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Fire, Drought, and Water Supply Resiliency in Fort Collins
Aaron Lien

In the early morning hours of June 9, 2012, a lightning strike in the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Fort Collins, Colorado sparked one of the most destructive wildfires in Colorado state history. Burning throughout the month of June and into early July, the High Park Fire raged across 87,284 acres of private, state, and federal land. The fire claimed one life, destroyed at least 259 homes, and caused dangerous air quality problems in Fort Collins during the month it burned through the hills above the city. Included in the burn area are also the Poudre Canyon and a significant portion of the watershed of the Cache la Poudre River, an important water source for the city of Fort Collins.

Sources of Water for Fort Collins
The City of Fort Collins receives its water from two primary sources: the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT) and the Cache la Poudre River (Poudre River). The C-BT is a significant trans-mountain diversion water project owned by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The project diverts water from the headwaters of the Colorado River high in the Rocky Mountains, across the continental divide, and into the Big Thompson River watershed.Once in the Big Thompson watershed, water is stored and delivered to C-BT shareholders. C-BT water for Fort Collins is stored in Horsetooth Reservoir just west of the city and was not affected by the High Park Fire.

Front RangeThe Poudre River offers direct flow rights for Fort Collins, including supplies imported from theMichigan River basin. From its headwaters in the front range of the Rocky Mountains, the Poudre River flows east through the steep, forested hillsides of Roosevelt National Forest, flowing through Fort Collins, and joining the South Platte River just east of Greeley, CO. The Poudre River supply was significantly impacted by the High Park Fire, which burned though upland portions of the Poudre watershed and the steep, highly erodible slopes of Poudre Canyon.

In total, Fort Collins owns water rights of approximately 72,000 acrefeet of water per year as a result of its C-BT shares and the Poudre River rights. An acre-foot of water is the amount of water needed to cover one acre to a depth of one foot (325,851 gallons). However, not all of the city’s water rights are available in any given year for potable delivery to customers. Average water availability from the city’s water rights are adequate to deliver 31,000 acre-feet of potable water during a 50-year drought (a drought that on average will occur once every 50 years). Currently, the city’s potable water demand is about 26,000 acre-feet per year. This gap between water demand and water availability provides the city with some flexibility in how it manages its water rights.

In the months immediately following the High Park Fire, Fort Collins relied on its C-BT supplies. The city did not begin using Poudre River water for potable supply until September 2012. Substantial rainstorms during the summer resulted in heavy sediment and ash loads in the river due to increased erosion on bare, hydrophobic soils in intense burn areas. When the city did begin using Poudre River supplies in September, additional activated carbon treatment was added to the existing water treatment process to address taste and odor issues - activated carbon removes smoky taste and odor from treated water. Taste and odor are a particular concern in Fort Collins; some of the city’s largest water customers are breweries, which rely on high quality water. The presence of smoky flavor or odor in water would require either additional onsite treatment by breweries or prevent them from using city water for brewing.

Responding to Fire Impacts
Front RangeThe impact of the High Park Fire on the Poudre River watershed, the source of half of the city’s water supply, was significant and forced the city to stop using this source for long periods. However, quick postfire mitigation response and a long-term, highly effective water efficiency program insulated the city from the worst potential impacts and have allowed the city to meet water demands without water restrictions. However, uncertainty about ongoing fire-related water quality impacts to the Poudre River continue, and the city plans to rely heavily on CBT water. In addition to the fire, the city’s water supplies have been compromised by continued drought conditions and low snowpack. To reduce per capita water consumption, the city implemented water restrictions from April through June, and continued its water efficiency programs. The city also is considering innovative approaches to source water protection.

Fort Collins, the US Forest Service, and other local and federal entities took a number of immediate steps to address and mitigate the impacts of the High Park Fire in the near term. The burn area was assessed to identify areas where the fire was more or less intense. Of the 87,000-acre burn area, more than 40,000 acres burned at moderate or high severity. The assessment identified the areas most critical to source water protection. Fort Collins and other area utilities provided funds to conduct aerial seeding and mulching in August 2012 in the highest priority source water protection areas. This work was a first step in mitigating the immediate impacts of the fire. Mitigation efforts will continue well into the future.

At the same time, a group of non-profit conservation organizations and state entities organized as the High Park Restoration Coalition to deliver restoration activities in the Poudre watershed. The Coalition conducted post-fire restoration education and training programs and throughout fall 2012, carried out restoration projects on public and private lands in the burn area.

Water efficiency has been a priority for Fort Collins Utilities for years. By reducing average per capita water use, the utility is better able to withstand droughts and other uncertainties, such as reduced water availability due to wildfire impacts. The long-term goal of the city is to reach an average water use of 140 gallons per capita per day (gpcd). In 2011, the city had already reached an average of 144 gpcd. The average Fort Collins family now uses less than one third of an acre-foot per year, well under the US average of one half an acre-foot. For comparison, Fort Collins average use from 1985-1992 was 233 gpcd. Despite population growth, the city water utility delivered millions fewer gallons of water in 2011 than it did in 2000. These water savings are the result of a comprehensive and aggressive water efficiency program.

Looking ahead, Fort Collins is considering two new initiatives to protect its source water and incentivize additional water conservation: the Colorado Conservation Exchange and Conserve to Enhance. Led by Colorado State University’s Center for Collaborative Conservation, the Colorado Conservation Exchange is an effort to apply a payment for ecosystem services approach to conservation and restoration activities in northern Colorado, including the Poudre and Colorado-Big Thompson watersheds. The Exchange is still under development, but has piloted two projects on ranch land in the Poudre watershed to demonstrate how a payment for ecosystem services approach can provide the incentives needed to encourage changes in management on private lands to benefit water quality. The organizations involved in developing the Exchange are now investigating approaches to bring the effort to scale for the benefit of both Fort Collins and other downstream water users and upstream landowners.

Front RangeThe Conserve to Enhance program seeks to make the linkage between urban water use and the environment. The program encourages water customers to participate in voluntary conservation programs, such as rebates and landscape audits, and then to donate all or a portion of their cost savings resulting from purchasing less water to an environmental enhancement fund. In Fort Collins, donations to the program would likely be used for restoration projects along the Poudre River within the city. While these projects would not provide direct benefits for drinking water quality, they would help improve the health of the river and the additional water conservation resulting from the program will increase Fort Collins’s water security and flexibility during times of severe fire impacts, drought, etc. There may also be opportunities in the future for a partnership between the Conserve to Enhance program and the Colorado Conservation Exchange to achieve common goals. Fort Collins Utilities is currently working with the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center to plan and implement a Conserve to Enhance program for city water customers.

The High Park Fire had a significant impact on Fort Collins’s municipal water supply. The majority of the fire’s 87,000 acres are in the Cache la Poudre River watershed. Following the fire, heavy sediment and ash loads in the river caused the city to shut down its Poudre River intakes and rely on water from other sources. Due to a forward thinking, aggressive water efficiency program by Fort Collins Utilities, the city was prepared for the water supply limitations. The city and regional partners continue to look to the future. Through quick post-fire mitigation and longer-term efforts like the Colorado Conservation Exchange and Conserve to Enhance, the city is preparing for expected future threats to its source watersheds from fire and drought.

Aaron Lien is a Research Analyst at the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona. He previously managed the development of the Common Waters Fund at the Pinchot Institute.
Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Act - Pilot Project

Please provide feedback that will help the Independent Science Panel Review the HFQLG Pilot Project.

The HFQLG Independent Science Panel is in the final stage of evaluating the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Act - Pilot Project (“HFQLG Pilot Project” or “the Pilot”) and request your feedback. We are particularly interested in your input on the accomplishments of the Pilot relative to goals established by the Act.

We visited with Forest Service staff on each of the three forests March 18-20, 2013 in order to finish gathering information and data generated by the monitoring program mandated in the Act. This final stage of information gathering follows on an earlier phase of the review, completed in 2008, when we provided recommendations on improving the information to be used to review the pilot. We are now seeking input from affected stakeholders to provide the Science Panel with evidence of the Pilot's accomplishments.

