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"Trustees of the Coming World": Gifford Pinchot and Forestry's Moral Code
Char Miller
Gifford Pinchot with students at the Yale Forestry School summer camp at Grey Towers, 1910

This year we celebrate four key birthdays in the history of the forestry profession in the United States: Gifford Pinchot (150th); the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, née The Yale Forest School (115th); the Society of American Foresters (115th); and the US Forest Service (110th). Pinchot was not responsible for the first event (he was just its happy outcome)—but he was present at the creation of the other three, in fact he was their father and midwife.

Aldo Leopold was among the first graduates of the Yale School of Forestry (front row in light suit). Courtesy Yale FES These latter births were part of a plan. In the early 1890s, as Pinchot turned his considerable energy to becoming the first scientifically trained American forester, he was already conceiving the steps needed to create the forestry profession. Its adherents would need graduate training, which the Yale Forest School, with funding from the Pinchot family, would provide. That program’s graduates would need a professional organization to help certify their careers; enter the SAF. And these recent graduates would need to apply their scientific insights on the ground; many of them became the new agency’s workforce. Call this a closed ecological system.

Yet for all this system’s commitment to the scientific analysis of environmental factors shaping forested landscapes, progenitor Pinchot knew that forestry was not just about trees. It was a social project born with an ineluctable moral code.

Even before he became a forester, Pinchot had a well-developed sense of an all-encompassing duty to the commonweal, as evident in his 1889 speech celebrating the US Constitution’s centenary. Speaking in his hometown of Milford, Pennsylvania, the twenty-four-year-old young man declared that he and his audience bore a special obligation as “trustees of the coming world”: not only “do we have a share in the commonwealth, but the commonwealth has a share in us.” The state and nation-state, Pinchot confirmed, had a right to “our service, our thought, and action.”

One year later, while studying forestry in Europe, Pinchot began to make good on that promise. As compelling as was the scientific basis of his chosen profession, Pinchot was more attracted to the political environments in which it was rooted. That attraction was manifest in Governmental Forestry Abroad (1891), a survey of the significance of global forestry. It contains two telling takeaways. That while forestry science was consistent across cultures, its application was not; that’s why republican Switzerland was a much better model for the United States than monarchical Prussia. The second was that government action was essential because forestry’s goal must be to protect and utilize forest resources across time: “a definite, far-seeing plan is necessary for the rational management of any forest,” Pinchot argued, and as such “forest property is safest under the supervision of some imperishable guardian; or, in other words, of the State.”

The Gifford Pinchot Forestry Building, headquarters of the Society of American Foresters, in Bethesda, MD. Courtesy Joseph M. Smith A forester, in short,must be a virtuous citizen and upright public servant.Theirs was amoral calling.That’s also rigorous standard, as Pinchot’s professional colleagues discovered when they prioritized technical fixes or industrial-friendly solutions to the rapid devastation of America’s forests. “Every forester in the country must face a clear-cut issue,” he confirmed in The Lines are Drawn (1919). “He must act with foresters in the public interest, or with lumberman with a special interest.” Naturally, there was only one acceptable answer, “if he is to call himself a forester in the finest sense of that fine word.”

A decade later, Pinchot reiterated that his peers must return to the fold. “Failure to grapple with the problem of forest destruction threatens the usefulness of our profession,” he and his co-authors wrote in A Letter to Foresters (1930). “We must cleanse our minds of apathy and doubt; and through a rebirth of faith in forestry and a reawakening of all our moral and mental energies” they’d reclaim their birthright of “high ideals and great purposes.”

That Pinchot felt as deeply about this idealism then as he had forty years earlier, and that he worked so diligently and for so long to realize it through the institutions he helped to create, is worth commemorating on this, the sesquicentennial of his birth.

Senior Fellow Char Miller is the W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College, Claremont, CA. Author of Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot, he and photographer Tim Palmer have collaborated on an illustrated history of the US National Forests (Rizzoli, forthcoming in 2016).
2012-2013 Pinchot Institute Supporters
The Pinchot Institute thanks the following supporters for their generosity since October 2012 (click to enlarge):
Pinchot Institute Supporters 2012-2013

Pinchot Institute Supporters 2012-2013

A Landmark Policy for Restoring Federal Forests: Permanent Authorization of Stewardship Contracting in the Farm Bill
Brian Kittler

The effects of climate change are playing out in the western US before our eyes. California is having its worst drought in recorded history, and it is merely the epicenter of a much broader drought impacting the entire West (Pugh, 2014). In mid- January, with wildfires even burning in what are normally soggy Oregon Coast Range forests this time of year, it appears like the 2014 fire season could very well be longer and more intense than any before. In light of these and related pressures, restoring the resilience in western forests has become a rallying cry for a diverse set of constituencies.

A Need for Increased Stewardship of Federal Forests
According to the USDA Forest Service as much as 43 percent, some 65—82 million acres, of the National Forest System (NFS) is in need of restoration treatments via mechanical thinning and prescribed burning. Of this stated need, 12.5 million acres require mechanical treatment, essentially removing small diameter trees, as a necessary component of restoring resilience in these fire adapted ecosystems (Forest Service, 2012). In 2011 and 2012 restoration accomplishments via burning and mechanical thinning amounted to about 4.65 million acres per year, equating to an annualized restoration rate of about 6 percent of the total need (Forest Service, 2012). Of this, mechanical treatments remained a small component— 203,350 acres, meaning that mechanical treatments were implemented with an annualized restoration rate of about 1.6 percent of the total need in recent years.

Thinning on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest yields marketable timber while improving habitat for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker
As the implications of climate change acting on landscapes with severely altered disturbance regimes comes into focus, many are suggesting that this rate of restoration is out of step with the threats facing forests of the Anthropocene (Sample and Bixler, 2014). The Forest Service is committed to increasing the annual restoration rate of mechanical treatments by 20 percent (Forest Service, 2012). Even with this increased rate it would still take several decades before the backlog of restoration activity would be complete.

Accelerating the pace and scope of restoration treatments will require a social license to enhance the capacity of environmental analysis and landscape prioritization required to enable active forest management. Such a strategy is incomplete without significant public-private partnerships with non-profits, state agencies, and others to more effectively leverage resources beyond federal appropriations. Finally, a critical element for the agency will be the effective use of the restoration tools at their disposal to harness a local workforce with capacity to collaboratively design, implement, and monitor holistic restoration projects. Thankfully, stewardship contracting, one of the most powerful restoration tools available to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), was recently given permanent authorization in the 2014 Farm Bill. Having previously operated under a 10-year authorization, what will permanent authorization mean for these agencies? How can stewardship contracting be used to accelerate the pace and scope of restoration?

Flexibility of Stewardship Contracting Authorities
The authorizing legislation allows the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to use special authorities in projects focused on road and trail maintenance or obliteration, maintenance of soil productivity, habitat and fisheries management, prescribed fires, vegetation removal, watershed restoration, and control of invasive plants. However, the real innovation of stewardship contracting is not as much in what it, as an implementation mechanism is intended to do, but rather how it accomplishes it.
  1. Enhancing the pace, scope, and financial feasibility of restoration projects. For example, the authority has allowed the agencies to make multi-year awards that can be critical to establishing and maintaining necessary infrastructure to do stewardship work, treating hundreds of thousands of acres, while providing local communities with a steady program of work. As of late 2013, the Forest Service now has more than 10, 10-year stewardship contracts, many of which are part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program. Designation by Prescription has been very effective at reducing the prep-time and thus the cost of performing restoration treatments. In places with a high degree of trust and high capacity contractors (as often is determined using best-value criteria) the agencies can advance the pace of restoration through this authority. Exchanging goods for services is the most often used stewardship authority and allows the agencies to offset the cost of service work by packaging stewardship work in a way that contractors bid on both a set of services and timber. The retention of excess receipts allows the agencies to use the proceeds of merchantable timber harvested during the project locally to advance additional stewardship activities. These funds are destined to support restoration activities locally and are not sent to the US Treasury, agency staffing, or county governments, as is the case with timber sales.
  2. Harnessing collaborative engagement in federal lands management to build trust and a social license to accomplish stewardship activities. The Forest Service handbook suggests, “Collaboration must be a part of Stewardship Contracting project planning and continue throughout the life of the project” (Forest Service, 2008). Stewardship authorities that advance this include best value contracting. Sometimes, best-value criteria are explicitly used to awarded contracts to firms with a strong foothold in local communities. Collaborative groups, especially those across much of the West have used multi-party monitoring processes to observe,measure, and otherwise track project accomplishments and outcomes, to better inform their own collaborative prioritization around future projects. The agencies gain trust in allowing outside groups to monitor stewardship projects. While multi-party monitoring is approved as an activity for funding with stewardship receipts, this rarely happens, as implementation activities take precedence. Increasingly popular, stewardship agreements allow the agency to partner strategically with outside organizations, such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and The Nature Conservancy, to leverage non-federal resources to accomplish critical stewardship activities, such as wildlife habitat creation or enhancement. For instance, non-agency participants provided funding in 40 percent of stewardship projects active from 2010–2012, with the majority of this match coming through stewardship agreements with non-profits and other entities.
A Look Back at the 10-Year Authorization for Stewardship Contracting
Growing out of early experiments with collaborative forest restoration in the late 1990s, stewardship contracting was introduced as a pilot program from 1999–2002. The program concluded early when 10-year authority was granted in 2003. The 10-year authorization came in part as a response to a particularly virulent fire season that included: the Hayman Fire, which burned 138,577 acres and impacted Denver’s water supply, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which burned 192,970 acres in Arizona, and the Biscuit Fire that burned nearly half a million acres of forest in southern Oregon (Williams, 2007).

Legislators were looking for ways to help, and extending Stewardship Contracting authorities was among the actions they took, independent of whether or not all knowledge gained from the pilot program could be effectively integrated into widespread deployment. Many of the 84 pilot projects were recognized as being highly collaborative in nature, receiving financial and technical assistance from the agency to implement multiparty monitoring of project activities. However, when the pilots ended such resources also ended. Some in retrospect have expressed that ending the pilot program early was a mistake.
Figure 1

During the 10-year authorization, the Forest Service initiated 1,511 stewardship projects over hundreds of thousands of acres. The BLM awarded 421. Since 2010 the Forest Service has awarded an average of 215 contracts or agreements each year, with stewardship agreements with wildlife conservation NGOs becoming increasingly popular (see Figure 1). The downturn in BLM projects is related to an overall decrease in appropriations for the BLM forestry budget. This trend is indicative of the fact that while the goods for services and retained receipts authorities offer ways to package projects that implement service work with timber receipts, appropriated funding is still very much essential, especially when timber markets are not favorable as is the case for a majority of BLM comprised of Pinyon and Juniper of very low merchantable value. In many instances, less funding means less stewardship.

While the number of projects originating in 2013 dropped for the Forest Service as well, the agency accomplished more stewardship contracting acres than it has in any year prior, at just more than 171,000 acres. Since 2011, the annual acres implemented by the Forest Service via stewardship contracts and agreements have increased by approximately 71,000 acres (see Table 1).
Table 1

Despite this consistent growth, the level of implementation by the Forest Service in 2013 was still short of a goal it set for itself in 2012 by 129,000 acres. This 129,000 acre figure is itself an amount that is larger than the agency typically implemented during most years during its 10-year authorization (Forest Service, 2013). Is the current scope and pace of restoration forestry going to leave our federal forests in an acceptable condition for future generations living through the Anthropocene? Now that the agencies have permanent authorization will the use of this tool, and the overall rate of restoration treatments increase?

Collaborative Community Engagement in Stewardship Contracting
Since 2005 the Pinchot Institute has systematically monitored 25 percent of active stewardship contracting projects for the BLM and the Forest Service. Over this time the Institute and its partners have completed more than 100 sets of interviews with agency and non-agency persons involved in BLM stewardship contracts or agreements and more than 340 sets of interviews with agency and non-agency persons involved in Forest Service projects. Some regions have been quicker to adopt stewardship contracting and projects in some regions tend to be more collaborative than others (see Table 3).
Table 2  Table 3
This is no doubt in part due to cultural variance region to region but leadership has a big role to play as well. Some National Forest districts practice a system of stakeholder engagement that may result in successfully implemented projects, while doing little in the way of building trust beyond those directly involve— the agency, a contractor, and perhaps an adjacent landowner. In these projects, engagement often centers exclusively on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process related to specific proposed actions rather than on ongoing collaborative processes focused around a broader set of land management issues. These projects tend to focus almost exclusively on hazardous fuels reductions in the wildland-urban interface and many remain of limited scope and scale.

Still, on the balance, collaborative processes involving multiple stakeholders and meetings were used in 72 percent of stewardship contracting projects nationwide in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (Pinchot Institute, 2014). Overall, the trend is toward more collaboration on the federal lands. Certainly this is evidenced by the growth of the CFLR program, but it is also the case with many stewardship contracts and agreements.

The permanent authorization of stewardship contracting in the 2014 Farm Bill may well turn out to be a milepost in a new era of collaborative stewardship of our federal forests. The fiscal efficiencies offered by stewardship contracting, such as the ability to match private funding in stewardship agreements, have grown in popularity, as has the collaborative nature of many stewardship projects. These are clearly elements of stewardship contracting that are deemed attractive across the political spectrum, as was evidenced by a strong push to provide permanent authorization. The Forest Service itself has stressed the importance of stewardship authorities in CFLRP projects (Forest Service, 2013), a program on which the agency is banking much of its future.

Achieving permanent authorization is an important moment, but given the gap between current levels of implementation and what is needed, significant challenges to accelerating the pace and scope of restoration remain. A necessary next step is to combine the use of stewardship authorities with adequate levels of funding—both public and private— for planning, implementation, and monitoring. There is also a significant need to provide enhanced training and technical assistance to agency and non-agency collaborators seeking to use stewardship contracting authorities.

Despite the stark realities facing the forests of the Anthropocene, there remains hope for transforming century- old landmanagement institutions to be more adaptive, collaborative, and necessarily responsive to the threats of climate change. The creative use of stewardship contracting authorities and a full embrace of the philosophy underpinning collaborative stewardship represent a critical opportunity for such a transformation to occur. Indeed this is not just an opportunity, but rather a responsibility we owe future generations who will inherit our shared legacy—the public lands.
Brian Kittler is a Project Director at the Pinchot Institute in Portland, OR.

