. Between fiscal years 2014 and 2016, the Forest Service received about $3.6 million and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), about $2.6 million of Joint Chiefs funding. These funds have been used to plan and carry out forest restoration treatments to reduce the risk of wildfire on federal, state, and family forest lands.

The Forest Service and NRCS have coordinated with one another throughout the project, but have also worked closely with critical partners to design and facilitate implementation of fuels reduction treatments (Figures 3 and 4). The Forest Service worked with the local Wallowa Whitman Collaborative Group to plan treatments across 22,000 acres of the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, which they began implementing in 2016. The treatments will be concentrated along the Wallowa Whitman’s shared boundary with private and state lands to reduce the risk of wildfire spreading from the national forest to other ownerships, and in wildland-urban interface areas. The agency also did the National Environmental Policy Act planning for treatments to be implemented by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), though BLM will fund its own treatments. In addition, the Forest Service provided $751,000 of Joint Chiefs funding to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) through its regional State and Private Forestry branch. There are no State Forests in the project area, but ODF has been a lead partner in the project. It used Forest Service funds for a number of activities, including education and outreach, funding counties to implement priority actions under their Community Wildfire Protection Plans, helping family forest owners prepare forest stewardship plans, and funding biomass utilization feasibility studies.
Figures 3 and 4

ODF also used Forest Service funding to plan and implement fuels reduction treatments on the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Area, managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). These lands were badly in need of treatment to improve wildlife habitat and reduce wildfire risk to neighboring private landowners. Since acquiring it in the early 1970s, ODFW has had neither the money nor the staff expertise to carry out active forest management there. ODF provided forestry staff to plan one treatment that included 213 acres of commercial thinning on the Elkhorn, and three additional timber sales scheduled for the future. Initial treatment on ODFW lands occurred along their shared boundary with the Forest Service; the Forest Service also plans to treat along this boundary. The agencies will then collaborate to conduct followup treatments using prescribed burns in the future under the Good Neighbor Authority. ODF also used Forest Service funding for non-commercial treatments on the Elkhorn, enabling ODFW to reinvest the initial timber sale revenues in preparing and implementing active forest management activities on four other wildlife management areas in eastern Oregon. ODFW has thus benefited from the East Face project in two important ways. First, it received seed money that led to a sustainable revenue source from timber sales that can be used to continue active forest management where needed to improve wildlife habitat and reduce fuel loads on wildlife management areas across eastern Oregon. Second, the East Face project caused ODF and ODFW to start working closely together as partners to accomplish restoration treatments—with ODF providing the technical forestry expertise and ODFW the fish and wildlife expertise. Timber sale revenues have also enabled ODF and ODFW to hire a shared forester who will continue to actively manage ODFW lands in eastern Oregon eight months out of the year.

Slashbuster treating private forest lands included in the East Face project. Credit: Jana Peterson The NRCS focus is on supporting fuels reduction on family forest lands. It provides cost-share money to landowners to pay for treatments (undertaken by contractors), but does not have technical forestry staff to help landowners plan treatments. Thus the NRCS partnered with ODF by providing East Face project funding to the agency to do this work (ODF has also contributed in-kind labor). ODF foresters have been central to implementing the East Face project on family forest lands. Outreach to encourage landowner participation was undertaken by a number of entities, including NRCS, ODF, the Forest Service, the American Forest Foundation— which used the opportunity to pilot test a new landowner outreach strategy and materials— Wallowa Resources, a local community- based organization, and Oregon State University Extension. Sixty-one landowners signed up for the project, with 5,492 total acres of mechanical treatments to be accomplished, some already complete. The Forest Service and ODF plan to collaborate in the future to implement follow-up prescribed burns on private lands. Landowners located along or near the boundary of Forest Service lands received priority for support in order to coordinate cross-boundary treatments with the agency, and reduce the potential spread of wildfire across ownerships. Although private landowners do not purposefully coordinate treatments with one another across their private land boundaries, they do share the same ODF forester, who takes into account the need for treatments that make sense across private lands. Another important outcome of the East Face Project has been creation of economic opportunities in local communities. The agencies report that nearly 264 jobs will result from project implementation associated with an estimated $9.2 million in wages, in addition to providing roughly 22 million board feet of wood to local mills.

What, then, makes the all hands, all lands approach successful? I have been working with two research collaborators from Humboldt State University, Dr. Erin Kelly and graduate student Jodie Pixley, to study other projects like East Face and learn what helps them succeed. This research is ongoing. Findings to date suggest a number of important ingredients: 
  • Federal policy direction and funding to support restoration on multiple land ownerships 
  • Partnerships to help leverage funding and resources 
  • Action by a large landowner (ie., Forest Service) to undertake treatments strategically designed to benefit other landowners, providing an incentive for neighbors to treat also 
  • Ability to think outside the box to get things done administratively 
  • Pre-existing relationships between partners 
  • Good working relationships between agencies, and agencies and other groups 
  • Intermediary organizations to help facilitate and provide capacity for doing the work 
  • One-stop shopping for private landowners (ie., NRCS/ODF partnership) 
  • Strong local outreach to private landowners 
  • Local business capacity for implementing treatments 
  • Strong community support 
  • Clear, consistent, frequent communication.
Wallow Whitman Forest Collaborative Group tour of the East Face project area. Credit: Mark Jacques Additional research will shed more light on what the best incentives are for bringing diverse landowners together so that the benefits to them of participating in all lands projects outweigh the costs.Moving forward, it will be important to figure out how to better integrate best available science into all lands projects in order to strategically plan and implement restoration treatments across land ownerships that optimize desired outcomes. It will also be important to continue building administrative, financial, and political capacity to successfully carry out all hands, all lands approaches. Doing so is worthwhile because, as the East Face project illustrates, these projects can be successful at improving landscape- scale restoration efforts, providing restoration benefits to multiple landowners, building relationships, and creating economic opportunities in local communities.

Susan Charnley is a Research Social Scientist at the U.S. Forest Service PNW Research Station in Portland, Oregon.

1 Charnley, S., Kelly, E.C., Wendel, K.L. 2017. All lands approaches to fire management in the PacificWest: a typology. Journal of Forestry 115(1):16-25.
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