The Pilot was completed in September 2012. Pursuant to the mandate of the Act, the external Science Panel is required to report to Congress on the success of the Pilot. Our report will be completed by the end of July 2013, and subsequently sent to Congress.

The following link provides a short PowerPoint presentation of the charge for the Science Panel: Download PowerPoint

Survey
Please visit the following link and provide input by April 19, 2013 to have your comments included in the final evaluation. Visit survey.

Background
In 2007 the Independent Science Panel began a review of a pilot project developed in response to the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act of October 21, 1998 (Act). This Act and the pilot project grew from the efforts of the Quincy Library Group and their involvement with the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests. The QLG had developed a “Community Stability Proposal” (CSP) intended to sustain communities of the region and improve the health of forests and watersheds. The purpose of the pilot project is to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of resource management activities designed to meet ecological, economic, and fuel reduction objectives. These activities include fuel break construction consisting of a strategic system of defensible fuel profile zones, group selection and individual tree selection harvest, and a program of riparian management and riparian restoration projects. The Institute was selected to evaluate the success of the pilot project and what lessons it may offer, through a multi-year review by a ten-member Independent Science Panel.

In 2008, the Independent Science Panel completed Phase One of the review. Phase One was a comprehensive review of available data and monitoring approaches employed up to that time, in order to make recommendations to the Forest Service on any necessary changes. The full Panel spent time on each forest and consulting with key stakeholders.  

In the fall of 2012, following an extension of the Pilot, the Independent Science Panel review resumed with Phase Two, and will submit a report to Congress on the effectiveness of the Pilot according to requirements specified in the Act, and relative to the goals established by the Community Stability Proposal.

For more information on the purpose of the Independent Science Panel please take a look at the original language of the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Act: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/hfqlg/archives/hfqlg_forest_recovery_act/


Office Spaces Available for Sublet
Two fully furnished windowed office spaces for sublet - 5/month each. The offices are located in the Resources for the Future building near Dupont Metro, 1616 P St NW, Washington, DC. Each office is 129 square feet. The lease includes access to a shared conference room. Phone and internet connections are available with easy activation. Full use of copier available with machine lease split.

24-hour, secure access to the building is available. Lease includes daily cleaning, maintenance, and utilities, on-site fitness facilities, cafe and a beautiful outdoor common area/courtyard. On-site parking and several conference facilities are available for a fee.

Due to building regulations, office space is only available to nonprofit organizations.  

To schedule a tour or for more information, contact Darshini Prabhakher: dprabha@pinchot.org.

Office1
office2
(click photos to enlarge)

Managing Ecosystems in a Changing Climate: What to do - If Anything
V. Alaric Sample

Rambunctious Garden
Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World
By Emma Marris
Bloomsbury Press, 2011. 210 pp. .

Saving a Million Species
Saving a Million Species: Extinction Risk from Climate Change
Edited by Lee Hannah, with foreword by Thomas Lovejoy
Island Press, 2012. 411 pp. .

Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, is one of the latest contributions to a growing genre of environmental science literature that questions not only the effectiveness of established conservation methodologies and practices, but their fundamental goals as well. As her subtitle suggests, Marris perceives a “post-wild” world in which there is no ecosystem left whose functioning has not already been altered by human activity. Building on the basic thesis introduced into the public consciousness by Bill McKibben in his book, The End of Nature (Anchor Books, 1990), Marris focuses primarily on the ubiquitous effects of climate change on native biodiversity. She accepts these as a given, and devotes most of the book to questioning what we can actually do about it, or more pointedly, what should we do about it? Her answers to these queries leave one wondering whether a more appropriate title for her book might be Rambunctious Garden: or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Species Extinctions.

As the profound implications of The End of Nature have begun sinking in with conservationists, the basic concepts of naturalness and ecological restoration have been thrown into flux. Efforts to restore ecosystems to some ideal past state have come to be regarded as rather arbitrary (pre-Industrial Revolution? pre-Columbian? pre-Transpacific Migration?). With the goals now uncertain, ecosystem restoration itself—and whether it is even possible— also has come into question. This is particularly troubling in the restoration of forest ecosystems, with efforts currently under way around the world to repair the damage to tropical, temperate, and boreal forests from past exploitation. First, since there is not an acre of forest on the face of the planet whose ecological functioning does not already reflect human influence,Marris argues that the very concept of “natural” is in fact a purely human artifice. Second, with the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases already at unnaturally high levels and projected to increase still further for the next century under even the most optimistic projections, the backdrop against which scientists were trying to understand the complex functioning of natural ecosystems has gone from relatively stable to highly dynamic. Conservation biologists are being called upon to hit a moving target when, for most forest ecosystems on the planet, they had yet to figure out how to hit the target when they thought it was sitting still.

Marris notes that among environmental activists, it was until recently taboo to discuss climate change adaptation, because it would shift the policy focus away from mitigating climate change as much as possible by regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Times have changed. With momentum for climate change that is already gathering, and the seeming inability of governments to bring about any meaningful reductions in carbon emissions, the preponderance of climate change research is already shifting away from mitigation strategies to adaptation strategies. Marris too moves quickly past the mitigation question and into a detailed discussion of various adaptation strategies for conserving biodiversity in the face of climate change, why many of these are still anathema to conservation biologists, and why most are doomed to failure anyway.

Recent efforts by scientists in British Columbia are highlighted as way of illustrating one of these strategies, known as “assisted migration.” Assisted migration is the term used for several different techniques aimed at facilitating the relocation of a species from its current habitat range, to where its optimum range is expected to be at some point in the future as regional climate shifts occur. One wonders whether these scientists drew their inspiration from what Canadian hockey star Wayne Gretzky once described as the secret to his success: while others skate to where the puck is, he skates to where the puck is going to be.

In the northern hemisphere, the ecological puck is generally heading further north or higher in elevation. Forest products are a major component of the British Columbia economy, and significant investments are being made to experiment with transplanting commercially important tree species to the far northern limits of their current range, in expectation that climate change will create increasingly suitable growing conditions over the lifetime of these trees. As it happens, tree seedlings are remarkably specific to a narrow range of latitude and elevation where their parents resided. They might survive a long-distance relocation, but they often will not thrive and much of their commercial value will be lost. Marris concludes that, while commercial forestry enterprises will have a continued incentive to attempt assisted migration, they will have to put up with high levels of reforestation failures, poor tree form, and high susceptibility to insects, diseases, and drought as they attempt to “forward position” commercial tree species in areas that turn out to be too warm, too cold, too dry, or too wet.

Silver Meadow on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National ForestSpecies of no commercial value are pretty much on their own. Most conservation biologists are reluctant to manipulate ecosystems by intervening with selective species transplantations. As Marris notes, there will be a certain randomness in which species have their seeds picked up and transported north by favorable winds or in the digestive tracts of migratory animals. But individual species do not exist in isolation. They are components of ecological communities—ecosystems—where they live in complex interrelationships with other plant and animal species with which they have evolved over a long period of time. As these random transplantations take place, some species find themselves among strange new neighbors as they trek northward. Their old neighbors meanwhile are noticing new arrivals from further south, some of which will take on the aggressive characteristics of invasive species. Ecosystems all along a north-south axis will find themselves “torn apart” by these differential arrivals and departures of only selected members of ecological communities. Some will re-assemble themselves into new communities and become integral to new ecosystems. No one can really predict what these new ecological communities will look like, only that they will be different from anything we’ve seen before.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, in Marris’s view. In a section on “novel ecosystems,” she argues that many of these new assemblages of species, often the result of intentional introductions, can exhibit high degrees of species diversity, and can be highly productive. Citing examples such as discoveries made during failed attempts to eradicate feral plantations of nonnative pines on the island of Puerto Rico, Marris marvels that “the exotic-dominated ecosystem was functioning better than nearby native forest, if function is measured as brute production of biomass.” Is it?