Works Cited
Mattor, K.M.D. 2013. Evolving Institutions of Environmental Governance: The Collaborative Implementation of Stewardship Contracts by the USDA Forest Service. Doctoral Dissertation. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.

Pugh, B. (2014, February). US Monthly Drought Outlook. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sample, V.A. and Bixler, R.P. (eds.). 2014 [forthcoming]. Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Williams, G. W. (2007). The Forest Service: Fighting for Public Lands. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Pinchot Institute (2014). The Role of Communities in Stewardship Contracting: FY 2013 Programmatic Monitoring Report to the USDA Forest Service. January 2014. Pinchot Instutute for Conservation. Washington, DC.

USDA Forest Service. (2008). FSH 2409.19 Renewable Resources Handbook, Chapter 60 Stewardship Contracting. Washington, DC:

USDA Forest Service. USDA Forest Service. (2012). Increasing the Pace of Restoration and Job Creation on Our National Forests. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service.

USDA Forest Service. (2013). Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Justification. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service.
A Monumental Forest Restoration Opportunity
Char Miller

The San Gabriel Mountains are Southern California’s spectacular foreground and dramatic backdrop; they occupy a pivotal place in the Southern Californian imagination, past and present. On October 10, 2014, a sun-drenched and smoggy day, President Obama underscored their local centrality when he designated a portion of the Angeles National Forest as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.1

To its promoters, the switch in nomenclature is critical. They believe that the nearly 350,000-acre national monument will generate additional dollars that will enable the U.S. Forest Service to enhance the visitor experience. That it needs enhancing is without doubt. Trees and rock faces are tagged and trash is strewn across meadows, scenic areas, and river banks; sodden diapers clogging the east and west fork of the San Gabriel River, whose headwaters lie within this rugged mountain range, are a too-common sight. Pomona College geologist Jade Star Lackey likens this devastation to a desecration. “On field trips we commonly go off the beaten path in search of outcrops, only to find ravines filled with trash and bullet-riddled appliances,” Lackey told The Student Life, newspaper of the Claremont Colleges (institutions that routinely use images of the snow-capped San Gabriels for admissions brochures and press releases). “We often pull up to a favorite outcrop that we’ve used for years to teach important geologic concepts like cross-cutting relations, only to find that it’s covered with graffiti.”2
President Obama signs the document creating the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on October 10, 2014 in San Dimas, CA. Credit USDA CC BY-SA 2.0

Cleaning up this distressed landscape will be costly. But the key question is whether the necessary funds will be forthcoming. I doubt it. With the Republican Party in control of the House appropriations process, gaining additional public moneys will be difficult for all national forests, parks and refuges, let alone a new National Monument. At least in the short run, those who hope for more robust budgets will be disappointed.

Some of that disappointment may be mitigated by an increase in philanthropic dollars. In conjunction with the President’s designation, for example, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) announced the creation of a new $3million fund for the national monument. Since the 2009 Station Fire, which torched more than 160,000 acres on the Angeles, the NFF has been active in underwriting restoration projects in the Big Tujunga Canyon and other burned-over sites. The goal then was to rehabilitate damaged riparian corridors, replant the headwaters to protect against erosion and boost the forest’s capacity to sequester carbon, while rebuilding recreational opportunities in the forest.

That work is ongoing but the NFF, which Congress chartered in 1990 to support the Forest Service’s land management efforts, has taken on a new role with the announcement of the National Monument. Its San Gabriel Fund will help jump-start rehabilitation of those acres most battered by the annual influx of more than three million visitors. “This designation provides an exciting opportunity for the Forest Service and Los Angeles’ business and civic communities to provide residents and visitors with improved conditions to enjoy their public lands,” observed NFF president Bill Possiel. The fund will deepen “our commitment to long-term stewardship with community-based partners and to connecting Los Angeles County’s diverse residents to the National Monument.”3

That social good may be difficult achieve, however, given that the monument, for all its size, is not as large or as comprehensive as originally intended. Its first iteration called for it to absorb the whole of the San Gabriel range, stretching from the Cajon Pass on the east (through which I-15 cuts) to Newhall Pass on the west (through which CA-14 runs into the Mojave Desert). The logic was driven by geographic realities and management needs. By pulling together the entire Angeles National Forest and that portion of the range the San Bernardino National Forest stewards, the National Monument would streamline administration, making for more efficient and effective governance.

That plan made perfect sense on paper, but not in the imperfect political arena. Supervisors of San Bernardino County, responding to mountain community residents opposed to what they decried as a “federal land grab”—the irony is delicious, given that by definition a National Forest is also federal—unanimously opposed the designation. The Obama Administration responded by shrinking the monument so that its eastern boundary (as it had with the Angeles NF) runs in tandem with the Los Angeles-San Bernardino County line. However understandable, this decision will hamper efforts to manage recreation, wilderness, and endangered species in a more unified fashion across the range.

Those managerial efforts will be further complicated by the troubling fact that the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument does not include all of the Angeles National Forest, either. Although it is not yet clear what the administrative structure will be for the monument inside a National Forest, the inevitable overlapping authorities will not bring clarity to decision-making processes or streamline procedures, which is one of the issues that the monument’s proponents hoped to resolve through the original designation.

None of these difficulties—potential and predictable—undercuts the San Gabriels Mountains’ claim to National Monument status. They are more than worthy of this acclaim for reasons natural and human—not all of which are benign. “The San Gabriels, in their state of tectonic youth, are rising as rapidly as any range on earth,” John McPhee observed in The Control of Nature. “Their loose inimical slopes flout the tolerance of the angle of repose. Rising straight up out of the megalopolis, they stand ten thousand feet above the nearby sea, and they are not kidding with this city. Shedding, spalling, self destructing, they are disintegrating at a rate that is also among the fastest in the world. The phalanxed communities of Los Angeles have pushed themselves hard against these mountains, an aggression that requires a deep defense budget to contend with the results.”4
View of the San Gabriel Mountains from Cajon Pass. Credit Wikimedia User Ricraider/CC BY-SA 3.0

These very dangers of uplift and sloughing off add to this range’s uniqueness: when rain falls on their loose soils, the resulting debris flows are beyond treacherous; in August, a freak monsoonal storm dropped four inches on rain on the Mt. Baldy watershed, setting loose a churning torrent of rock, gravel, trees, and soil that killed one man, smashed houses, and gouged out roads. These same terrain, under scorching sun and fanned by furious Santa Ana winds, can funnel firestorms down slope and canyon to incinerate broad swaths of these stiff-folded mountains. Fascinating and terrifying, the San Gabriels are one of a kind.

They are home as well to some unusual geological features—the shape-shifting San Andreas Fault, for one—and a rich biodiversity consistent with Mediterranean ecozones that cover but three percent of the earth’s surface. More than 80 percent of the forest is covered in chaparral (a “bristly mane,” is how John Muir described it after hiking there in the 1870s), a habitat that contains upwards of 300 species of plants endemic to this region. Its streams, creeks, and springs sustain such threatened or endangered species as the yellow-legged frog and arroyo chub, while Nelson’s bighorn sheep occupy portions of the mountains’ windswept high ground; sailing overhead are California Condors.

These iconic natural features are matched by the mountains’ remarkable human history, which dates back 12,000 years. Native people used the foothills, ridges, and canyons for food, clothing, and shelter. They hunted across the rough land, made use of its pristine waters, set fires to “enhance the density of specific edible plant communities, increase the food supply for animals, and support the development of material used in construction and medicine.” Central to their cosmology, the San Gabriel Mountains were also their source of life.5

The San Gabriels proved as rich for the Europeans—ranching and agriculture made use of rain and snowmelt that flowed downhill: there would have been no citrus production in Southern California without these remarkable mountains and the alluvial fans that spread out from their canyons. The same can be said for recreation. The San Gabriels were the stimulus to the so-called Great Hiking Era of the late 19th and early 20th century. Hundreds of thousands of Angelenos took streetcars to trailheads in the foothills, and then trekked up Mt. Wilson and Mt. Baldy, and slept in the lodges that catered to their needs, blazing a trail for the more than three million people today who splash in the San Gabriel River, rest within a shady oak grove, or camp out in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.

We can continue to commune with nature whether the landscape is called the Angeles National Forest or the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. And maybe that’s the point: the lands are more important than the name we give them. Yet its new status as a monument perhaps gives us an unparalleled opportunity in this climate-changed era to repair these lands so that they will do what they have always done—sustain the human and biotic communities that depend on them.

Char Miller, a University Fellow of the Pinchot Institute, is the W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, CA.

1 Of the new monument’s 346,179 acres, the vast majority is from the Angeles National Forest (342,177) and a sliver (4,002) from the adjacent San Bernardino National Forest.

2 Tim Hernandez, President Obama Names San Gabriels a National Monument, The Student Life, October 17, 2014. http://tsl.pomona.edu/articles/2014/10/17/news/5564-president-obama-names-san-gabriel-mountains-a-national-monument, accessed October 18, 2014.

3 “NFF Announces $3 Million San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” October 10, 2014. http://www.nationalforests.org/press/releases/nff-announces-3-million-san-gabriel-mountains-national-monument-fund , accessed October 18, 2014.

4 John McPhee, The Control of Nature, New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. 1989, 184.

5 Daniel Medina, The Indigenous Dawn of the San Gabriel Mountains. http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/san-gabriel-river/the-indigenous-dawn-of-the-san-gabriel-mountains.html, accessed October 19, 2014.
A Vision for Conservation in the West: Field Notes from a Strategic Convening

Brian Kittler

 Following the 2016 elections the Pinchot Institute convened conservation leaders to examine potential solutions to persistent challenges facing landscapes in the western U.S. The articles in this edition of The Pinchot Letter are inspired by this convening, with many insights from the event embedded throughout. The problems addressed are among the most pernicious in conservation, transcending the ebb and flow of political tides.

Our biggest conservation challenges cannot be solved by any one national policy, administrative rule, or any particular Presidential administration or Congress. Rather, the problems we face require a culture of compromise and experimentation, and making use of policy and finance to work across multiple levels of governance. Encouragingly, emerging paradigms in collaborative conservation now being applied across the public-private tapestry that is the American West are doing exactly this.

Themes from the Dialogue — Diagnosing Conservation Threats and Opportunities
Unconstrained development is a leading driver of ecosystem degradation. As we move toward the middle of this century two effects of growth bear special consideration—expansion of housing and other structures into wildlands and the expanding footprint of energy extraction, production, and transmission.

The number of homes and the infrastructure at risk of wildfire continues to grow, pressuring natural resources and the agencies managing them. Land-use policy is a pre-eminent example of the tension that exists in environmental policies grounded by federalism. Specifically, land-use decisions primarily made at the local level, are of national significance due to escalating state and federal expenditure on protecting structures in areas of high fire risk.

Continued expansion of low-density development into wildlands is largely unfettered across the West. Each new home makes fuel treatments and fire suppression all the more difficult and expensive, and actions presently taken to reduce forest fuels in the wildland-urban interface are inadequate when measured against the scale of the problem. The focus on homeowner education and technical assistance needs to continue, but a hard look at land-use policies and who pays for fire suppression is warranted.

The tentacles of sprawling energy infrastructure are reaching further and further across western forests and range, possibly impacting a land area the size of Texas between now and 2040.1 Even this estimate may be on the low side as it does not factor in the potential for increased interest in expanding energy development on public lands. Setting aside the aspirations of the 115th Congress and the White House, changes in energy demand, distribution, and supply that were already in motion suggest renewable energy installations and fossil fuel extraction will expand substantially in the coming decades.

Low-density development in the wildland-urban interface near the Front Range in Colorado. Credit: Brian KittlerMuch of the growth will occur in open space in the West where the resources are located, and where direct conflicts with people are more avoidable. Conflict over electricity transmission and pipeline proposals will continue. Mitigation procedures and smart planning are vital to avoid and minimize conflicts. Likewise, any calculation of the distribution of revenues from energy development on state and federal public lands must consider the long term costs of natural resource management and conservation across these lands.

As development in the wildland-urban interface and energy sprawl directly and indirectly stress large areas of public land, planning processes and agencies governing these lands, will increasingly need to address forces outside the management unit. For instance, as National Forests undertake Forest Plan revisions using the 2012 Planning Rule, lessons can be drawn from the landscape-scale thinking now permeating Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). Ideally, such conservation planning processes are purposefully intertwined.

Similarly, moving from planning to implementation, as future project areas are mapped on Forests, state agencies, Resource Advisory Committees, Conservation Districts, and others, can lay the groundwork for complementary work off Forest. From fiduciary, ecological, and fire-management perspectives this modus operandi makes good sense. This way of working also helps facilitate the widespread and controlled reintroduction of fire into western landscapes.

Monitoring of the Front Range Stewardship Contract, Colorado. Credit: Brian KittlerThese are just a few reasons why a shift towards all lands management (ALM) as an operational paradigm is underway. When implementing individual projects, agencies and landowners are increasingly emphasizing ALM to better deploy resources to problems that often fail to respect ownership boundaries. Supporting this approach, a number of policies have been introduced in recent years to facilitate projects across public and private ownership. Prime examples are the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program, the Good Neighbor Authority, the Joint Chiefs Restoration Partnership, and the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, to name a few. These policies provide budgetary flexibility essential for ALM.

These policies also encourage leadership to emerge somewhat organically within ALM collaborative efforts from state, federal, and non-governmental entities—enabling resources to be placed on the ground more effectively. Moving forward into the next phase of ALM collaborative planning and implementation, a culture of experimentation could further promise new operational models, hopefully increasing cost-effectiveness. This will not necessarily require new or expanded authorities (although reauthorization of programs like the CFLR is important), but rather political will and social license for experimentation to occur.

Also vital to pilot testing of new policy concepts is improved outcome measuring and study of what is being learned. As has occurred with prior forays in policy experimentation, initiation need not be driven by Congress, rather as was the case with the Joint Chiefs Initiative and the origins of Stewardship End-Result Contracting, leadership can come from the field and administrators.