From this perspective, efforts to extirpate invasive species are not only virtually impossible, they are ecologically pointless and possibly counterproductive from a conservation standpoint. The determination of which species “belong” and which do not is, as Marris sees it, more of a human value judgment than a function of objective biological science. Who is to say that the particular assemblage of species that was on the scene when the first humans arrived was any more “right” than whatever assemblage came afterwards? It is quite likely that this supposedly primeval assemblage was itself quite different from what was on the landscape a thousand years before. Marris’s message: don’t worry, be happy. Be more open-minded and receptive, and recognize the intrinsic values there may be in the novel ecosystems and the scrambled ecological associations that will result from climate change in the decades ahead.

Rambunctious Garden would seem to be a textbook of realpolitik as applied to the impending, inevitable changes in the global climate, and the resulting ecological new world order. Whenever change of any kind takes place there will be winners and losers, and life is about to get very tough for the species that are the losers. Sorry about your luck.

Lee Hannah, Tom Lovejoy, and other contributors to the edited volume Saving a Million Species: Extinction Risk from Climate Change, seem less sanguine about the species extinctions likely to result from climate change. This book updates and expands upon Lovejoy’s and Hannah’s earlier groundbreaking text Climate Change and Biodiversity (Yale University Press, 2006) in terms of defining the drivers of species extinction from climate change, and refining the earlier estimates of likely extinctions. The later book is much thinner in terms of conservation responses and strategies for actually limiting such extinctions and, unlike the 2006 book, its successor lacks a section on policy responses. In the wake of the Kyoto Protocol’s questionable impact on reducing greenhouse gas concentrations, and Congress’s rejection of legislation aimed at controlling US carbon emissions, perhaps they’ve given up on policymakers.

Hannah and Lovejoy do not perceive a benign exchange of new species and new ecological communities for the old, as Marris suggests. Rather, these authors anticipate a steady, perhaps accelerating net loss of species, resulting in ecosystems that are less diverse, less stable, and more prone to further disruption from future human and natural disturbance. Species and ecosystems have always evolved and adapted to climatic shifts—say, following the Pleistocene. However, the current episode of greenhouse gas-driven climate change is taking place not over millennia but decades, they point out. As miraculous as the process of evolution may be, successful adaptation, mutation, and speciation take place over longer timeframes.

Marris and these authors seem to agree that, in spite of the geologically rapid and ecologically significant degree of climate change that is expected over the next century or so, the planet will survive, as will many of its current life forms. Will ecosystems and communities disassemble from the differential migration of species, and then simply re-assemble as novel ecosystems that are just as diverse, productive, and intrinsically valuable as their former selves? Or will we see a gradual extinction of a large percentage of today’s species, and their replacement by fewer, more competitive species, especially those with a propensity to adapt to human-influenced environments? Will climate change accelerate the global propagation of human-adapted species that paleontologist Peter Ward argues began in the 16th-century Age of Exploration, with the first major waves of intercontinental species transplantations (Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future (HarperCollins, 2007); Future Evolution: An Illuminated History of Life to Come (Henry Holt&Co., 2001)?

In the midst of all this debate among ecologists and conservation biologists, the world’s natural resource managers—those who each day make decisions that will determine the course of forests and other ecological communities under their care—are looking for guidance. If the future is to look less like Ward’s dystopia of simplified, coarse ecosystems barely worthy of the name, and more like Marris’s happy, rambunctious garden of human managed landscapes and a few altered yet still diverse “post-wild” places, then how does this change the goals, practices, and even the fundamental ecological science that guide today’s managers of forests and related terrestrial ecosystems? Natural resource managers are focused increasingly on how they can sustainably meet the needs of 10 billion people, considering that when concerns over resource scarcity galvanized the Conservation Movement a century ago world population was considerably less than 2 billion people. As these twin megatrends of population growth and climate change converge to form their own “perfect storm,” what changes must be made from the ways in which we managed for conservation in the past, to ways in which we must manage for sustainability in the future?

V. Alaric Sample is president of the Pinchot Institute in Washington, DC.
Forest Loss on the Rebound: Sustaining Investments for America's Natural Resource Future
Tom Tidwell

The Great Recession of 2007–09, with its attendant downturn in the housing industry, might have slowed the rate of forest land loss to development. But lower land prices and interest rates have given developers opportunities to acquire land at historically low prices; as the economy recovers, a surge of open space conversion to development can be expected. Forest Service studies have projected a net forest loss from 1997 to 2050 of 23 million acres, an area the size of Maine—and increased housing density from 2000 to 2030 on 57 million acres of forest land, an area larger than Utah. Almost every part of the country has forested watersheds at serious risk from development.

New development often leaves forests fragmented and degradedIn the conservation community, we share a central premise: that forests provide invaluable benefits to the American people, including biodiversity, pollination, carbon sequestration, clean air and water, forest products, erosion control, soil renewal, and more. Our job at the Forest Service is to help sustain the ability of America’s forests and grasslands, both public and private, to deliver a full range of ecosystem services for generations to come.

That ability is increasingly at risk. Drought, invasive species, uncharacteristically severe wildfires, uncharacteristically severe outbreaks of insects and disease—all these stresses and disturbances are affecting America’s forests on an unprecedented scale. Partly, they are driven by the global challenge of climate change.

On the national forests and grasslands, the Forest Service is responding by restoring the functions and processes characteristic of healthy, resilient ecosystems. Our goal is to sustain and restore ecosystems that can deliver all the benefits that Americans want and need, even if they are not exactly the same systems as before. Climate change highlights the need for broad-scale approaches—for restoration on a landscape scale, at the level of watersheds, ecoregions, or broad geographic areas.

Our stewardship obligations therefore go beyond the National Forest System. The United States is exceptional in that most of our forest land—56 percent—is privately owned. Most forested landscapes are mosaics of landownerships, with some lands publicly owned and others in a variety of private landownerships. The Forest Service is accordingly taking an all-lands approach. We are working with partners across boundaries and ownerships to address the ecosystem issues that affect us all.

One such issue is loss of open space. More than a century ago, conservation was inspired by the largescale loss of America’s forests following the Civil War. Through the tireless efforts of early conservationists like Gifford Pinchot and President Theodore Roosevelt, America stabilized its forest estate at roughly 750 million acres.

But America’s population has grown from 76 million in 1900 to more than 300 million today. As cities have spread into the surrounding countryside, America’s population has changed from 60 percent rural in 1900 to 80 percent urban today. In the process, forests, farms, and fields have given way to urban, suburban, and exurban development. By 2006, the United States was losing about 6,000 acres of open space per day.

As forests are fragmented by land use conversion, the list of proposed land conservation projects is growing. Recognizing the need, the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative called for strengthening the Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, appropriations for land acquisitions are increasingly difficult to obtain.

An alternative approach is the Forest Legacy Program. Under the program, the Forest Service works with state partners to acquire easements from willing private landowners on forested lands of special importance for conservation. As of February 2012, more than 2.2 million acres had been protected in 53 states and territories. However, appropriations for the program have declined in recent years.

Part of what drives land use conversion is loss of private income from forest lands. The Forest Service is working to increase potential income for private landowners from a variety of sources. Our researchers are developing new ways of utilizing low-value wood, such as cross-laminated timber for construction and biomass for energy production.We are also working with partners to develop markets for forest-related ecosystem services such as wetlands, carbon storage, water purification, and habitat for listed species.

Great Grey Owl on the Umatilla National ForestWith Forest Service support, partnerships have formed to preserve open space all across America, from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, to the Greater Yellowstone Region, to a 100-mile scenic corridor in Washington state. By working together on a landscape scale, agencies and organizations of all kinds can leverage their mutual resources. A good example is the Quabbin-to-Cardigan Partnership in the Monadnock Highlands of New England. This is one of the last remaining large blocks of forest habitat in the region, protecting municipal watersheds for about 200 cities and towns, including the city of Boston. The partnership is a collaborative, landscape-scale effort that brings public and private organizations together to keep forests intact.

With 80 percent of Americans living in metropolitan areas, the Forest Service is also expanding its work in places like New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. America has 100 million acres of urban forests; through its Urban and Community Forestry program, the Forest Service has provided assistance to 8,550 communities, home to more than half of all Americans. The goal is a continuous network of healthy forested landscapes, from remote wilderness areas to shady urban neighborhoods, parks, and greenways.

Open space conservation takes investments. At a time of government budget cuts across the board, conservationists will need to find imaginative new ways of investing in forestry and conservation—of leveraging partnership resources and building public support. Investments in forestry and open space conservation amount to investments in the future of America—for the benefit of generations to come.

Tom Tidwell is Chief of the USDA Forest Service.
Oil for Trees: Does the Land and Water Conservation Fund Offer a Devil’s Bargain?
Char Miller

Here's what .5 million will get you: 1288 acres of the Fleming Ranch, high up in the San Bernardino Mountains, a site fully surrounded by the eponymous national forest. The working landscape abuts the San Jacinto Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail and its purchase thus neatly closes off a major inholding, facilitating integrated management across the rugged range.

This is a fabulous use of funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Yet these federal dollars may also represent a bit of greenwashing. The term usually refers to the deceptive practices that corporations employ to make their products and actions appear to be more environmentally sensitive than they are in reality. Rebrand British Petroleum into BP, spend an estimated 0 million on a new logo (that yellow-and-green sunburst) and push out a high-pressure, global-marketing campaign, and you're bearing witness to a classic case of green sheen.

Natural gas pipeline under construction in PennsylvaniaBearing a similar verdant coat is a program that seems on the outside like a no-cost environmental good: the Land and Water Conservation Fund itself. Its funding after all is entirely dependent on the very messy and highly profitable drilling that BP, ExxonMobile, Shell, Chevron, and countless other oil-and-gas companies pursue in the Outer Continental Shelf.

The more energy we demand, the more they produce. The more oil and gas they suck out of the Gulf of Mexico, extract along the east and west coasts, or siphon out of Alaskan waters the more dollars that go into LWCF. The larger these coffers become, the more funding LWCF can dole out to local, state, and federal agencies to purchase and protect other vulnerable lands -- such as the Fleming Ranch.

Talk about a Devil's Bargain.

By their very nature, such deals are unbalanced at best. It's helpful to remember, then, that there is nothing clean about energy production. To drill or frack is to disrupt. To pump or dig is to pull apart. To dam up is to submerge. To clearcut is to splinter.

Even to capture the sun's rays or harness the wind is to bulldoze ecosystems or flatten habitats.

Once developed, refined, or converted -- dirty processes each -- these fuels must be distributed. Doing so through pipelines, along transportation routes, or over the electric grid is to generate additional harms, environmental and human. Whenever we turn a key; power up a laptop, I-Pad, or smart phone; or fire up a generator, we despoil.

Hold that thought. For while there remains something awkward about the legislative fix to lessen the deleterious environmental impact of dirty coal and oil, it is also true that the LWCF, which President Lyndon Johnson signed in to law on September 3, 1964 (P.L. 88-578), is an ingenious initiative. It grew out of the second great wave of conservation legislation in the 20th century, a post-Rachel Carson commitment that resolved some of the pressing environmental issues unknown to earlier generations.

The first major period of federal conservationism, with its origins in the Progressive Era, had spawned a series of catalytic laws, including the Antiquities Act (1906) and the Weeks Act (1911); in combination with other congressional actions, they had led to the creation and expansion of dedicated systems of national forests (1905) and parks (1916).

But by the 1960s, the public lands, and the major agencies that managed our grasslands, forests, parks, and refuges -- among them the Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and Park Service -- clearly needed increased budgets. This situation grew directly out of the new mandates that Congress had required they fulfill after passing sweeping legislation to protect clean air and water; scenic trails and rivers; endangered species and wilderness; and historical and cultural resources. By tapping into receipts that offshore energy leases generated, the proponents of the LWCF hoped to establish a steady stream of revenue to keep America beautiful.

It has not quite met that ambitious goal, in large part because congressional appropriators have routinely diverted its funding to other projects or to offset deficits. According to the Congressional Research Service:
Of the total revenues that have accrued throughout the history of the program (.5 billion), less than half have been appropriated (.8 billion). FY2001 marked the highest funding ever, with appropriations exceeding the authorized level by reaching nearly billion. For FY2011, the most recent fiscal year, the appropriation was 0.5 million.
Just as the total amounts appropriated and expended have varied widely over time, so have these funds been unequally distributed; federal-land acquisition has absorbed the lion's share (62%), with state (26%) and other programs (12%) trailing far behind.

Data from the Congressional Research Service makes it clear, too, that the federal agencies have received unequal distributions. In 2002, The Forest Service snagged 9.7 million while BLM got roughly a third of that total; nine years later, Fish and Wildlife and the Park Service received equal shares (.9 million), while the Forest Service made do with .9 and BLM with million.

Whatever the individual federal (and state) agency's shares over the past 48 years, collectively they have purchased an estimated seven million acres of wetlands, forests, waterways, and open space, a not-insignificant sum.

Surely, the specific acquisitions this year are as significant as those in the past. California received a healthy portion of the million that the U. S. Forest Service received; of the 15 states receiving funds, the Golden State netted .3 million of the total. It's being wisely spent, too.

In addition to Fleming Ranch, the only site in Southern California, the agency is now able to protect an array of riparian habitat in northern portions of the state. On the shores of Lake Shasta, a "donut hole of private land" was snapped up for 0,000; for .5 million, the Forest Service will gain management of nearly 30 miles of Deer Creek as it winds through Lassen National Forest, "a dam-free stream that is one of the top salmon producers in the Sacramento Basin."

A similar amount is being spent to buy up a checkerboard pattern of private land on the Eldorado National Forest, and another two million will be applied to protect the headwaters of the American and Yorba rivers; even more watershed will come under federal control in the Six Rivers National Forest.

When you combine these dollars with an additional one million to buy land adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail as it runs across the high country of Washington, Oregon and California, a boon to hikers and to migratory moose, coyotes, wolves, bears, and elk, it appears that this year's LWCF appropriations have been deftly targeted.

Yet the process still seems scattershot (why these acres and not others? Why not more of them?). It remains consistently underfunded (only twice in its nearly five decades has the fund hit its 0 million cap).

Looming over these dilemmas is the larger tension that derives from the fossil-fuel source of LWCF's funding.

An unsettling case in point is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In theory, a portion of BP's lease payments for rights to drill within what the company designated as the Macondo Prospect, (officially known as Block 252 in the Mississippi Canyon off the coast of Louisiana), went into LWCF.

However much that amounted to, it could not begin to compensate for the damage that resulted when in April 2010 the well blew up, killing 11 workers, injuring 17, an explosive gush that pushed five million barrels of oil into the warm waters; more continued to pour out, even after it was capped that July; and now there are reports of a second wave of oil surfacing in the devastated region.

BP's lease payments to the federal treasury, then, amounted to a fraction of mitigation: the Gulf of Mexico remains an oil-slick sacrifice zone, built of American consumers' insatiable demand and corporate profiteering. As partial compensation, we buy up more pristine acres for park, forests, or refuges which are located at a considerable remove from the places we are so willing to mar.

For all its virtues, Fleming Ranch can't begin to make this right.

Char Miller is a Senior Fellow at the Pinchot Institute. He is also the Director and W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College.
Redefining Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene
V. Alaric Sample

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John F Kennedy at dedication of Grey Towers and Pinchot Institute
"The Fact of the matter is, this Institute is needed more today, than at any time in our history."
-President John F. Kennedy, 1963


As the Pinchot Institute commemorates its golden anniversary and rededicates itself to the purposes for which it was first established, it seems these words are as true today as when President Kennedy first spoke them in his original dedication of the Pinchot Institute at Grey Towers National Historic Landmark on September 24, 1963 (Lehde 1964). There are several reasons for this.