Given the combined impacts of climate change and the other threats of the Anthropocene, collaborative planning and implementation of natural resource management programs across all ownerships is likely the only viable path forward. Additionally, this needs to happen at scales matching “mega-disturbances” which increasingly stretch the mind and exhaust budgets.2 Budgetary and structural implications for agencies are significant, as mega-disturbances are forcing something akin to a perpetual disaster-response mode. Given the history of conflict in natural resource management, particularly around salvage timber on federal public lands, how can we begin to approach consensus on mere principles for responding to changes as large as the drought-driven die-off of more than 100 million trees in the Sierra Nevada or the mortality of more than 800 million trees in Colorado? Answers come in part via the process of collaborating.
Landscapes across the West have been transformed by large scale mortality events. Credit: Don Graham CC BY-SA 2.0
Finding durable solutions to conservation challenges equates on some levels to reframing the issue away from expenditure to investment.

At different stages in our national story we have invested in western lands in different ways as we sought different types of returns. For better or worse, the large water projects of the Bureau of Reclamation made cities in the desert a reality; post-World War II, timber from National Forests built many of the homes for the Greatest Generation to inhabit; and New Deal investments in the National Parks and National Forests laid the foundation for diverse recreation opportunities. So today, given the nature of our problems, what types of investments are needed and what returns should we expect?

For starters, investing in forest conservation and restoration can provide savings as evidenced in the emergence of water funds. This renewed focus on watershed investments in federal public lands recalls the whole reason these lands were conserved in the first place —to provide drinking water and to enable the development of human communities throughout the West. This foundational purpose still requires investment, but today innovative financing mechanisms can help. For instance, forest resiliency bonds are being tested and California’s recent Assembly Bill 2480 allows for the same bonding mechanisms used to build and maintain pipes and aqueducts to also apply to key forested watersheds. Likewise, programs to reintroduce fire to western lands can arguably be viewed as investments with the return coming in the form of reduced future expenditures in damage mitigation. What are the top restoration investments we should be making in the next decade to protect infrastructure like the Oroville dam in California?

Finally, the act of ecological restoration itself provides employment opportunities. In many cases forest restoration not only facilitates, but hinges directly upon new investment in sawmills and other wood processing infrastructure, which has economic ripple effects in rural communities.What lessons did we learn from the Great Recession and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act? Rather than scrambling to find shovel-ready projects to stave off the most deleterious effects of a future economic downturn, perhaps we as a nation would be better served by building the resilient watersheds and landscapes of the future with strategic investments made today. The opportunity is right in front of us to build a regenerative economy, one that not only builds wealth and well-being but tackles some of the most critical problems facing conservation.

Brian Kittler is the director of the Pinchot Western Region office.

A fly fisherman in Rocky Mountain National Park. Credit: Tim Wilson CC BY 2.0

1 Trainor A.M., McDonald R.I., Fargione J. (2016) Energy sprawl is the largest driver of land use change in United States. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0162269. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162269
2 Millar, C. I., & Stephenson, N.L. (2015) Temperate forest health in an era of emerging megadisturbance. Science, 349(6250), 823-826.
Adapting Conservation to Climate Change: Perspectives from the Field
Will Price

As governments, businesses, and conservation organizations debate what can be done to decelerate emissions of greenhouse gases, they are already mobilizing to deal with the repercussions.More and more, strategies to conserve biodiversity and sustain ecosystem functions take into consideration how conditions and disturbance regimes will change going forward, thinking about where flora and fauna will need to move, or how to identify and secure places that have always proven to harbor biodiversity.

In the last few years a number of studies have begun to paint a picture of how ecosystems of North America will be affected by shifting seasons: more droughts in some places and floods in others, higher tides, bigger storms, and many other possibilities. However, climate models are still hard to interpret at the scale at which we must make conservation decisions and investments. Some changes at this point seem certain (like the rising seas) or are already being observed (average annual temperatures). Other changes are harder to predict, in many cases because they rely on complex climatic interactions that do not yet downscale reliably to specific regions—especially when the variable of interest is inherently dynamic (e.g. intensity of storm events). Yet despite these uncertainties many organizations are finding ways to take actions that are needed to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Sunset near Alexandria, LA - USDA NRCS
For our part, the Pinchot Institute seeks to further the dialogue and move new thinking to the ground where it is needed. Last year the Institute hosted a major national symposium on “Conservation in the Anthropocene” inviting scientists and land managers to share their thinking on how conservation must evolve during this new epoch.1 We are also working with organizations in various parts of the country to identify adaptive conservation strategies and help grow the capacity and expertise to facilitate their implementation.2

Among the most influential organizations working on this challenge in North America are the Open Space Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the US Forest Service, though many others are doing similar thinking and adapting their strategies and actions to a new world. What follows are a few vignettes on how these organizations are coping with the challenges of climate change in the field.

Conservation in a Changing World by Peter Howell, Executive Vice President Conservation Capital Programs, Open Space Institute

Climate Change and Conservation - A Fish and a Marsh by Noah Matson, Vice President for Landscape Conservation and Climate Adaptation, Defenders of Wildlife

Can a Federally-led Partnership Facilitate Regional Change? by Sarah Low, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Philadelphia Field Station

The Nature Conservancy's Strategies for Climate Change by Chris Topik, Director, Restoring America's Forests, North American Region, The Nature Conservancy

Will Price is Director of Conservation Programs at the Pinchot Institute in Princeton, NJ.

1 Sample, V. Alaric. 2012. “Redefining Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene.” Pinchot Letter 16.4 http://www.pinchot.org/doc/420

2 Beecher, Susan. 2014. “Adapting to a Changing Climate: Risks & Opportunities for the Upper Delaware River Region.” http://www.pinchot.org/doc/499
Adapting to a Changing Climate: Risks & Opportunities for the Upper Delaware River Region
Climate Adaptation PlanIn 2012, the Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP), the Cumberland River Compact, Headwaters Economics, the Common Waters Partnership and the Pinchot Institute for Conservation came together to create a climate adaptation plan for the communities of the Upper Delaware River Region. Development of the plan came about because all parties, led by MFPP, recognized the critical need for local community resilience against the impacts of climate change by protecting forest and water resources. This climate adaptation plan for the Upper Delaware Region of southeastern New York, northeastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey presents the results of a community team effort, deep and broad information gathering, critical analysis and thoughtful planning. The Common Waters Partnership and Pinchot Institute for Conservation shared the local leadership role to engage with the Climate Solutions University: Forest and Water Strategies program (CSU) and lead their community toward climate resilience with an adaptation plan that addresses their local climate risks and fits their local conditions and culture. This achievement was made possible by the guidance and coaching of the CSU program created by the Model Forest Policy Program in partnership with the Cumberland River Compact and the assistance of Headwaters Economics. The goal of CSU is to empower rural, underserved communities to become leaders in climate resilience using a cost effective distance-learning program. The result of this collaborative effort is a powerful climate adaptation plan that the community can support and implement in coming years. The outcome will be a community that can better withstand impacts of climate upon their natural resources, economy and social structure in the decades to come.

Download the report (13MB PDF)
Additional Projects at The Pinchot Institute
  • Enduring Forest Sustainability in the Development of Wood Bio-energy
  • Evaluating National Forest Management Against Standards for Forest Certification
An Integrated Story for an Ecological Civilization
Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, 2012 Pinchot Distinguished Lecturer

My special thanks to Tom Lovejoy for his generous introduction and to Al Sample for his kind invitation to deliver this lecture.

Distinguished Pinchot Institute Board members and Pinchot family members, you are trustees of a compelling vision of conservation that clearly has resonance down to the present. Gifford Pinchot was committed to conservation for the greatest good and for the greatest numbers. And this meant in the long run, namely conservation for future generations. He saw nature as a resource for responsible use that will bring prosperity not only to individuals but also to the nation as a whole. We are still aiming to realize this ideal.

Pinchot, like Tom Lovejoy, had an unusual combination of native intelligence sharpened by a Yale education. Like Lovejoy, he had Yankee ingenuity and a “can do” spirit. This resulted in the ability of both Tom and Gifford to learn, to create, and to adapt. This is what we humans do best when we are living up to the sapiens in our name. Indeed, it was the root of tremendous contributions of both Pinchot and Lovejoy to our planetary future.

Lovejoy created the term “biodiversity” and pioneered the idea of a “debt for nature swap” to preserve biodiversity of forests and species alike. He has encouraged and supported environmental education at his alma maters, Millbrook and Yale, and via PBS with the Nature show. Pinchot recognized a lacuna in forestry education and founded the School of Forestry at Yale. He created both a conservation ethic and the skills of management. He combined business savvy with restoration techniques. He had a political ally in Theodore Roosevelt that may be unparalleled in United States history. Together they were able to set up the US Forest Service and conserve thousands of acres.

When Pinchot’s father asked him how he would like to become a forester his son replied: “I had no more conception of what it meant to be a forester than the man in the moon. But at least a forester worked in the woods and with the woods— and I loved the woods and everything about them.” This love of the woods led him to take up his father’s challenge. His father was particularly concerned about the damage done to the forests and the need for proper management. After graduating from Yale he went to study at the French National Forestry School for a year.

When he returned he became a forester on the Biltmore Forest Estate for three years. This was followed by work in the National Forest Commission with the National Academy of Sciences. In 1896 he traveled west to investigate forest reserve possibilities. Two years later he was named chief of the Division of Forestry and in the same year Teddy Roosevelt became President. This was the beginning of an important alliance for preservation of the nation’s forests.

In 1900 Pinchot founded the Yale School of Forestry and established the Society of American Foresters. This began a process of professionalizing forestry management. The Forestry School at Yale has graduated many illustrious foresters, including Aldo Leopold in 1909.

In 1905 Pinchot became the first Chief of the US Forest Service. Pinchot was caught between forces that opposed the commercialization of nature such as John Muir, and a Congress that wanted further exploitation of forests. In 1907 Roosevelt designated 16 million acres of forest reserves. These became known as the Midnight Forests as it was just before his power was halted to do so. From 1905 to 1910 the forest reserves grew from 60 to 150 and from 56 million acres to 172 million acres.

Pinchot recognized the need for preservation as the basis for personal and national prosperity: “Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.”1

He observed that there was no understanding of this in the late 19th century: “Not a single acre of government, state, or private timberland was under systemic forest management anywhere on the most richly timbered of all continents. When the Gay Nineties began the common word for our forests was inexhaustible. To waste timber was a virtue, not a crime. There would always be plenty of timber. The lumberman regarded forest devastation as normal and second growth as a delusion of fools. And as for sustained yield no such idea had ever entered their heads. The few friends the forest had were spoken of...as impractical theorists, as fanatics, more or less touched in the head. What talk there was about forest protection was no more to the average American than the buzzing of a mosquito and just about as irritating.” Pinchot was able to turn this around and to create a new field of forest management, a school that trained foresters, and a Forest Service that managed reserves. This is no small accomplishment and we are still in his debt.

Journey of the Universe

How do Pinchot’s accomplishments relate to the Journey of the Universe? This film and book invite us to:

  • relearn the history of deep time in the epic of evolution
  • reimagine our role in it and see that we are birthed out of it
  • recreate foundations for abiding human-Earth relations

These new human-Earth relations are crucial for managing our forests as Pinchot envisioned and now seeking ways to “manage” the planet locally and globally as Lovejoy is suggesting.

This film invites us into an awakened sense of awe and wonder. We realize for the first time perhaps that “the stars are our ancestors.” This response of awe arouses responsibility for continuity of this 14 billion year old process. It calls us to expand our sense of Trusteeship for not only the Pinchot Institute and Pinchot’s legacy, not only for Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and other educational institutions, not only for our churches and synagogues and mosques, not only for our local and national government. But now, we are trustees for the Earth itself and the vast community of life. All future generations are looking to us.

Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School.

1 Breaking New Ground, Washington,DC: Island Press, 1998, p 505

The 2012 Distinguished Lecture

This year’s Pinchot Distinguished Lecturer is Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker—a world-renowned scholar, writer, and film producer currently on a joint appointment with the Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Over the course of her distinguished career, Mary Evelyn Tucker has helped develop the idea that the evolution of human values and ethics will play an essential role in achieving environmental sustainability. In her scholarly work, Dr. Tucker has shown that the basic elements of what we refer to today as environmental ethics can be found in every major religious tradition in the world, in texts that date back sometimes thousands of years. Each of these religious traditions reflects not only wonder at the origins of the universe, but a striving to understand the meaning of life itself and the role of humanity in the “stewardship of creation.” This is the topic of a new film, The Journey of the Universe, co-produced by Dr. Tucker and Brian Swimme, which was shown as part of this year’s Pinchot Distinguished Lecture. The film and its accompanying book can be found here . At the lecture, Dr. Tucker was introduced by biologist Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, himself a legend in the conservation science hall of fame, and originator of the award-winning PBS television series Planet Earth. [From the introduction by V. Alaric Sample].

The Pinchot Distinguished Lecture is an annual event sponsored by the Pinchot Institute, focused on major ecological, economic, and social trends that are likely to influence the future course of natural resources conservation. The legacy of Gifford Pinchot—both his place in conservation history and his respect for principled and provocative speech and prose—is the premise for the Pinchot Distinguished Lecture Series. Through this series, the Pinchot Institute seeks to advance the understanding of, and current thinking about, contemporary issues in natural resources conservation. Major sponsors of this year’s lecture include the Pinchot Associates , USDA Forest Service, MeadWestvaco, and members of the Host Committee: Carol Collier, Jack and Carol Eno, Alice T. Day, Danny Norman, Valerie Larkin, Nick Niles, and Leslie Wilkes.