To some extent it is a reflection of the current state of public policymaking in this country, which is characterized more by ideological posturing and political gridlock than by statesmanlike leaders. Few and far between are politicians who work out their differences through due process and move forward to address critical issues in a timely manner, always keeping in mind the needs and interests of the nation as a whole. Conservation policy too has suffered during this period of unprecedented partisanship and ideological intransigence. Public policymaking has always been as much an art as a science, in that it considers the implications of new scientific findings in light of the prevailing economic and social needs and concerns. Politics is the art of the possible; it is how things get done in a democracy. It is troubling, however, when the political process is used to suppress the creation of new knowledge and better information, as when research agencies are prohibited through the arcane language of an appropriations bill to engage in or fund any research on a controversial topic. Even at many universities—our very symbols of intellectual freedom and objective scientific inquiry— researchers can find themselves constrained in what they are allowed to study or publish, lest they offend a key legislator and risk jeopardizing future funding for their institutions.

Today the Pinchot Institute is widely recognized for its commitment to supporting objective, non-partisan research on some of the most crucial and controversial conservation issues of our time, and facilitating the incorporation of sound science in public policymaking processes. More broadly, the Pinchot Institute has established itself as a place where people from widely divergent interests and perspectives can come together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding for productive civil dialogue on important conservation issues. The objective is not to “split the difference” between the most extreme opposing views, but to arrive at a “working consensus” based upon a rational consideration of the longer-term common interests—near-term steps in the direction of commonly held goals that serve the broad national interest. Gifford Pinchot defined conservation as “the application of common sense to common problems for the common good.” (Pinchot 1911). This philosophy is as relevant today as it was in Pinchot’s time, and it continues to be central to the mission of the Pinchot Institute.

Renewable Resources Management and Long-Term Sustainability
But there is another reason why Kennedy’s words continue to resonate. Conservation policy today, in this country and worldwide, is on the cusp of fundamental change, not just in terms of methodologies and tools, but also in how we envision the basic conservation goals and purposes toward which we are striving.

Forest clear cut for palm oil plantation in EcuadorWe will shortly be a world of 10 billion people, all with needs for food, water, shelter, and energy (United Nations 2010). In Pinchot’s time, when he galvanized the nation to conserve and sustainably manage its forests or face a resource “famine,” the world population was well under 2 billion. Even when Kennedy spoke at the founding of the Pinchot Institute six decades later, invoking a vision of environmental limits and imminent natural resource scarcity, the world population had not yet reached 3 billion. Advances in technology have pushed back these earlier perceptions of limits, but much of this technology has been directed to accelerating the discovery and consumption of energy and other non-renewable natural resources that are no less finite than they were a century ago. The planet has not gotten any bigger in the meantime. The wells and mines have simply gone deeper and been expanded to more places on the planet than at any other time in human history.

Renewable resources—water, forests, agriculture, non-fossil fuel energy—are ever more clearly the key to long-term sustainability in all of its economic and social, as well as environmental, dimensions (Fedkiw et al. 2004). There has never been a more challenging time for the advancement of the science and technology around renewable resource management, suggesting the need for a far greater level of public and private investment than is being made today. This quantum shift, to gradually substituting renewable resources to fulfill needs being met today through the rapid drawdown of fossil fuels 200 million years in the making, will also challenge our existing economic, political, and national security systems worldwide. Forests, water, and arable lands may be renewable, but they are still finite in a world that is becoming hotter, flatter, and more crowded (Friedman 2009).

Managing for Change in the Age of Man
For forest scientists and the people and organizations charged with conserving and sustainably managing forests, the world is also becoming less predictable, in very unsettling ways. The strident yet ultimately sterile debate over whether or not humanity is responsible for climate change cannot alter the fact that the climate is indeed changing, and in ways that will severely challenge our existing science and practices in renewable resource management.

Most of what we currently know about how forests and other ecosystems function, and how they respond to management practices and other human interventions, was developed during the past two centuries (National Research Council 1990), during what we now know has been a period of relative stability in the world’s climates. Against this backdrop of predictable annual temperature regimes, wet and dry seasons, and their effects on everything from water availability to insect populations, we’ve developed entire bodies of science in ecology, agronomy, and silviculture. Upon these foundations of reliable and widely understood science, we have built our standard practices for forest management, farming, and even where we locate our cities and communities.

Fire restoration work on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Courtesy USDA Forest ServiceNow all of that is in flux. The rate at which the world’s climates are becoming more variable and thus less predictable is challenging the ability of both natural and human systems to adapt (Ward 2007). Larger and deeper droughts are having major effects on world food production, over such large areas that it is increasingly difficult to mitigate even through an efficient system of international trade and distribution. Forests around the world are experiencing unprecedented expanses of near-total forest mortality from insects, disease, and wildfires. As these trends compound year after year, it is dawning on forest scientists and managers that what they are witnessing may be more than just several years of extraordinarily bad luck. It may simply be the way climate change manifests itself. As the optimal habitat zones for particular tree species and their associated ecosystems shift toward higher latitudes, the existing forests increasingly become relict systems, living out their remaining days rooted where they are as their progeny follow climate characteristics that are moving steadily further away. These relict populations become subject to increasing environmental stresses from drought and temperature. Eventually they succumb to an insect or disease infestation that instead of killing a few susceptible individual trees kills tens of millions. In these entire landscapes of dead and dying trees, what often follows is wildfire of unprecedented scope and intensity. What grows back is not the forest species that were there before, but species associations more characteristic of warmer and drier climes. In some cases, it is not a forest at all that grows back, but a grassland or some other biome better adapted to the emerging regional climate.

This is reminiscent of how climates have changed in temperate, boreal, and tropical ecosystems for millions of years—reminiscent, but at the same time different in fundamental and critically important ways. Geologists, paleoecologists and others whose research focuses on timeframes in the thousands or millions of years have documented the ebb and flow of several glacial periods that have had profound effects not just in the higher latitudes but in the tropics as well (Stager et al.). Through methods such as the analysis of pollen in core samples drawn from ancient lake sediments, scientists have documented how the surrounding landscape was home to succeeding ecosystems—from tundra to coniferous forest, to temperate forest, and back again—during interglacial periods lasting from 20,000–50,000 years. During these periods, various plant and animal species and entire ecosystems migrated, mutated, and otherwise adapted to the gradual change in the regional climate.

Therein lies the major difference for both natural and human systems in our own time. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere today—and increasing in coming decades under even the most optimistic projections for reducing carbon dioxide emissions—mean that many regions of the globe will experience during the next century or so the degree of climate change that would normally take place over thousands of years (Stager 2011). There simply is not enough time for the kinds of ecosystem migration, mutation, and adaptation that has taken place in previous interglacial periods.

The Holocene is the name given to the current interglacial period following the Pleistocene glaciations that ended 25,000 years ago. But in the lexicon of a growing number of scientists, the world is now fully entered into the “Anthropocene” (Zalasiewicz et al. 2010). This new Age of Man is unlike any the planet has experienced before, wherein the effects of human activities are having an influence on the evolution of natural systems that is at least equal to that of geologic or other natural forces.

Low-intensity prescribed fire on the Custer National ForestIf we have indeed entered the Anthropocene, this has profound implications for conservation, renewable resource management, and environmental sustainability. If the course of future evolution in natural ecosystems all over the planet is being fundamentally altered by the effects of human activity, it begs the question of whether we can continue to rely upon “the balance of nature” to set things right (McKibben 1989, 2010), and even whether the balance of nature is any longer a valid concept (Marris et al. 2011) in the way we accomplish conservation. The setting aside of large parks and conservation reserves has long been the primary means of protecting what remains of the planet’s native biodiversity. How can these reserves, with fixed boundaries on a map, continue to protect the intended species and ecosystems when the organisms themselves are continuously on the move in response to changing climates? How “natural” are the ecosystems and species that remain in these reserves when they are constantly influenced by a human-altered climate, by introduced invasive species, and by the “chaotic re-sorting” of ecological communities by differential abilities among species to migrate in pursuit of receding optimal climate characteristics? A number of leading ecologists have begun to insist that there is a need, perhaps even an obligation, for a greater level of human management intervention in forests and other ecosystems in order to protect native biodiversity and sustain other important values and services from these systems—water, wildlife, fiber, and carbon sequestration to help restrain the rate of further climate change (Kareiva et al. 2011, 2012). It has been suggested that much of the world’s demand for industrial wood and fiber can be met through the intensive cultivation of tree plantations on a relatively small portion of the world’s forests (Sedjo and Botkin 1997; Victor 2005; Paquette et al. 2010). But what does this imply for protecting water resources, wildlife habitat, native biodiversity and other essential resources in protected areas and in the majority of forests that, in practical terms, are today still largely unmanaged? What are the implications for regional economies and indigenous communities whose futures are inextricably intertwined with that of their surrounding forests?