About Mary Evelyn Tucker

Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. She is a co-founder and co-director with John Grim of the Forum on Religion and Ecology . Together they organized a series of ten conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. They are series editors for the ten volumes from the conferences distributed by Harvard University Press. She is also Research Associate at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard. She is the author of Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase (Open Court Press, 2003), Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism (SUNY, 1989) and The Philosophy of Qi (Columbia University Press, 2007). She co-edited Worldviews and Ecology (Orbis, 1994), Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard, 1997), Confucianism and Ecology (Harvard, 1998), and Hinduism and Ecology (Harvard, 2000) and When Worlds Converge (Open Court, 2002). With Tu Weiming she edited two volumes on Confucian Spirituality (Crossroad, 2004). She also co-edited a Daedalus volume titled Religion and Ecology: Can the Climate Change? (2001). She edited several of Thomas Berry’s books: Evening Thoughts (Sierra Club Books and University of California Press, 2006), The Sacred Universe (Columbia University Press, 2009), The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth (Orbis Book, 2009). She is a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). She served on the International Earth Charter Drafting Committee from 1997–2000 and is a member of the Earth Charter International Council. B.A. Trinity College, M.A. SUNY Fredonia, M.A. Fordham University, PhD Columbia University.

Biodiversity Conservation and Wildlife Management in the Anthropocene
R. Patrick Bixler

Reconsidering Strategies of the Anthropocene
In the Anthropocene epoch, “The Age of Man,” everything on earth is influenced by human actions, either by direct contact such as clearing forests for agriculture or indirectly through climate change or other global system effects. We’ve been thinking, talking, and writing a lot about the Anthropocene at the Pinchot Institute lately because in this new era of planetary change we are being forced to reconsider the contours of forest conservation and management. This includes a new role for humankind: from a species that had to adapt to changes in their natural environment to one that must be a steward of other species as we drive global change. Anthropocene stewardship, now that has an interesting ring to it. But what guides this thinking?

The Gambel's quail is particularly resilient to desert and drought conditions, adapting its food choices to the variabilityRecently, at a Resilience Alliance1 conference in Montpellier, France, C.S. (Buzz) Holling2 was reflecting on his early field studies and his search for an empirical basis to his theory of resilience. He recalled moments and months of uncertain anticipation as he watched, and waited. His manuscript, “Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems,” was already written (Holling 1973) and the postage paid, just waiting for validation before he mailed it off to the editors. Finally, the evidence he was waiting for came and resilience theory was born. Soon after publication, hundreds and then thousands of other researchers studying other systems provided further evidence to support the theoretical model of ecosystem resilience and regime shifts.

Interestingly, while Buzz was patiently waiting for the appropriate time to mail off his manuscript, the 93rd United States Congress was debating a landmark environmental law that would change the ways that public lands were managed for generations to come. In 1973, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act (Public Law 93–205). This act, as amended, recognizes threatened and endangered species of animals and plants, protects habitat of listed species from destruction by federal actions, specifies interagency cooperation, and requires preparation of recovery plans and monitoring of species awaiting listing and those recently recovered.

These two ideas—one from a unique blend of systems and ecological science and the other a crowning achievement of the environmental movement—coexisted at precisely the same time. Yet, these are two different ways of viewing the behavior of systems. On the one hand, individuals die, populations disappear, and species become extinct. It has been noted that the rate of species extinction in the Anthropocene will rival all previous mass extinctions, with as many of 30% of all species going extinct over the next four decades and 75% of mammals being extinct in 300 years (Barnowsky et al. 2011). On the other hand, it is not so much the presence or absence of species that matters, but rather the resiliency of a system to sustain a desired structure and function in the face of disturbance and ongoing evolution and change.

These two ideas, while not mutually exclusive, derive from different philosophies regarding nature. What does this mean for biodiversity conservation and wildlife management in the Anthropocene?

Great strides have been made both globally and domestically in biodiversity conservation and wildlife management since the passage of the Endangered Species Act just over 40 years ago. However, our understanding of what it means to “preserve” and “protect” species and habitat is undergoing a transition in this new epoch. Traditional wildlife and biodiversity conservation strategies have relied heavily on the establishment of reserves and other protected areas to conserve habitat, but as climate changes, optimal habitat zones are shifting to different places on the landscape.

This presents a challenge to biodiversity conservation and wildlife management because both plant and animal species are prompted to follow the climate-driven movement of the ecosystems and habitats in which they evolved (Hannah et al. 2002). As Sample (2014) summarizes in the introduction to Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene, ecological communities disassemble as species capable of migrating do so, and those that are not remain behind. Those that can migrate must traverse landscapes that in earlier epochs were not filled with highways, cities, farms, and other manifestations of a rapidly expanding human population that is relatively new on the geologic time scale. Designated parks, refuges, reserves, and other traditional approaches to protecting habitat are still important (Caro et al. 2011), but may be less effective when the species themselves are on the move (Kareiva et al. 2011). This is prompting biologists, resource management professionals, and policymakers to consider new approaches to conservation planning (Anderson and Ferree 2010), and strategies focused on large landscapes—vast areas that stretch from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon, or from the southern Appalachians to Labrador. These immense landscapes encompass cities, towns, and agricultural working lands, as well as a mosaic of public and private forests that are all managed for different purposes and objectives. For these landscape- scale conservation strategies to be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable—and politically possible—new governance models must be developed to facilitate an unprecedented level of communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration (Bixler 2014; Kareiva et al. 2012).

Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene

Multi-stakeholder engagement across public and private boundaries is not only necessary, but increasingly seen as crucial to building resilience and protecting species. Local ecological knowledge must blend with science, and knowledge regarding wildlife and biodiversity must be connected to conservation action. My own understandings and reflections on wildlife management emerge from researching the conservation of mountain caribou in British Columbia and grizzly bears in Montana. These highly migratory and charismatic species illustrate well the complexities of biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene. In the following, I’ll draw on some of the contributions from our esteemed colleagues in “Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene” (Sample and Bixler 2014) and take these issues and ideas to the ground, so to speak, elaborating on my own engagement and research working with communities and wildlife management.

Conservation Theory and Policy in the Anthropocene

Wilderness, Protected Areas, and Landscape Conservation

As Tim Caro and his colleagues (2014) note, a protected area—“an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means”—can range from strict nature reserves to those that allow sustainable use of natural resources. From a biological standpoint, the effectiveness of protected areas as a conservation tool depends on their ability to incorporate biodiversity (e.g., Rodrigues et al. 2004) and to buffer plant and animal populations against anthropogenic forces (e.g., Bruner et al. 2001). Most appraisals generally suggest that protected areas are successful in their goal of biodiversity conservation when compared to areas with no formal protection. Nonetheless, plant and animal populations inside protected areas are not immune to anthropogenic forces and expanding, buffering, and connecting existing reserves may be very important.

Land use descriptions across large landscapes affect burrowing owl habitatGary Tabor, Anne Carlson, and Travis Belote (2014) describe this as large landscape conservation, a science-based response to increasing large-scale habitat fragmentation and degradation that advances the concepts of ecological integrity, ecological connectivity, and wildlife corridors. Large landscape conservation approaches have recently been embraced as a strategy to facilitate the adaptation of biodiversity to the impacts of climate change. In one sense, large landscape conservation is the evolution of the “beyond parks” conservation approach (Minteer and Miller 2011) in which species and ecological processes cannot be satisfactorily sustained within most circumscribed protected landscape parcels. Corridors and linkages that can connect habitat across several degrees of latitude are becoming critically important to facilitate the emigration of some plant and animal species and the immigration of others. However, this still leaves the question of whether something can be done to minimize the emigration of species from protected area reserves, and the dismantling of existing ecological communities. Some species within a given ecological community are able to use their mobility to migrate while others are left behind, thus disassembling existing communities of interdependent species (Schmitz and Trainor 2014).

At the same time, a region will experience the immigration of mobile species from elsewhere, developing species assemblages that may never have existed before. How to regard these “novel ecosystems” is a topic of considerable ongoing debate among conservation biologists. From one perspective, many of these novel ecosystems are highly biologically productive and may also exhibit a high level of species diversity, so they may represent a significant biodiversity resource in themselves. In any case, they are inevitable and will develop with or without biologists’ consent.

Anderson and Johnson (2014) illustrate another strategy, resilient sites, that defines biological and geological characteristics that can be resistant to the influence of climate change and hold their ecological communities intact. These sites tend to have highly specific characteristics of geology, soils, and topography. Identifying, mapping, and then protecting a sufficient number of these resilient sites across large landscapes can be an important component in a comprehensive, portfolio approach to biodiversity conservation and wildlife management in the Anthropocene.

Cross-Boundary and Multi-Stakeholder Conservation
There are significant additional challenges associated with actually implementing a cross-boundary conservation and management strategy on large landscapes, particularly when they are predominantly characterized by private ownership and comprised of many small tracts. These tracts are typically managed for objectives as diverse as the private owners themselves, who may or may not understand or share a commitment to biodiversity conservation. Large landscape conservation strategies can be applied to help achieve biodiversity conservation objectives in regions characterized by mixed public-private or predominantly private ownerships.

Joseph McCauley (2014) describes an innovative approach successfully pioneered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) on the Silvio O. Conte Engaging communities in biodiversity conservation can lead to effective and sustainable solutionsNational Fish and Wildlife Refuge following its designation by special legislation in 1991. Unlike traditional wildlife refuges at the time, the Silvio Conte encompassed large areas of land that were not directly owned or managed by the FWS—in fact, the entire 7.1 million acres in the Connecticut River watershed, across four states. The model was motivated by the understanding that the important wildlife and aquatic species in this watershed could never be adequately protected by the FWS working only on the agency’s small reserves. It is a model based on outreach to other landowners in the region, facilitating local meetings in which the FWS provided spatial information about key habitat they had mapped throughout the watershed, and about land management practices that could maintain or enhance these habitat values. Landowner actions were voluntary, not done as a matter of law or regulation, and a large number of landowners stepped forward to learn more about how they could protect habitat values that happened to occur on their land. Wildlife refuges in other regions have now adopted this watershed- based large landscape conservation model, and the concept is at the heart of the FWS strategy for wildlife and fish habitat conservation in response to climate change. As climate adaptation strategies such as the identification and mapping of ‘resilient sites’ are developed, especially in eastern regions of the US where forests are primarily in private ownership, outreach models such as that developed on the Silvio Conte Refuge could become critically important to translating the knowledge about where resilient sites are located to actually achieving their conservation and protection, through actions that can only be taken through communication, collaboration, and cooperation with the individuals who actually own the land.

Federal Policy Responses
Federal policy around wildlife management and biodiversity conservation has tuned in to these trends as well. In recent years within the US, various government-led large landscape responses have come to the fore. As Tabor et al. (2014) remark one of the more notable efforts was the 2008 Western Governors’ Association initiative on crucial wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, initiated in response to large scale energy planning and development. All 17 western states within the Western Governors’ Association unanimously agreed on a shared policy framework to address the scale and scope of habitat and wildlife movement areas across their jurisdictions in the face of potential conflicts with planned development. This was a milestone event as states recognized the need to conserve their resources at a regional scale through interstate collaboration. Soon thereafter, in 2010, the US Department of the Interior embraced a new landscape partnership program, the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, which designated 22 large scale cooperative landscape management areas across the nation and adjoining transboundary regions in Canada and Mexico as part of a department-wide coordinated adaptation response to climate change. At the same time, the All Lands Initiative and the US Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program were established to more effectively address conflicts in natural resource management planning and development at large scales.

The Blackfoot Challenge works to sustain landscapes and livelihoods in the Blackfoot Valley of MontanaMore specifically to the point of wildlife, as Mark Shaffer (2014) discusses, the federal government recently undertook a major initiative to develop the National Fish,Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (NFWPCAS 2012). In 2009 Congress requested that the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) develop a national strategy to “...assist fish, wildlife, plants, and related ecological processes in becoming more resilient, adapting to, and surviving the impacts of climate change” (CEQ/USDOI 2009). As DOI’s wildlife bureau, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) took the lead in structuring a process to fulfill this request. Because of the complementary nature of US wildlife law, the FWS invited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and state wildlife agencies to co-lead the effort. Ultimately, a steering committee was formed that included representatives from 15 federal agencies, five state fish and wildlife agency directors, and leaders of two inter-tribal natural resource commissions.

The NFWPCAS is an unprecedented effort by all levels of government that have authority or responsibility for wildlife in the United States to work together collaboratively to identify what needs be done in the Anthropocene epoch. It was developed by teams of managers, researchers, and policy experts drawn from federal, state, and tribal agencies organized around major ecosystem types. The strategy identifies seven major goals that must be achieved to give wildlife the best chance of surviving the projected impacts of current and anticipated future climate change. Numerous strategies (23) and actions (100+) are identified that are essential for achieving these goals.

All of the seven major goals identified in the NFWPCAS are things that the wildlife management community already does (e.g., conserve habitat, manage species and habitats, enhance management capacity, etc.). What will be new, and what the NFWPCAS tries to illustrate, is that these things will need to be done in new ways, or in new places, or at new times, or in new combinations for conservation to be effective. Species stewardship in the Anthropocene must embrace four broad themes discussed in the NFWPCAS:
  • Be Inclusive and Collaborative. Climate change is so pervasive, and its impacts potentially so far-reaching, that no single agency, no single level of government, indeed no single sector will be able to mount an effective response on its own. All affected agencies and interests need to be at the table working collaboratively to be effective.
  • Think, Plan, and Act at the Right Scale. The days of believing that a single set of best management practices universally applied will automatically lead to a biologically functional landscape are over. Different agencies and organizations work at different scales. Entities that operate at the local scale need to do so in the context of the broader physical, biological, and institutional landscape of which they are a part. Entities that operate at the national or regional scale need to be mindful of the needs, realities, and differences of the many landscapes in which they operate.
  • Integrate Across Sectors. A corollary of being inclusive within the conservation sector is to also be inclusive of other sectors. Much of what governs the fate of wildlife is not the actions or inactions of the wildlife management community, but actions by other sectors that affect the natural world (e.g., agriculture, transportation, energy development, construction, etc.). Starting an adaptation planning process by including everyone and everything may be too large a burden for any one sector to bear, but as each sector develops a working understanding of its needs relative to adaptation, it needs to reach out to the other sectors relevant to its interests to identify commonalities, synergies, conflicts, and resolutions.
  • Engage, Communicate, and Act. The effects of climate change on species are beginning to be readily apparent. Because projections of future conditions and impacts come with great uncertainty it is tempting to wait until more is known and the models improved so there is less uncertainty before we act. Unfortunately, like many large systems, Earth’s climate has great inertia, and once change is entrained it will not be quickly or easily restrained. There is unequivocal evidence that the climate is changing, that the underlying cause is the growing accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere resulting from human activity, and that there is no plausible institutional or policy framework in place to restrain additional GHG emissions which will increase the impacts on wildlife. Species are already responding; it is time for the wildlife management community to engage, communicate, and act on what we do know, even if the rates and patterns of change and the future status of species and communities remain uncertain.


Local Realities: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Redefining Problems, Transforming Practices, and Learning to Live with Grizzlies3

Cross-boundary collaboration means reaching across fence linesI’m in Ovando, Montana (population 71) about to enter Trixie’s Antler Saloon for an annual meeting of local ranchers. They spend a lot of time engaged in discussions of grizzly bears and wolves and the management and conservation of those once endangered species. By doing so, this local group has developed innovative solutions to complex challenges. I know these ranchers, but I’m always hesitant to start talking about landscape conservation, the Anthropocene, the Endangered Species Act, resilience, and the like. Especially over a beer at Trixie’s. The residents of this part of Montana, just south of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, have known endangered species since long before the adoption of the eponymous act, and have learned to live with first the grizzly bear, and now wolves. When given opportunities, they’ve been incredibly innovative in their approaches to species stewardship.

Grizzly bears don’t recognize the human demarcated boundaries that we as societies have constructed. The political (counties, municipalities), administrative and managerial (USFS, BLM, NPS, etc.), and the institutional boundaries that shape our actions are not recognizable to a grizzly. They move across the landscape in search of suitable habitat in disregard of these boundaries. Interestingly though, by doing so, grizzly bears have served as a social catalyst for networks of actors to communicate with each other across these very same socially constructed boundaries. Here in the Blackfoot Valley of Montana, and beyond, grizzly bear conservation has connected local projects to a broader sense of the landscape. That is, local level action and habitat conservation is linked to landscape-scale science assessment and conservation planning.

In many ways, grizzly bears are the iconic North American species for ecological connectivity and connectivity conservation. Grizzlies have become the symbol of ecological connectivity and drivers of the push to think at the landscape scale (Bixler 2014). Grizzly bear habitat corridors that link ‘islands’ have been extensively mapped and are valuable and necessary conservation tools; scientists are increasingly looking to identify land that connects big wild areas, keeping in mind where species are expected to move and persist as the climate changes.

Grizzlies once roamed half of North America: from Alaska to Mexico, from California to Kansas, they hunted and foraged a landscape free of fences, highways, and men with guns. The native range of grizzly bears has contracted in the past century and a half because of human-caused mortality, habitat loss, and population fragmentation. In the lower 48 states, 98% of their range has been lost, and grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region have been isolated from northern populations for close to a century. A significant threat to grizzly bear population viability is anthropogenic mortality. One study tracked 388 radio-collared grizzly bears and found that people killed 77–85% of the 99 grizzly bears known or suspected to have died while radio-collared (Wilson et al. 2014). Half of those 99 grizzly bears were killed for being too close to human habitation (while the other half was permitted hunting and legal harvesting).

Often, private lands in valley bottoms and foothills adjacent to grizzly bear habitat on public lands are problematic zones, where conflicts or incidents include bears killing livestock, destroying beehives, foraging for garbage close to homes, or, in rare cases, threatening human safety (Wilson et al. 2014). Repeated incidents typically lead to more severe conflict, habituation, and eventually to removal of the bear through trapping, relocation, or killing.

As grizzly bears re-expand their range onto private lands (the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks suggests grizzly bear populations have grown at approximately 3 percent per year since population trend monitoring began in 2004), the chances for conflicts or incidents and anthropogenic mortality of grizzlies increase significantly. As discussed earlier, part of biodiversity conservation and wildlife management in the Anthropocene will require not only local stakeholder engagement, but also local innovations. This is precisely what happened in Ovando.

Grizzlies have become a symbol of ecological connectivity in North AmericaThe local community-based conservation group there, the Blackfoot Challenge, brought together the rural landowners, wildlife agencies, and conservation groups to determine exactly what the problem was and how best to address it. Through a series of meetings like the one I witnessed at Trixie’s, the Blackfoot Challenge sussed out as many definitions of the “problem” as there were bears in the area. As Wilson et al. (2014) reflect: some people felt that there were simply too many bears, some celebrated new grizzly bear activity, some defined the problem as primarily one of risk to human safety, and some linked the increased grizzly activity to an erosion of personal rights and freedoms exacerbated by the regulatory burdens of the Endangered Species Act.

Through a process of authentically engaging key stakeholders, which officially began in 2002, the Blackfoot Challenge implemented a participatory GIS program that mapped land use practices, bear attractants, and other relevant features and took that information back to the community to collectively re-frame the problem. Recognizing that the traditional practice of dumping dead livestock carcasses in “bone yards” was attracting bears onto ranches and driving much of the human-grizzly conflict, the Blackfoot Challenge started a carcass removal program. In the past three years, an average of 633 carcasses were removed annually, and the program now engages nearly 80 ranches covering more than 600,000 ha. In the Blackfoot watershed from 2003 to 2009, grizzly bear-human conflicts decreased 93 percent.

By clearly and accurately identifying the underlying problem, local people working with state and federal agencies found solutions. And by finding solutions, they are increasing their social connectivity across the landscape, helping other landowners in Alberta,Wyoming, and other places in Montana (Bixler and Taylor 2012), and now conservation practitioners are talking about it in the High Divide region around Salmon, Idaho.

Working Towards Integrating Science and Local Practices: The Challenge of Caribou Conservation4
Moving across the International Boundary of the 49th parallel, mountain caribou conservation in British Columbia helps highlight one of the key lessons learned from grizzly bear conservation in Montana: that species conservation and wildlife management in the Anthropocene must utilize local knowledge and community practices. Scientific understanding, while a critical ingredient, is no longer independently sufficient to solve these conservation challenges.

Mountain caribou conservation illustrates the social and ecological complexity of wildlife management in the AnthropoceneIn the upper Columbia River Basin, wedged between the Columbia and Kootenay Mountains, the population of mountain caribou (the arboreal lichen feeding ecotype of woodland caribou known scientifically as Rangifer tarandus caribou) has persistently declined in spite of a robust understanding of the species’ ecological dynamics. In fact, it is one of the most rigorously documented examples of the negative effect of anthropogenic disturbances on the dynamics of an endangered species. Since the early 1980s, more than 550 individual caribou have been captured and fitted with VHF telemetry or GPS collars (roughly one-third of the approximately 1600 remaining individuals), and through this research, recovery strategies have been developed based on habitat requirements for mountain caribou at multiple spatial scales. Recommendations usually involve protecting remaining suitable habitat from logging, implementing predator control (either lethal or nonlethal), as well as control of alternate prey species (achieved mostly by increasing hunting quotas). However, populations continue to decline not from lack of scientific understanding, but rather an inability to capture a broad range of stakeholders and human motivations for engaging in conservation.

In my time working with communities and groups there, I found that local stakeholders very often constructed a variety of competing narratives to explain the decline of mountain caribou. These narratives reflected the multifaceted nature of relationships between these people, the caribou and the landscape. Moreover, these local explanations illustrate the ways that people combine multiple types of expertise, such as technical information and personal experience. Developing conservation strategies that utilize both types of knowledge systems will be necessary in the Anthropocene.

We must develop and deploy multiple and intersecting conservation strategies in the Anthropocene, and providing the decision-making space for local communities to innovate policies and practices is a powerful venue to do so. This is evident in the Blackfoot, but other landscapes such as the upper Columbia, are ripe for similar locally driven solutions to large-scale biodiversity challenges.

The Future of Biodiversity Conservation and Wildlife Management in the Anthropocene

In many ways, I feel like Buzz Holling must have while he was waiting for his evidence of ecological system “tipping points.” While evidence is mounting, we seem to be waiting to officially send the manuscript off to publish “we are now in the Anthropocene.” It will be necessary to assess all aspects of forest conservation as we transition into this era, wildlife management and biodiversity conservation included. Thinking about biodiversity at a larger spatial scale (i.e. landscapes) can help ensure that the appropriate key species for ecosystem functioning are recruited to local systems after a disturbance or when environmental conditions change. However, as Tabor and his colleagues note, we shouldn’t “throw the Wilderness baby out with the Holocene bathwater.” Present protected areas are important and may be resilient sites that can increase the capacity for species to adapt to changes in the landscape. Current protected areas, however, should be complemented with dynamic reserves and an authentic engagement with stakeholders across a variety of scales, importantly including local communities who live and work in the landscape. Local stakeholders are going to be critical for sustainable conservation success over the long-term, and can drive innovation if we facilitate the appropriate blending of local and scientific knowledge and narrative building.

The Anthropocene presents to us an incredible opportunity to break down the boundary between human societies here, and nature over there. Embracing the responsibility of stewarding other species and managing wildlife is a perfect segue into dissolving this nature-culture divide. Hopefully, like Buzz Holling, soon after publication, hundreds and then thousands of other researchers studying other systems will be providing further evidence to rethink biodiversity conservation and wildlife management in the Anthropocene.

Patrick Bixler is a Research Fellow at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation in Washington, DC.

1 http://www.resalliance.org/
2 Crawford Stanley (Buzz) Holling, is an Emeritus Eminent Scholar and Professor in Ecological Sciences at the University of Florida. Holling was an early pioneer in blending systems thinking with ecology and introduced a number of important concepts, including resilience, the adaptive cycle, and panarchy.
3 This discussion is informed from research in the Blackfoot from 2010 and 2013, published as (1) Bixler and Taylor 2012, and (2) unpublished dissertation, Bixler 2014.
4 This discussion comes from “The Political Ecology of Local Environmental Narratives: Power, Knowledge, and Mountain Caribou Conservation.” Journal of Political Ecology, 20: 273-285. The article can be accessed at: http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_ 20/Bixler.pdf

Anderson, M.; Johnson, N.; Bearer, S. 2014 [forthcoming]. Maintaining Forest Diversity in a Changing Climate: a Geophysical Approach. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Anderson, M.; Ferree, C. 2010. Conserving the Stage: Climate Change and the Geophysical Underpinnings of Species Diversity. PloS ONE 5(7): e11554.

Barnosky, A. D.; Matzke, N.; Tomiya, S. [et al.]. 2011. Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature. 471: 51-57.

Bixler, R. P. 2014. Is There an Heir Apparent to the Crown? A More Informed Understanding of Connectivity and Networked Environmental Governance in the Crown of the Continent. Unpublished Dissertation. Department of Sociology, Colorado State University.

Bixler, R. P.; Taylor, P.L. 2012. Toward a Community of Innovation in Community-Based Natural Resource Management: Insights from Open Source Software. Human Organization. 71 (3): 234-243.

Bruner, A. G. 2001. Effectiveness of Parks in Protecting Tropical Biodiversity. Science. 291: 125-128.

Caro, T.; Charles, G.K.; Clink, D.J. [et al.]. 2014 [forthcoming]. Terrestrial Protected Areas: Threats and Solutions. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Caro, T.; Darwin, J.; Forrester, T. [et al.]. 2011. Conservation in the Anthropocene. Conservation Biology. 26(1): 185-188.

Hannah, L.; Midgley, G.; Lovejoy, T. [et al.]. 2002. Conservation of biodiversity in a changing climate. Conservation Biology. 16: 264-268.

Holling, C. S. 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 4:1-23.

Kareiva, P.; Lalasz, R.; Marvier, M. 2011. Conservation in the Anthropocene. Breakthrough Journal 1(2) (Fall 2011).

McCauley, J. 2014. National Wildlife Refuges: Portals to Conservation. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Minteer, B.A.; Miller, T.R. 2011. The new conservation debate: Ethical foundations, strategic trade-offs, and policy opportunities. Biological Conservation. 144(3): 946-947.

Rodrigues, A. S.; Andelman, S. J.; Bakarr, M.I. [et al.]. 2004. Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature. 428: 640-643.

Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Sample, V.A. 2014 [forthcoming]. Introduction. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Schmitz, O. J.; Trainor, A.M. 2014 [forthcoming]. Adaptation approaches for conserving ecosystems services and biodiversity in dynamic landscapes caused by climate change. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.).

Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Shaffer, M. 2014 [forthcoming]. Policy Challenges for Wildlife Management in a Changing Climate. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Tabor, G.; Carlson, A.; T, Belote. 2014 [forthcoming]. Challenges and opportunities for large landscape-scale management in a shifting climate: The importance of nested adaptation responses across geospatial and temporal scales. In Sample, V. Alaric and R. Patrick Bixler (eds.). Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene. General Technical Report. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Wilson, S.; Neudecker, G.A.; Jonkel, J.J. 2014. Human-Grizzly Bear Coexistence in the Blackfoot River Watershed, Montana: Getting Ahead of the Conflict Curve. In Clark, Susan G. and Murray B. Rutherford (eds.). 2014. Large Carnivore Conservation: Integrating Science and Policy in the North American West. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Book Review - The US Forest Service: A Love Story
Al Sample

Toward a Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition
by Jim Furnish
Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2015. 213 pp.

There is a common tendency to perceive organizations as singular entities, and to presume that the public actions of an organization accurately reflect the values of all its members. This is especially true of organizations as rich in history and tradition as the US Forest Service. In truth, the views and values within an organization can be as varied and diverse as those in broader society, especially when society itself is uncertain or conflicted about whether the path forward needs to be different from the one in which we have been so comfortable for so long.

Toward a Natural ForestJim Furnish came into the US Forest Service in 1965, not long after the publication of Herbert Kaufman’s political science classic The Forest Ranger: A Study in Administrative Behavior (John Hopkins Press 1960). Kaufman’s book detailed the remarkable organizational systems by which the Forest Service, a large and highly-decentralized federal agency with many of its 35,000 employees in remote locations, ensured an extraordinary uniformity of action—and also of values, beliefs, opinions, and motivations. It also was not long after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which documented the subtle but potent destruction of the natural environment by organizations and institutions that many Americans trusted and even admired.