Emergence of a New Paradigm in Forest Conservation?
When President Kennedy came to Grey Towers to dedicate the Pinchot Institute, along with the Pinchot family, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior, the Chief of the Forest Service, and many of the leading conservation thinkers of the time, none of them really knew what lay ahead. It would be several more years before the full-scale political and legal battles that brought forth most of the nation’s major environmental legislation: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, Forest & Rangelands Renewable Resources Planning Act, and National Forest Management Act were all signed into law between 1970 and 1976.

But what they did know was that something new, different, and highly significant was unfolding. They didn’t know exactly what it was or where it was leading, but they somehow sensed that conservation as we had conceived of it from Pinchot’s time up through most of the 20th century was about to change, that it was increasingly out of step with new and emerging circumstances, and that the future would look very different. Little did they know in 1963 that they were standing at the threshold of what would become known as the Environmental Movement, or how it would play out against the backdrop of quantum changes in civil rights, geopolitics, technology, economic globalization, and the elevation of environmental concerns to the planetary scale.

In his landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn introduced the concept of the “paradigm shift.” Scientific institutions and science itself make innumerable small course corrections in response to new information and new circumstances. There are intervals in history, however, when there comes a growing sense of disequilibrium in which the fundamental tenets of the existing system are inconsistent with observations and the latest research results. It becomes increasingly clear that minor course corrections are no longer adequate, and what is needed is the plotting of an entirely new course toward a completely different destination. A paradigm shift is more revolution than evolution. The process involves the rejection of established concepts and methods in favor of new ones, often resisted by a vigorous defense of these conventions by those whose professional standing or personal legacy is at stake.

Like economic recessions, paradigm shifts are often more readily apparent in hindsight than when they are in the midst of occurring. Thus it was during the shift from the early Conservation Movement to the Environmental Movement—and thus it may be today as the norms of the Environmental Movement fade before the dawning of the next era of conservation.

Western Thimbleberry and Mountain Ash on Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Courtesy Rose Lehman
In considering the potential implications of conservation in the Anthropocene, some of the most respected ecologists and conservationists of our time have taken passionate issue with one another over what the ubiquitous influence of humanity in natural ecosystems means for the future of conservation. Accomplished conservation biologists state flatly that biodiversity conservation as it is currently practiced is failing (Kareiva et al. 2011): while conservationists’ ambitious goals for the designation of protected areas around the world have largely been achieved, species extinctions continue at an alarming rate. Habitat continues to be lost to commercial deforestation in parks and protected areas whose boundaries and restrictions cannot be enforced. But habitat is also being lost to local populations and indigenous communities who have no other place to go, and whose expulsion often results in their own demise—not only of individuals but of entire communities. Other scientists strongly caution against running up the white flag of surrender (Lovejoy and Hannah 2005; Caro et al. 2011; Hannah 2012); they do not want to appear to be suggesting that the point of no return has been reached, and that there is no longer any point in worrying about conservation (Anderson et al. 2010, 2011).

This is just the sort of impassioned debate among leading thinkers that presages a paradigm shift. Some acknowledge the stark reality that what once seemed to be the key to success is now failing. Others fear what could happen in the vacuum that develops when the old approaches and their associated practices are put aside, and there is not yet a fully-formed successor system to take its place. It is only natural. It is the way of science, and the way of human societies.

The Importance of Rational Civil Dialogue—Especially Now
Where conservation science and management finds itself today in many ways parallels where it stood fifty years ago. There is initial resistance and then gradual acknowledgement that conventional methods are no longer successful. There is a sense that something new, different, and highly significant is happening. Changes are beginning to take place but it is not yet clear what they are or where they are leading. There is a need to bring together thoughtful scientists, natural resource managers, and conservationists, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, to work out their differences on the most critical conservation issues of our time. There is a need for objective, non-partisan research, and the incorporation of new findings into current science, practice, and policy. There is a need for someone to facilitate a rational and productive civil dialogue about the future of conservation, acknowledging the value and legitimacy of all points of view throughout society. After all, we are all in this together, and there is literally no one whose life will not be somehow affected.

President Kennedy’s words from fifty years ago are even more poignant today. The stakes for conservation and resource sustainability were high then—but they are significantly higher now in a hotter, flatter, and more crowded world. Given the unique mission, goals, and approach of the Pinchot Institute, it truly is “needed more today than at any time in our history.” By no means will these needs be met by the Pinchot Institute alone, and building strong conservation partnerships at the national, international, and community levels will continue to be a hallmark of its work. As we strive to create new knowledge, and to build a stronger understanding and public consensus around conservation in the future, Gifford Pinchot’s observation a century ago, describing conservation as “the application of common sense to common problems for the common good” continues to guide the work of the Pinchot Institute, and will remain our enduring touchstone.


References
Anderson, M. and Ferree, C. 2010. Conserving the Stage: Climate Change and the Geophysical Underpinnings of Species Diversity. PloS ONE 5(7): e11554. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011554. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011554

Anderson, M.G., M. Clark, and A. Olivero Sheldon. 2011. Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Conservation Science. 168 pp.

Caro, T., Darwin, J., Forrester, T., Ledoux-Bloom, C., and Wells, C. 2011. Conservation in the Anthropocene. Conservation Biology 26(1): 185-188

Fedkiw, J., MacCleery, D., and Sample, V.A. 2004. Pathway to Sustainability: Defining the Bounds of Forest Management. Durham, NC: Forest History Society.

Friedman, T. 2009. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 448 pp.

Hannah, L. (ed.). 2012. Saving a Million Species: Extinction Risk from Climate Change. Washington, DC: Island Press. 411 pp.

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

Kareiva, P., Lalasz, R. and Marvier, M. 2011. Conservation in the Anthropocene. Breakthrough Journal, Vol. 2. (Fall 2011). Web access: http://breakthroughjournal.org/content/authors/peter-kareiva-robert-lalasz-an-1/conservation-in-the-anthropoce.shtml

Kareiva, P., Lalasz, R., and Marvier, M. 2012. Anthropocene Revisited. Breakthrough Journal 1(4) (Fall 2012).

Kuhn, T. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 210 pp.

Lehde, N. (ed.). 1964. When President Kennedy Visited Pike County. Milford, PA: Pike County Historical Society.

Lovejoy, T and Hannah, L. (eds.). 2005. Climate Change and Biodiversity. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Marris, E. 2011. Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. New York: Bloomsbury Press. 210 pp.

Marris, E., Kareiva, P., Mascaro, J., and Ellis, E. 2011. Hope in the Age of Man. Opinion. New York Times, December 7, 2011.

McKibben, W. 1989. The End of Nature. New York: Random House. 226 pp.

McKibben, W. 2010. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. New York: Times Books.

National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 84 pp.

Paquette, A. and Messier, C. 2010. The role of plantations in managing the world's forests in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8: 27–34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/080116

Pinchot, G. 1911. The Fight for Conservation. New York: Doubleday.

Sedjo, R. and Botkin, D. 1997 Using Forest Plantations to Spare Natural Forests. Environment 39: 15-20.

Stager, C. 2011. Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth. New York: St Martin’s Press.

United Nations. 2010. World Population Prospects: 2010 Revision. New York: United Nations, Population Division.