The US Forest Service was one of those trusted and admired institutions whose actions would soon be questioned and challenged by an increasingly distrustful public. In 1965 the Forest Service was an agency proud of its skills and accomplishments. Over the previous two decades it had responded successfully to the surge in post-war demand for housing by providing abundant supplies of high-quality old-growth timber from the public’s forests. Its people were largely those of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” who, having served in the military in their twenties, were now at the peak of their careers and influence. They eagerly embraced their mission as they understood it, and brought their “can do” enthusiasm to delivering on their promises to an adoring public. Uniquely for a federal agency at the time, the Forest Service logo was featured prominently in a popular prime-time television show about a courageous and principled forest ranger and his equally brave and noble collie. How much more of a public affirmation could any government agency want?

So much greater then was the shock when in the late 1960s ordinary citizens accused this proud conservation organization of willfully damaging the environment to serve the needs of special interests. Clearcutting was the central focus of controversy, but the public challenges ranged broadly from destroying wildlife and fish habitat, to driving out endangered species, to poisoning public water supplies with pesticides. In a nation with rapidly expanding suburban development and a rising concern about protecting the remaining wild places, the Forest Service was accused of punching miles of new roads into remote regions not because the timber there was of any great value, but simply to disqualify these areas from future consideration for wilderness designation.

Forest in Oregon Furnish’s memoir spans a pivotal era in the history of the Forest Service, from the first public skirmishes over clearcutting in the 60s, through new federal legislation and court decisions that forced changes in the National Forests, to the adoption of ecosystem management policies that have served as the agency’s de facto mission ever since.Throughout all of this, Furnish examines the evolution in his own thinking in response to changing social values about the environment. As supervisor of one of the most productive timber-producing National Forests in the country, he responded to public concerns about past impacts on salmon habitat by steering a different course meant to sustain a wider range of resources and values. As a senior official in the agency’s Washington headquarters, he continued to work to reinforce the new value system that was gradually taking the place of one that had guided the Forest Service for more than half a century.

This book reads in many ways like a love story. It starts with starry-eyed romance, evolves through the inevitable joys and disappointments of any committed relationship, and ends with a mature appreciation for a lifelong partner striving to do what is good and right in a rapidly changing world. Political scientist John W. Gardner once wrote, “Pity the leader caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.” Observing that this seemed to be the Forest Service’s predicament over most of his 40-year career, Furnish views himself instead as a “critical lover” who was as committed to the agency as any of his colleagues but saw perhaps more clearly the changes that were still needed for the Forest Service to live up to its full potential as a world-class exemplar of 21st century sustainable forest management.

Al Sample is president of the Pinchot Institute and co-author of Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene, forthcoming from the University Press of Colorado.
Book Review: Federal Lands and the Eye of the Beholder
V. Alaric Sample

Public Lands, Public Debates: A Century of Controversy
By Char Miller, Oregon State University Press, 2012. 186 pages. $21.95

Like American democracy itself, the quintessentially American idea of national public lands—parks, forests, wildlife refuges—is still a vast experiment playing itself out on the world stage. In the hands of environmental historian Char Miller, it is a story full of intrigue, passion, and danger. It is a chronicle of soaring victories and crushing defeats, of titanic forces and personalities scheming and struggling for dominance—not just in terms of land and resources, but competing economic and political philosophies. And it is a tale of suspense, because after all of the plot twists and turns of fortune, it is clear that the final chapter is still to be written.

Miller’s tale is told in a series of 19 short, evocative essays that explore the history of federal public lands, primarily the National Forests, as a jeweler might examine the facets of a stone that is obviously of great worth, but whose cut and polish are still a work in progress. He explores the idea of federal public lands starting long before there was such a thing in America, when Ambassador George Perkins Marsh returned from his Mediterranean posting with a troubling vision of what America would look like if the extant rate of resource exploitation were to continue unfettered. The spark kindled by the 1864 publication of Marsh’s Man and Nature, or Earth as Modified by Human Action (Harvard University Press) was fanned by public-spirited philosophers and activists, some since sainted and others largely forgotten— Charles Sprague Sargent, George Bird Grinnell, Franklin Hough, Bernard Fernow, Carl Schenck, Nathaniel Egleston, John Muir, James Pinchot. These figures largely set the stage for Miller’s main characters: Henry Graves, Harold Ickes, Presidents Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Taft, and of course Gifford Pinchot. Miller is perhaps the foremost biographer of the younger Pinchot (Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism (Island Press, 2001); Gifford Pinchot: The Evolution of an American Conservationist (Grey Towers Press, 1992), and he covers this ground with expected thoroughness.

But these “creative forces” occupy only the first of four sections, and the bulk of the book is focused on the continual jousting for control and direction over America’s federal public lands throughout the 20th century. The details of the deals that were struck, and the personalities who struck them in smoke-filled rooms in the nation’s capital, hint at the deeper historical scholarship that can be found in Miller’s more academic works. The struggle over the legislation that would determine the use of the federal public lands was in many ways a microcosm of the larger struggle to define America as a nation of laws, rather than just another nation controlled by a few individuals wielding power, wealth, and inherited privilege. And what an epic struggle it was. As Miller shows, it continues today in the efforts by federal land management agencies like the US Forest Service to make sense of a voluminous collection of often contradictory laws and policies that themselves reflect Americans’ mixed feelings about the proper use and management of these lands in the national public interest. Like the Old Testament, Pinchot’s original mandate that the National Forests be managed “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run” can be interpreted in many different ways, for many different purposes, depending upon one’s perspective and vested interests.

Miller depicts the century of twists and turns in the management of the National Forests to be, at least in part, a reflection of the tortured organizational history of the Forest Service itself. The struggle for the soul of the agency began early, with the pitched battle between Pinchot, first chief of the Forest Service, and William Greeley, the agency’s third chief. Greeley despised Pinchot, and he dedicated his tenure as chief to steering the agency on a radically different course. The battle opened a rift in the Forest Service, and ultimately within the nascent American forestry profession more broadly. Greeley, in Miller’s view, “showed his true spots” when he retired from the Forest Service and went to work for an association representing the mining industry’s interests on the public lands.

But Miller reserves his most in depth analysis for an examination of what went wrong, and why, when the Forest Service somehow lost faith with conservation leaders during the 1960s, and for decades afterwards was widely depicted not as the protector of the federal forests, but as one of its despoilers. The crescendo of the “century of controversy” of Miller’s subtitle comes to its peak during this period. The once confident, muscular, and widely admired agency is, by the end of its first century, mired in self doubt and uncertain as to which of its fragmented missions it is to pursue. An external study commissioned by the Forest Service ostensibly to identify ways to reduce firefighting fatalities instead exposes a degree of internal turmoil and abysmal morale that threatens the organization’s very existence. The genie somehow gets tucked back inside the lamp, but in Miller’s analysis the Forest Service still emerges from this period of its history more like several different organizations, each with its own unspoken mission and values, existing uneasily together in a marriage of convenience.

In a chapter whimsically entitled Peace Out, Miller sits in on a public meeting on land management planning for one of the National Forests in Montana, and is surprised by the uncanny atmosphere of comity and cooperation among former adversaries. Something is changing here, and it is not clear whether the reason is the Forest Service’s emerging emphasis on ecosystem management—or whether this is just an idea whose time has come, as society at large starts to worry about its fundamental prospects for environmental sustainability. As evidence for the latter argument, Miller recounts a similar situation he encountered in the Amazon, in a conversation with Tasso Azevedo, a forceful and persistent environmental activist who subsequently was appointed to head the Brazilian Forest Service.

The tide of history may be sweeping the agency along with it, but the Forest Service has clearly added some momentum of its own to this shift. The advent of sustainability as an organizing concept has helped bring about a merging of the notions of environmentalism as it applied to natural resources, with the ideas of conservation based on the protection and sustainable use of forests. The two spheres, traditional conservationists and environmental activists, though far apart during the last half of the 20th century, began to merge just as the principles of ecosystem management were becoming established as a legitimate component of the core values of the Forest Service (eventually influencing a similar evolution in the managers of other federal, state, tribal, and private forests). A series of years characterized by epic wildfires, and extensive insect and disease outbreaks that eliminated large areas of late-successional forest habitat, also forced a reconsideration of theories that sustainability in forest ecosystems could best be accomplished through a cessation of human management interventions.

By the end of the book, the Forest Service has pulled up just in time and is slowly regaining altitude. It has refocused itself on a unifying mission of ecosystem restoration, even though the evidence suggests (and budget allocations seem to confirm) that it is an agency almost solely focused on wildland firefighting. New challenges lie ahead. Climate change is already having its effect on National Forests, further complicating the protection of water resources and biodiversity, as well as the control of wildfires and invasive species. The influences of climate change are also threatening to debase a century of research on the functioning of forest ecosystems and their response to management actions and natural disturbance. The federal forests, which should be absorbing vast quantities of greenhouse gases, are in many instances a net source of new carbon emissions because of fires and extensive tree mortality. Clearly, there is more work to be done here.

Ultimately the federal land management agencies including the Forest Service, like the public lands they manage, will be what we need them to be. America’s public lands serve a very different set of purposes for the nation than when they were established a century ago. We can confidently say that, in another hundred years, these lands will be serving yet a different set of purposes, tailored to the nation’s needs at the time. And we can predict with equal confidence that these purposes will be the result of the same rough jostling and political give-and- take that is chronicled in Public Lands, Public Debates—aspects that will always be central to the rambunctious nature of American democracy. That we will still have the privilege of debating the use of these lands, conserved and managed not for the benefit of a few insiders but to serve the interests of the nation as a whole, may be the greatest gift that Gifford Pinchot and the other leaders of the Conservation Movement have bequeathed to this and future generations.

Book Review: Living Wild
Char Miller

Wilderburbs: Communities on Nature’s Edge
By Lincoln Bramwell, with foreword by William Cronon
University of Washington Press, 2014. 344 pp. $34.95.

Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Park Service, called the phenomenon “sprawling into danger.” Most federal land-management agencies use the clunky term “wildland-urban interface” to identify the terrain into which millions of Americans have set up house since the mid-20th century—their teeming presence has deeply complicated the stewardship of our national forests, grasslands, parks, and refuges. But what does it mean to live on the metropolitan edge, within this apparently dangerous interface?

A series of unsettling answers to that question emerge in Lincoln Bramwell’s marvelous new book, Wilderburbs: Communities on Nature’s Edge (University of Washington Press, 2014). Key to its claims is Bramwell’s coining of the term Wilderburbs to define this contested landscape. These “clusters of homes on mountain slopes and ridges that lay within commuting distance of cities and town centers” come with a set of inherent tensions. For even as well-heeled residents have flocked to wild settings on the outskirts of Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, or San Francisco, reveling in the natural beauty outside their plate-glass windows, luxuriating in their abodes’ upscale amenities, and banking on a steady increase in their property values, these developments have disrupted the very landscapes their residents have rushed to embrace. Their lives have been disrupted in turn.

Lincoln Bramwell, WilderburbsBramwell, the US Forest Service’s Chief Historian, gained an inkling of this story’s complexity while fighting fires across the west for the better part of the 1990s. At the beginning of his time on the line, firefighting strategies were relatively straightforward—he and his colleagues would “hike up behind the blaze and try to coax like cowpokes on a cattle drive up to the top of the ridge, hill, or mountainside so it could run out of fuel.” But as more and more subdivisions were built into these high and remote grounds, popping up “like mushrooms after a nice soaking rain,” firefighting tactics shifted. They did so because “the public urged fire officials to drop us into the fire’s path to make heroic stands in front of insured and evacuated houses.”

Intensifying the firefighters’ peril is what appears to be a new cultural response to nature itself. Wilderburbs are nestled into the surrounding, fire-adapted ecosystems to enhance homeowners’ encounter with the wild. Yet their love of this land (and their privileged place in it) also sparked some odd behaviors. Including the time that a homeowner yelled at a chainsaw wielding Bramwell to stop clearing a defensible perimeter around her house as a wildfire blew close.However flammable the bushes that had become entangled with her shake-shingle roof and eaves, they represented nature, her nature. She could not give up that vision even if it meant losing her home.

This was not a unique occurrence, and one of the best aspects of Wilderburbs is the careful way it weaves together site-specific details with the larger patterns that these particulars reveal. Framed around four case studies—Foresta, California; Colorado’s Burland Ranchettes; Utah’s Snyderville Basin; and Paa-Ko Communities in New Mexico—Bramwell explores the emblematic issues these developments evoke. Despite differences in how they were constructed, for example, these subdivisions rearranged land-use patterns in their home counties. Fifty years ago, rural economies had revolved around ranching, farming, and/or the extraction of natural resources such as timber and minerals. The arrival of wilderburbs and their occupants signaled a significant shift to a service economy built around tourism and housing starts.

These new residential environs reflect as well the increased pressures that a growing population can have on local water supplies. Given that much of the American west is arid, the creation of water-intensive subdivisions has had a worrying impact on groundwater supplies, made all the more worrisome given how a changing climate is expected to decrease levels of precipitation across the 21st century. If there is not enough water to flush toilets, run dishwaters, or irrigate lawns, the allure of the wilderburb will diminish considerably.

Then there are the close encounters with endemic flora and fauna. People may have moved into the wild, but they are not always thrilled when bears upend their garbage cans, take a cool dip in their pools, or ransack kitchens. Coyotes no doubt are cute, but should your cat or Chihuahua go missing, then their eradication suddenly seems like a good idea. Moose seem sacred right up until that moment when your car collides with one of those rock-solid quadrupeds. The increase in calls to county and state wildlife departments to remove these and other large mammals from their habitat reflects the tension that exists between the idealized natural world wilderburbs promote and the much more messy reality their inhabitants occupy.

Fire brings these contradictions and paradoxes into sharp focus, and Bramwell’s chapter on this subject is compelling. Even as it sketches out the familiar story of the evolution of firefighting on western public lands, it builds an important case for the decided impact that wilderburbs have had on how fires start, why and when they are fought, and at what price. These communities have also become media sensations, and their precarious siting frames our imagination of fire’s place in the land: every conflagration’s news cycle comes replete with breathtaking images of swirling flames sweeping toward McMansions crowning ridgelines, valiant if weary firefighters, Pulaskis in hand, battling these infernos, and the charred aftermath--smoldering structures, torched vehicles, blackened dreams.

Bramwell, drawing on his insights as a firefighter and historian, troubles this hyped narration. “People want to live in a wilderness,” he observes, “yet they do not want a truly dynamic ecosystem that constantly changes through natural processes such as fire.” As these residents have learned, often reluctantly and sometimes only partially, is that what they desire is in constant negotiation with what nature allows, how it responds, and what it takes. That’s a life lesson for us all, wherever we live.

Char Miller, a University Fellow of the Pinchot Institute, is the W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, CA.
Breakfast, Ethics, and Forestry in a Changing Climate
Robert T. Perschel
The US Forest Service has moved away from timber quotas as the basis for managing its lands. Pictured here: Mount Bond on the White Mountaion National Forest. Image credit: Sean Munsin CC BY NC ND 2.0

The 25 years since the publication of the Grey Towers Protocol offers the perspective to ask and attempt to answer three intriguing questions: 
  • What has changed in forest management and what role does an ethical protocol have in fostering change? 
  • Are the ethical standards put forth in the Grey Towers Protocol still relevant in a time of global climate change? 
  • What can be done to foster and encourage improvement in forest management over the next 25 years?
The Grey Towers Protocol was developed in 1990, building on Aldo Leopold’s seminal 1949 essay “The Land Ethic.” The four tenets of the Protocol together posit a moral approach to forestry, focus on ecosystems as the scientific and ethical entity, extend the timeframe to future generations, and finish with a maxim to pass them to the next generation in better condition than when we found them. If one thinks about ethics as an evolving dynamic, as Leopold surely did, then the Protocol claims a key place in the ferment of ethical investigation in forestry that colored the period 1990–2000. During that period the Society of American Foresters reevaluated and rewrote its code of ethics, the Keystone Center led a major national policy dialogue on ecosystem management, the US Forest Service adopted ecosystem management as its new approach, the Northwest Forest Plan addressed the future management of a great and threatened ecosystem, and the Forest Stewards Guild was founded on Leopoldian ethical principles.

It is interesting to note how little climate change entered into any of these discussions. In fact, forest carbon management was not even an objective of the Northwest Forest Plan—a remarkable historical fact considering the intensity and breadth of attention that was given to the future of this ecosystem and the flurry of incentive programs and management advice related to carbon only a few years later. In hindsight the 1990’s can be considered a flowering in ethical thinking regarding ecosystems as well as a transition period between a first and second wave of environmentalism. Baird Callicott posits that the first wave of environmental crisis was about pollution and resource depletion, which are spatially circumscribed and temporally oriented to solutions over the span of a human lifetime. The second wave confronts climate change, and this makes the scope of our concerns global.1
Grey Towers Procotol

In the 1990’s, while the world was just beginning to develop an awareness of the challenges of global climate change, the forestry community was busy responding to the ecosystem-based ethic Leopold had published forty years previously. While forty years may seem like a long time, the field of study now known as environmental ethics was actually only developed in the 1970’s. So from that perspective we might admire Leopold for being well ahead of his time, and regard forestry’s eventual response to Leopold’s new land ethic as actually quite rapid. This response lag between a new ethical way of conceiving of a resource and its expression and integration into the relevant professions becomes important as we consider the next ethical evolution—one that addresses climate change.How long will it take to implement an on-the-ground management response?

If it is true that most lasting social change is anchored in a deep moral imperative then the ethical progress of the 1990’s, including the Grey Towers Protocol, should have resulted in new ways of managing our forests. We can look back at public lands, family forest ownerships, and industrial forest land holdings to gauge how management has changed over 25 years.

The state wildflower of New Hampshire, the pink lady's slipper often takes years to progress from seed to mature, blooming plant. Image credit: Fritz Flohr Reynolds CC BY SA 2.0On public lands, particularly the National Forests, there has been a definite movement away from timber quotas as the basis for line officer accountability and organizational advancement. Budget approvals and accountability to Congress also shifted away from timber yields. Most obviously the actual timber cut went down drastically, from 10 BBF in FY 1990 to 2.4 BBF in FY 2014, a clear signal that other ecosystem values were taking priority and thinking was shifting toward managing for ecosystem health.2

Given the millions of individual family forest owners across the country, the management changes on private lands are more difficult to measure, but there are ways to gauge trends. The development of water quality Best Management Practices for each state and the high rates of implementation of these standards signal improvement in management practices. Over the last ten years the adoption of guidelines for wood biomass harvesting for renewable energy also signals an ability to develop new safeguards in response to changing environmental pressures.The increased training and ethical direction through professional organizations like the Society of American Foresters and Forest Stewards Guild helps make well-qualified professional practitioners available to landowners. Landowner surveys consistently tell us that producing timber for wood products is not a primary management objective for family forest owners.3 Apparently, these owners have internalized some of the diverse objectives of ecosystem management, such as wildlife management and aesthetic beauty.

However, what actually happens on the ground is a different story. Nationwide the number of landowners who use a qualified forester when planning a timber harvest hovers around 20%, so professional scientific training and ethical perspectives often do not come into play.4 On the positive side, the growth and maturation of the land trust movement has gotten more citizens involved in conserving local landscapes. Hundreds of local land trusts offer new ways to communicate with and involve family forest landowners in conservation and forestry. Although many land trusts started strictly as land protection organizations, they are incorporating the need for professional forest management and communicating the importance of forestry to other landowners and the general public. In New England the New England Forestry Foundation is joining with the American Forest Foundation and a collaboration of land trusts in the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership to pioneer new ways to communicate with and educate landowners, and our early pilot projects are showing results.

pull quoteOver the last 25 years integrated forest products companies have largely divested themselves of commercial timberlands in the US. The timberland investment organizations (TIMOs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) that purchased the lands manage forest primarily for near-term financial objectives. Enough time has passed to begin evaluating the effect of this change in ownership on management practices, ecosystem values, and consistency with the Grey Towers Protocol. We hope this reporting will begin soon. In northern New England, where more than 20 million acres have changed hands since 1980, it is difficult to evaluate trends in forest management. Data from the USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis Program can be used to compare the changes to the forest over time and in comparison to the other managed lands we do have information on. However, most of the detailed data is private and proprietary.

Although our evidence remains anecdotal and spotty, the New England Forestry Foundation is concerned these lands are entering a downward spiral of ecologically unsound management that is not well-aligned with the needs of a carbon-challenged world. Periodically NEFF is involved in forest land sales either through our own interest in adding to our current ownership portfolio or as potential holder of new conservation easements. These properties invariably have forest stocking levels of 10–14 cords per acre. For comparison, the Maine Bureau of Public Lands maintains an average of 22–25 cords per acre.5 On our 150 NEFF fee-owned properties scattered across New England our stocking level averages 22 cords per acre, similar to other historically well-managed private holdings. Clearly, the investment-owned lands that we are aware of are being managed differently. If this is a trend then vast acreages clearly are not being left in better condition than when they were acquired.

From a land ethics perspective there are two things we can do to change this downward spiral.The first is to return to our ethical base. Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Grey Towers Protocol are based on ecosystems and ecosystem health. But global climate change shifts our concerns. Our current ethic is spatially localized and temporally aligned with human lifetimes. Climate change necessitates an ethic that is global in scope and encompasses many more future generations. Fortunately, philosopher and Leopold scholar Baird Callicott has built upon an early and unpublished Leopold paper to suggest how the land ethic can be updated to meet these global and generational concerns. In order to meet the challenge of climate change from a forestry perspective we need to be equipped with an environmental ethic that is commensurate with its spatio-temporal scale.6 This change would shift, among other management criteria, our concern for stocking levels from a measurement of localized ecosystem sustainability to one of carbon management in a global system.

A flowering perennial with a notorious odor, the eastern skunk cabbage is an early sign of spring warmth. Image credit: Nicholas A, Tonelli CC BY 2.0 The second ethical challenge is to address the lack of prescriptive direction in the Land Ethic, the Grey Towers Protocol, or a potential new Earth Ethic. In the world of ethical study these types of ethics are classified “moral theory” ethics and as such are criticized for lacking a basis for action, evaluation, and accountability.7 This limitation is apparent in the maxim to “leave the forest in better condition than when we found it.” How do we determine that? Is forestry sustainable when harvest cycles keep stocking levels at little more than 10–14 cords per acre? Is that kind of management addressing the carbon sequestration issues of global climate change? If there is no specificity in our ethic or associated management standards, then almost any kind of long term management is acceptable and much of our management clearly will not meet the challenges of carbon-constrained future. In order to help with this issue NEFF has initiated a project to identify clear measureable outcomes for the management of our own lands, to evaluate them, and adjust them to meet the challenge and ethical imperative of global climate change.

Addressing these ethical challenges is important, but is only part of the solution to changing forest management over the next 25 years to help address climate change. Ethics can lead to better management but it is doubtful it will do so if the economics of land ownership isn’t also addressed. Leopold reminded us that, “breakfast comes before ethics” to help us put things in perspective.8 TIMOs, REITs, and family forest landowners simply will not be able to follow ethical imperatives if the economics of forest management do not support them. In order to increase stocking levels on a property from 12 cords per acre to 22 cords and sustain forest carbon stocks, ecological values, and higher timber yields, private forest owners will need other sources of income from their woodlands in the next 20–30 years. Carbon markets will help, but we need much more innovative and creative financial models.That is why NEFF is working with our partners in the Maine Mountains Collaborative to investigate how private philanthropic funding targeted toward low rates of returns might seed long-term forest management that meets our ethical responsibilities.When we get the ethics and the economics right at the same time we will have the kind of forests we can truly pass along in better condition than we found them.

Bob Perschel is the Executive Director of the New England Forestry Foundation in Littleton, MA.
Well-managed forests provide many benefits like clean drinking water. Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire. Image credit: Jonathan Moreau CC BY NC ND 2.0

1 Callicott, J. Baird. 2013. Thinking Like a Planet. Oxford,UK: Oxford University Press. 374p.
2 USDA Forest Service Cut and Sold Reports, http://www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/products/sold-harvest/cut-sold.shtml
3 Butler, Brett J. 2008. Family Forest Owners of the United States, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-27. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 72 p.
4 Van Fleet, T., D.B. Kittredge, B.J. Butler, and P. Catanzaro. 2012. “Reimagining Family Forest Conservation: Estimating Landowner Awareness and Their Preparedness to Act with the Conservation Awareness Index.” Journal of Forestry 110 (4): 207-215.
5 FY 2014 Annual Report to the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry: Maine Public Reserved, Nonreserved, and Submerged Lands, 2015. Augusta, ME: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Bureau of Parks and Lands. 35 p.
6 Callicott, J. Baird. 2013. Thinking Like a Planet.
7 Ethics for a Small Planet: A Communication Handbook on the Ethical and Theological Reasons for Protecting Biodiversity. 2002. Madison, WI. The Biodversity Project. 144p.
8 Meine, Curt. 1988. Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. 676 p.
Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Forest Carbon Conservation

On a warm July evening, Oregon State University Extension Service convened a small group of forest landowners at Raincloud Tree Farm outside Sandy, Oregon. The twilight tour focused on the Stewart family’s forest stewardship and their recent enrollment in the California market for carbon offsets. At 116 acres, the Stewart property is by far the smallest improved forest management offset project ever registered with the California Air Resources Board, and may represent a breakthrough for family forests.

Raincloud Tree Farm Sign

Nearly half of all U.S. forestland is made up of family forests that are 5,000 acres or less. While these forests are a crucial part of the nation’s carbon sink, they also represent some of the most vulnerable carbon stocks. Despite this need and opportunity, developing forest carbon projects on forest of this size had thus far proven financially infeasible.

In the field of conservation, innovation occurs at the confluence of creativity, persistence, and risk tolerance. At Raincloud Tree Farm, all of these elements came together. The property was homesteaded by Jon and Janice Stewart’s ancestors 125 years ago and has been sustainably managed by Jon for the last 45 years. At 70, Jon is the same age as the average tree on the property. An impressive hiking regimen and his attentive management of the property maintains his health and the health of the land.

The forest is dense and diverse in its species and age composition, with the average tree being about 18 inches in diameter. Tucked away adjacent to Portland’s famed Bull Run Watershed Management Unit (the source of Portland’s drinking water), which itself receives 135 inches of rain each year, Raincloud Tree Farm is aptly named. This forest is incredibly productive. By Jon’s estimate, since he began actively managing the property, the family has harvested enough timber to build 130 three-bedroom homes. Still, the forest has increased its timber volume, and subsequently its carbon stocks, by 66% over the same timeframe.

Temperate rainforests like the Stewart’s accumulate carbon at a rate of ~3.4 metric tons CO2 per acre per year. As a point of reference, sequestration rates in the northeast and southeast U.S. are approximately 50 – 75% of this. This natural productivity combined with careful forest stewardship, means that Raincloud Tree Farm stores over twice as much carbon as the regional average for privately owned forestland. Jon’s management decisions have also set the forest up for significant and accelerated carbon accumulation into the future.  

Jon Stewart with a growth chart In 2016, the Pinchot Institute began working with the Stewarts to complete an initial assessment of forest carbon stocks on their property as part of a region-wide project. The Institute subsequently completed a more detailed forest carbon inventory using an innovative technology of Ecological Carbon Offset Partners LLC (EcoPartners) and with financial support from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Part of the U.S. Farm Bill -EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to forestland owners and farmers wanting to implement a variety of conservation practices. With the help of partners in Oregon and Washington, the Pinchot Institute began testing the use of EQIP funds for a new conservation objective; quantifying and managing forest carbon stocks on family forests.

Since 2016, the Pinchot Institute has worked with NRCS to direct federal funds to inventory carbon stocks on over 5,400 acres across 26 different ownerships in Western Oregon and Washington. The Stewart’s are the first of these forest landowners to take the next step towards developing and selling a carbon offset project. Raincloud Tree Farm has been with the Stewart family for 125 years; the carbon contract will stay with the property for another 125 years.