Victor, D. 2005. A Vision for World Forests: Results from the Council on Foreign Relations Study. In: Price, W., Rana, N., and Sample, V.A. (eds.), Plantations and Protected Areas in Sustainable Forestry. New York: Haworth Press. 156 pp.

Ward, P. 2007. Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future. New York: HarperCollins.

Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Steffen, W., and Crutzen, P. 2010. The New World of the Anthropocene. Environmental Science & Technology 44 (7), pp 2228–2231.
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In Memoriam - John Austin
We note with great sadness the passing of John D. Austin, Jr., one of the dearest friends of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.  John was one of the founding Directors of the Pinchot Institute as an independent, nonprofit organization serving the public interest in conservation.  For more than a quarter-century, John served faithfully and energetically as a member of the Pinchot Institute Board of Directors, continuing afterwards as pro bono counsel to the Institute through the law firm of Patton Boggs, LLC. 

John was integral in establishing the Pinchot Institute as an organization to bring together people of all perspectives, in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, working with one another to address the most pressing conservation challenges of our time.  As a senior attorney in Washington, DC for many years, John recognized and valued the importance of an objective, non-partisan approach to conservation policy that serves the best interests of every citizen of this great country. 

The nation has lost one of its most dedicated conservationists, but one whose life was well-lived in the service of others.  All of us at the Pinchot Institute extend our heartfelt condolences to Sherry and all of the Austin family.

Requiescat in pace.




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Common Waters Fund Receives Partnership Award
Will Price

On Earth Day, April 22, 2012, the Upper Delaware Council gathered to celebrate achievements in conservation. The Pinchot Institute’s Common Waters fund was among the honorees at the awards ceremony. The Common Waters Fund received the Partnership Award for its efforts to enhance the quality of life and protect the natural resources of the Upper Delaware River Valley.

The Pinchot Institute is honored to receive this award for the Common Waters Fund. This award also recognizes the achievements of more than 40 organizations and individuals who came together four years ago to form the Common Waters Partnership. This partnership has worked hard over that time to define a common mission, and together launch initiatives that reflect a shared devotion to the rivers, streams, forests, and communities of the region.

Common Waters has also been blessed with the major support and encouragement of other partners like the William Penn Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities.

The Pinchot Institute works around the world on issues of national and global importance. But this region holds special significance. It is also the Institute’s birthplace, 49 years ago. We are proud to be a part of the Common Waters Partnership, and regard this initiative as one of the most important things we do.

This is the connection the Common Waters Fund is trying to make: between all the people and companies that depend on the Delaware—whether for drinking water, electricity, jobs, and many other benefits—and this region, which is the source of clean and reliable water. As we are all witnessing, this region is increasingly of national and global focus, which will bring more changes.

The Partnership has created the Common Waters Fund to provide encouragement and support for landowners that we hope is a benefit to everyone who loves the region and calls it home. It’s a program that rewards forest stewardship and conservation. It has already had a great impact. Our challenge now is to ensure that the Common Waters Fund endures over the long-term, and is an asset not only for the region, but the millions of people who depend on the waters that flow from the forests of the Upper Delaware.

Will Price is Director, Conservation Programs at the Pinchot Institute in Washington, DC.



L-R: Carla Hahn, National Park Service; Laurie Stuart, Upper Delaware River Roundtable, Sean McGuinness, National Park Service; Laurie Ramie, Upper Delaware Council; Sally Corrigan, Pike County Office of Community Planning; Will Price, Pinchot Institute; Nadia Rajsz, Chairperson, Upper Delaware Council; Nick Niles, Board Member, Pinchot Institute; Ed Brannon, Pinchot Institute.

Study Challenges Carbon Absorption Potential of Future Forests
According to a new study from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, North American forests appear to have a greater capacity to soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas than researchers had previously anticipated.

As a result, they could help slow the pace of human-caused climate warming more than most scientists had thought, a University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues have concluded.

The results of a 12-year study at an experimental forest in northeastern Wisconsin challenge several long-held assumptions about how future forests will respond to the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide blamed for human-caused climate change, said University of Michigan microbial ecologist Donald Zak, lead author of a paper published in Ecology Letters.1 “Some of the initial assumptions about ecosystem response are not correct and will have to be revised,” said Zak, a professor at the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

To simulate atmospheric conditions expected in the latter half of this century, Zak and his colleagues continuously pumped extra carbon dioxide into the canopies of trembling aspen, paper birch and sugar maple trees at a 38-acre experimental forest in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, from 1997 to 2008.

Some of the trees were also bathed in elevated levels of ground-level ozone, the primary constituent in smog, to simulate the increasingly polluted air of the future. Both parts of the federally funded experiment— the carbon dioxide and the ozone treatments—produced unexpected results.

In addition to trapping heat, carbon dioxide is known to have a fertilizing effect on trees and other plants, making them grow faster than they normally would. Climate researchers and ecosystem modelers assume that in coming decades, carbon dioxide’s fertilizing effect will temporarily boost the growth rate of northern temperate forests.

Previous studies have concluded that this growth spurt would be short-lived, grinding to a halt when the trees can no longer extract the essential nutrient nitrogen from the soil.

But in the Rhinelander study, the trees bathed in elevated carbon dioxide continued to grow at an accelerated rate throughout the 12-year experiment. In the final three years of the study, the CO2-soaked trees grew 26 percent more than those exposed to normal levels of carbon dioxide.

It appears that the extra carbon dioxide allowed trees to grow more small roots and “forage” more successfully for nitrogen in the soil, Zak said. At the same time, the rate at which microorganisms released nitrogen back to the soil, as fallen leaves and branches decayed, increased.

“The greater growth has been sustained by an acceleration, rather than a slowing down, of soil nitrogen cycling,” Zak said. “Under elevated carbon dioxide, the trees did a better job of getting nitrogen out of the soil, and there was more of it for plants to use.”

Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources. No one knows how long it will take to reach that limit, he said.

The Ozone Portion of the 12-Year Experiment Also Held Surprises.

Ground-level ozone is known to damage plant tissues and interfere with photosynthesis. Conventional wisdom has held that in the future, increasing levels of ozone would constrain the degree to which rising levels of carbon dioxide would promote tree growth, canceling out some of a forest’s ability to buffer projected climate warming.

In the first few years of the Rhinelander experiment, that’s exactly what was observed. Trees exposed to elevated levels of ozone did not grow as fast as other trees. But by the end of the study, ozone had no effect at all on forest productivity.

“What happened is that ozone-tolerant species and genotypes in our experiment more or less took up the slack left behind by those who were negatively affected, and that’s called compensatory growth,” Zak said. The same thing happened with growth under elevated carbon dioxide, under which some genotypes and species fared better than others.

“The interesting take home point with this is that aspects of biological diversity—like genetic diversity and plant species compositions—are important components of an ecosystem’s response to climate change,” he said. “Biodiversity matters, in this regard.”

Co-authors of the Ecology Letters paper were Kurt Pregitzer of the University of Idaho, Mark Kubiske of the US Forest Service; and Andrew Burton of Michigan Technological University. The work was funded by grants from the US Department of Energy and the US Forest Service.


1 Zak, D.R., Pregitzer, K.S., Kubiske, M.E. and Burton, A. J. (2011), “Forest productivity under elevated CO2 and O3: positive feedbacks to soil N cycling sustain decade-long net primary productivity enhancement by CO2.” Ecology Letters, 14: 1220-1226. doi: 10.1111/j.1461- 0248.2011.01692.x

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. .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.

Earth as Biodiversity Hotspot
Environmental Stewardship in the Next Era of Conservation
V. Alaric Sample

Several years ago, astronomers Frank Drake and Carl Sagan developed what became known as the “Drake Formula,” a way of estimating the number of planets in the universe that may harbor life. Among what Sagan famously described as “billions and billions of stars” in the cosmos, they estimated that life-bearing planets could number in the millions. More recently, Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington re-examined the basic assumptions in the Drake Formula. While agreeing that life probably exists in many parts of the universe—perhaps millions— Ward’s and Brownlee’s findings strongly suggest that, in most instances, these life forms have not evolved beyond the microbial level.