This time commitment has proven too long for some, but as a retired employee of the Forest Service, who worked on management of wildfires and other aspects of forest management, and by traveling throughout the backcountry of the American West, Jon has become increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on forests and other ecosystems. He wants his forest to serve as an example to others.

The project on the Stewart property is happening at a very important moment. Oregon is considering adoption of a cap and trade program similar to that of California. The state is also studying the change in carbon stored in Oregon’s forests and wood products, with the the intent of finding ways to increase carbon storage and mitigate climate change. Others are watching as the Stewart property moves through the process of listing, verifying, and selling forest carbon credits.

Under the Stewart’s carbon contract with EcoPartners, save for a limited amount of harvesting to maintain forest health, the family will not harvest any timber for six years to ensure the project makes its way through the first third-party verification without a hitch. The Pinchot Institute is helping the Stewart’s adjust their forest management plan to ensure future management actions are in keeping with their carbon contract.

This will likely limit timber harvesting to half of the forest’s annual growth in any given year. This “improved forest management” strategy can be likened to a financial strategy that grows the principal of an endowment over time by only using--or in this case, harvesting--a portion of the interest. . Over the 25-year crediting period, the Stewart’s will be able to cover the carrying costs of owning the land (taxes, management expenses, etc.) with the carbon credits they earn.

Forest stewardship and conservation are poised to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. As is the case with the Stewart’s, this will not mean a cessation of forest management and timber harvesting, but rather maintenance and growth of carbon stocks for decades.  

Raincloud Tree Farm


Building Resilience in the Upper Delaware River Region

A new climate change adaptation guide from the Pinchot Institute and the Common Waters Partnership. Download a PDF or request a copy in the mail. An excerpt from the report is below.

Building Resilience in the Upper Delaware River Region Opinions differ about the underlying causes of climate change, but the earth’s climate is indeed changing. Residents of the Upper Delaware River region are already experiencing these changes.

This guide addresses the critical need to build local community resilience against the impacts of climate change. Implementing the plan’s recommendations will lead to communities that can better withstand impacts of change upon their natural resources and economies in the decades to come. These are “no regrets” solutions—they are beneficial regardless of what the future brings, but particularly important in the context of a changing climate. The most costly thing we can do is nothing.

Build Resilience
Local governments are on the front lines of managing the impacts associated with natural hazards. As problems such as increased flooding, extreme heat, drought, and other major weather events become more frequent, local budgets and infrastructure will be strained, putting more people and property at risk. We can build climate resilience in local communities through effective adaptation strategies that sustain forest and water resources and promote economic stability.

Focus on “No Regrets” Actions
While we cannot know the exact course of climate change, the Upper Delaware River region can:

  • Make adaptation to climate change an integral part of existing planning efforts
  • Keep people safer by strengthening disaster preparedness
  • Reduce risks, protect assets, and save money
  • Safeguard the forest and water resources that support our economy

Delaware River at Pike County-Sullivan County line. Nicholas A. Tonelli CC BY 2.0

Opportunities for Local Governments
Risks to forests, waters, and economies could be reduced by implementing land use policies that focus on maintaining existing forest cover, reducing forest fragmentation, keeping impervious cover at reasonable levels, and taking full advantage of the ecosystem services provided by floodplains and riparian corridors. Local governments in the region have primary responsibility for the land use decisions that can ultimately make communities less vulnerable and more economically resilient to environmental changes. Although it is a challenge to coordinate land use policy in a region that includes three states, seven counties, and hundreds of municipalities, this strategy has great potential for far-reaching climate resiliency benefits.

  • Work with forest landowners and forestry professionals to implement forest management practices that improve forest health and diversity
  • Support forest-dependent industries including travel, tourism, and recreation as well as the forest products and services sectors
  • Improve tax incentives to recognize the many values of forest lands and to help landowners keep forests as forests
  • Engage the basin’s water users in investing in source water protection and land and water resources conservation in the Upper Basin
  • Improve floodplain and stormwater management standards to reduce risks to people, property, and infrastructure
  • Leverage cooperative conservation efforts already underway in the region and use available funding strategically to conserve priority landscapes


In 2013, the Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP), the Cumberland River Compact, Headwaters Economics, the Common Waters Partnership, and the Pinchot Institute for Conservation came together to create a climate adaptation plan for the communities of the Upper Delaware River region through a program called Climate Solutions University. The resulting publication, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Risks & Opportunities for the Upper Delaware River Region, identifies areas where the region may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change and suggests adaptation strategies to address those impacts that cannot be prevented.

Can a Federally-led Partnership Facilitate Regional Change?
Sarah Low — US Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Philadelphia Field Station

The Delaware River Watershed, specifically Philadelphia and Chester, Pennsylvania, Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware, was made an Urban Waters Federal Partnership site in June 2011. In developing this Partnership the lead agencies for this site, the USDA Forest Service, NOAA, and Department of Interior National Park Service, decided to convene gatherings of federal agencies, community nonprofit organizations, and local agencies to find out from communities what the pressing issues and needs are. Several themes emerged across the four cities—brownfields, parks/trails/open space, habitat and river restoration, water quality and quantity, and climate resilience. The first four themes are easily connected to existing or possible projects, the kinds of projects that can be delineated on a map, funded, monitored, and completed, but climate resiliency projects are not as easy to identify.
Phoenix Park in Camden, NJ - Camden County Municipal Utility Authority
Connecting climate change projection models, studies, and reports to local action at the scale of a city or region can be challenging; however, it may be possible to use existing local efforts to create climate resiliency. In our meetings in Chester, Camden, Wilmington, and Philadelphia, we heard about work already happening that contributes to climate resiliency, such as the conversion of former industrial sites into parks. One site in particular is the future Phoenix Park located on the Delaware River in Camden and led by the Camden County Municipal Utility Authority. When the park is completed, it will infiltrate onsite stormwater, thereby reducing the runoff entering the Delaware River and reducing Camden’s impact to cities downstream, such as Chester and Wilmington. The site is currently devoid of vegetation but once the construction is completed, trees and other vegetation will be planted— at the very least reducing heat island effect.

Phoenix Park also brings together a variety of partners, including the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, a nonprofit that has been planning and monitoring living shorelines throughout the Estuary. A living shoreline will be created at Phoenix Park to reintroduce mussels, which may improve the water quality of the Delaware River for downstream communities that depend on the river for drinking water. If the conversion of one brownfield to a park can carry with it the potential for regional benefits, what could happen if brownfields throughout the watershed were converted to green space?

While climate resilience may not be the initial impetus for projects like Phoenix Park, it may be an important outcome. If projects like Phoenix Park were completed throughout the region in a way that compounds benefits at each site, perhaps a strategic approach to climate resilience could come from the act of gathering and sharing. For this reason, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership has been developing Communities of Practice that link Federal agencies with local and regional organizations and agencies.

Communities of Practice are not only valuable to their region, but they also offer lessons learned that can be shared with the network of 17 other Urban Waters Federal Partnership sites throughout the country. These Communities of Practice are intended to create real, sustained change that improves peoples’ lives by increasing access to information about existing resources and elevating regional knowledge through the sharing of lessons learned.
Carbon Forestry Workshop
Camp Adams
Molalla, Oregon
May 6, 2017

Josh Fain (Pinchot Institute for Conservation) speaking about the forest carbon cycle
Download the Workshop Agenda

Download the Pinchot Institute's Presentation

Download Forest Carbon Works' Presentation

Session 1. Forest Carbon, Carbon Markets, and Landowner Assistance

The workshop began with classroom presentations covering the basics of the carbon cycle and the role that forests play both at the national and regional level. Nationally, forests offset or ‘absorb’ about 11% of annual emissions in the U.S. Research has demonstrated the potential to significantly increase this percentage through improved forest management, reforestation, afforestation, and improved forest health. Nationally, forests are declining as a carbon sink due to a combination of stressors associated with climate change.

The Coastal Range and West-Cascade regions of Oregon and Washington have some of the highest carbon potential of any ecosystem in the country. Studies indicate that average carbon accumulation in Oregon’s Coast Range is about 43% of ecosystem potential. Using improved or ecological forestry practices could close this gap, bring regional forest closer to their full carbon potential while also achieving other landowner values such as wildlife habitat, recreation, aesthetics, water-quality, and overall forest health. Tree biomass is roughly 50% carbon. Each ton of carbon stored in a tree offsets 3.667 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or CO2E.

Workshop participants discussed carbon accounting methods, how it relates to overall timber volume, and how one might balance sustainable harvesting and carbon objectives. The NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program “Unlocking Carbon Markets for Family Landowners” was discussed as a possible assistance program, as well as Oregon Department of Forestry, OSU Extension, and the Northwest Natural Resources Group.

Session 2. Ecological Forestry in Practice

Barry Sims (Trout Mountain Forestry) explaining forest management activities being used at Camp Adams The workshop then moved out into the mature forests at Camp Adams, where participants observed some of the recent forest management activities undertaken by Trout Mountain Forestry. Barry Sims (Trout Mountain Forestry) and Glenn Ahrens (OSU Extension) explained stand dynamics on this site and how landowner objectives influenced harvesting strategies and tactics. Barry Sims also explained how low-impact harvesting could minimize impacts to remaining forest resources and improve overall forest vigor and health. Swiss needle cast and other issues of forest health were discussed.

An important ‘take-away’ from this and prior session is that healthy, vigorous forests are best suited to address the challenges of climate change both from adaptation and mitigation standpoints. Healthy trees are best positioned to withstand attacks from increased insects or stress from drought. Faster growing, healthier trees will also continue to sequester more carbon into the future. Achieving long-term forest management goals and objectives may involve management and harvesting in the short-term.

Session 3. Forest Carbon Inventory

Carbon dense old-growth Douglas fir forest Representatives from Ecopartners reviewed their Forest Carbon Works program and the requirements of carbon inventories in the carbon market. Forest Carbon Works’ carbon measurement tool was introduced and participants were given the opportunity to collect sample inventory data in the field.

The workshop concluded with a review of a side-by-side comparison of a carbon inventory at Camp Adams completed by Trout Mountain Forestry using traditional forestry sampling methods and an inventory completed using Forest Carbon Works’ system. Participants discussed why the results may have differed, the need for collecting accurate carbon data, and the importance of integrating all types of forest information--timber, carbon, and other inventory--into decision support tools designed to best achieve landowner objectives.

Images from the workshop (click any to enlarge):
Restoring ecologically important oak habitat by removing coniferous trees and thereby reducing carbon storedEvaluating new technology for carbon inventoryEvaluating new technology for carbon inventory

Carbon Inventory Request for Qualification / Proposals
Download RFQ as PDF

This request for qualifications / proposals is for an approximately 3,000-acre forest carbon inventory project in Washington and Columbia Counties in Northwest Oregon. Specific project area details are available for interested parties. This carbon inventory is for an aggregated carbon development project with family forestland owners on properties ranging from 120-800 acres. Preference will be given to firms able to complete both the inventory and required data processing and preliminary carbon credit modeling.

Property Summary:
3,000 acres of forestland in Northwest Oregon spread over 6 owners and an estimated 9 parcels, all within a two county radius. Forest age ranges from 0-100+, with the majority in even-age Douglas fir monoculture stands of 20-45 years’ age. Average stand size is 15-20 acres. Properties range from steep to flat, with the 90%+ of the acreage ground-operable. All properties have good dry-season road networks.

Inventory Requirements:
This request is for sampling design and inventory completed over the full area, including all aspects of sampling design, data collection, and data processing. The forest inventories must be compliant with the American Carbon Registry Improved Forest Management protocols and the Verified Carbon Standards Improved Forest Management protocols, including compiling data in a manner consistent with requirements for third-party verification. Inventories should reach the required sampling accuracy at the property level, with higher sampling accuracy when considered in aggregate. Parties should have experience with sampling design, data collection, and data processing for one or more of the aforementioned carbon protocols.

Project Deliverables:
Deliverables from the project will include
  • ACR and VCS registry compliant carbon inventory for each individual property prepared for FVS modeling with marked plot centers.
  • Timber volume tables for each individual property divided by stands.
  • Detailed maps and shapefiles for each individual property, including inoperable areas, roads, and riparian areas, and stand mapping. 
  • A full accounting of inventory methods, protocol, and modeling as required by carbon project verifiers. 
  • Preliminary carbon credit generation modeling under VCS and ACR improved forest management protocols for a single crediting period. March 3, 2016

Proposal Requirements:
Proposals and qualifications for this project must be submitted in email to bhayes@pinchot.org and bkittler@pinchot.org by March 31 with “inventory proposal” in the subject line, and should include:
  • Company summary and history
  • Past carbon inventory experience (include registry, protocol, region, acreage, and verification history, i.e. did inventories pass verification, if not, why not) 
  • Past carbon project development experience (include registry, protocol, region, acreage, and role) 
  • Timeline of deliverable 
  • Qualification of individuals completing the required tasks. 
  • Complete cost proposal for sampling design, data collection, data processing, and preliminary credit generation modeling under ACR and VCS. Detailed hourly costs should be associated with each individual deliverable, along with any discounts provided for engagement on multiple project stages.

Benjamin Hayes, Research Fellow
Pinchot Institute for Conservation
4033 SW Canyon Rd.
Portland, OR 97221
Carbon Pricing and Working Lands in Oregon
Carbon Policy and Working Lands in Oregon From cities to the country, the diversity of lands and communities comprising our landscapes are all exposed to the risks presented by climate change. These same lands and communities can take steps to reduce emissions and adapt to changing conditions.

In Oregon, the Institute is working with a range of partners to convene stakeholders and provide research to advance the inclusion of natural and working lands and equity in proposed carbon pricing legislation.

In June 2018 we brought together 95 leaders in science, conservation, forestry, agriculture, environmental justice, and policy to explore the role of working and natural lands in Oregon's proposed carbon pricing policy. 

A conference summary report includes salient background information, as well as, needs and opportunities identified by participants. An accompanying issue brief compilation provides a detailed overview of key topics:
For more background about carbon pricing on working lands from the conference presentations, see an introduction and top reported concerns of participants; an overview of the six issue briefs listed above; and lessons learned from California's carbon policy.

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