For reasons that they detail in their book Rare Earth and in numerous scientific papers, they make a convincing case that Earth may be one of very few planets on which complex life forms have developed at all. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered several planets orbiting in the “habitable zone” around distant stars— “Goldilocks planets” that reside where it is not too hot nor too cold for life as we know it to survive on the planet surface. But in reviewing the 4 billion-year history of factors that have allowed complex life to develop on Earth, and other factors that nearly extinguished it on more than one occasion, Ward and Brownlee have identified a lengthy sequence of critical conditions that are highly unlikely to have been repeated elsewhere and, to our knowledge, are unique to Earth:

  • Among the many types of stars found in the universe, and the different stages in their own development, our sun is unusually stable, and it has remained so for the billions of years required for complex life forms to evolve. A “habitable zone” around a star that is in the process of expanding or collapsing does not remain habitable for long.
  • We have a moon that is extraordinarily large for the size of the planet it orbits, and it acts to maintain the constant 23° tilt in the Earth’s axis that gives us seasons and maximizes the proportion of the planet that can support life. Planets without this advantage have poles that are permanently too frigid, and equatorial regions that are permanently too hot to support life on the surface.
  • We have large outer planets, primarily Jupiter and Saturn, that act as protective big brothers, continuously sweeping comets and asteroids from Earth’s orbital path, preventing a repeat of the kind of impact event 65 million years ago that caused a global mass extinction on Earth and ended the age of the dinosaurs.
  • We have oceans of liquid water in an amount great enough to stabilize global temperatures within a range suitable for life, but not so much that there are no continents that rise above the surface to provide terrestrial habitat or shallow coastal waters critical to the development of complex life. In addition to volcanism that creates new terrestrial environments, Earth is the only planet we have observed that has plate tectonics, a constant recycling of material from the Earth’s mantle that regulates the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The well-known “greenhouse effect” has for billions of years kept global temperatures within a range that is suitable for life on the surface.
  • We have atmospheric oxygen that was toxic to many early life forms, but which forced organisms to protectively adapt in ways that gave rise to more complex life forms and triggered the evolution toward the higher plants and animals that we see on Earth today.
We know for certain that no other planet in our solar system enjoys these advantages; nor do any of the exoplanets that have thus far been discovered orbiting around distant stars. In fact, the probability of all these factors coming together to form another planet suitable for the development of complex life is infinitesimally small. We may very well be alone in the universe.

How much more wondrous then is this abundance of life on Earth, in all its richness and diversity, in all the beauty and complexity of a single insect or flowering plant? As Ward and Brownlee write, “the possibility that animal life may be very rare in the universe also heightens the tragedy of the current rate of species extinction ... are we eliminating species not only from our own planet but also from an entire quadrant of the galaxy?”

Forests have been part of this planet for over 300 million years, and they have served as the great Noah’s Ark of plant and animal species of all kinds. Land covers only one-quarter of the Earth’s surface. Yet the majority of all known plant and animal species inhabit these terrestrial environments— and most of that diversity is found in forests. As forests are allowed to disappear, so too do species, each one of them a wondrously constructed result of millions of years of natural experimentation, trial, and adaptation.

This puts a whole new light on the responsibility we all share to conserve and sustain life on Earth, whether you believe that this Garden of Eden was created by the divine as a cradle for mankind, or that a series of factors have combined over the past 4 billion years to create and sustain complex life that is unique to what Carl Sagan referred to as the “pale blue dot” that is planet Earth. Either way, the realization that this may be one of the few places in the universe where life can survive at more than the microbial level gives new meaning to our efforts as conservationists, literally as the stewards of creation.

Just a few thousand years ago—the blink of an eye in the history of life on Earth—the number of humans scattered around the globe was less than 3 million, fewer than we now find in a single small city. In 2011, we crossed the threshold of 7 billion people, and most demographers expect human population to level off at around 10 billion by 2050. Famed biologist Edward O. Wilson has shown that the rate at which species are being lost in the present day is similar to that in the planetary mass extinctions millions of years ago that nearly snuffed out life on Earth. This time the cause is not asteroids or gamma rays, but the daily struggle by 7 billion humans to meet their own needs for food, energy, and shelter.

This then is the central challenge of our time, for humanity and especially for those of us whose chosen field is the advancement of science and practice in environmental and natural resource conservation. How can we meet the basic needs of increasing billions of human beings while still sustaining the natural environment that is the basis for what may be the only complex life among all the planets, all the stars, and perhaps all the galaxies in the universe?

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.

From the President: A Conservation Ethic for a Changing World
In a recent article entitled “Conservation in the Anthropocene,” Peter Karieva and his co-authors challenge the notion that environmental and natural resource conservation as we have practiced it in the past is capable of leading us to the nirvana of sustainability in the future.1 Karieva, it should be noted, is currently chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy. The article has stirred denials and remonstrations within the environmental community reminiscent of those that followed the publication of “The Death of Environmentalism,” by Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus2 several years ago. While the environmental accomplishments of the past half-century speak for themselves—cleaner air, cleaner water, restored wildlife and fish habitats, improved conservation on both private and public lands, and higher accepted standards of environmental performance and accountability—the challenges to environmental sustainability still seem to be growing faster than we can come up with answers.

In part, the shortcomings noted by Karieva and his co-authors reflect the fact that the world itself has changed, and the pace is accelerating. At the start of the modern environmental movement, often linked with the publication of Rachel Carson‘s book Silent Spring in 1961, the world’s population was still less than 3 billion people—barely a billion more than at the close of the 19th century, when Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, and their contemporaries led the first conservation movement, inspired by concerns over natural resource scarcity and environmental degradation. A few months ago, we zoomed by the 7 billion milestone on our way to an estimated 10 billion people by mid-21st century. The planet is not getting any bigger in the meantime. In addition, much of our existing scientific knowledge about how forests and other ecosystems function—and how this will affect the productivity of these resources—is being made obsolete by climatic changes that are already under way. So sustainably meeting humanity’s natural resource needs in the future clearly will require an intensity of effort undreamed of a century ago.

In this issue of The Pinchot Letter, the 2012 Pinchot Distinguished Lecturer, Yale’s Mary Evelyn Tucker, continues her examination into whether science and policy alone are sufficient to move society quickly enough along the pathway to sustainability. Her decades of scholarship on the world’s religions has revealed that environmental ethics and stewardship have been important elements in every major religious tradition for millennia. In her view, this has had an important influence on the evolution of individual moral and ethical approaches to environmental conservation. Science and policy will play a necessary—but not sufficient—role in moving human society in the direction of environmental sustainability. Tucker attempts to bridge the supposed divide between science and religion, arguing that both have an integral role to play in helping us meet the sustainability challenges that lie before us.

The idea that sustainability over the long term will depend upon conservation approaches that are environmentally sound—but also economically viable, and socially responsible—is gradually becoming accepted as the bedrock principle that will guide conservation in the future. What Karieva et al. argue in their article is not fundamentally different from the core argument of the 1987 Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future,3 and it can be found at the core of Gifford Pinchot’s 1911 book, The Fight for Conservation.4 The idea that a sustainable future for civilization as a whole may hinge upon the development of a meaningful conservation ethic by each of us as individuals goes back at least to Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac,5 and continues to be refined today by leading scientists like Edward O. Wilson in his most recent book, The Social Conquest of Earth.6

The critical importance of these concepts to the future of conservation is the focus of a new PBS documentary on Pinchot’s conservation philosophy, and the Pinchot Institute’s role in carrying that legacy into the future, that will be released in September 2013 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Institute’s founding and dedication by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. For those who cannot wait for a sneak peak, you can view the film trailer here. Conservationists can take great pride in what they have accomplished over the past century. But as Albert Einstein once stated, “The problems that exist in this world cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” Great challenges lie ahead, and a higher level of conservation thinking will be needed to successfully address them.

Al Sample

1 Karieva, P., Lalasz, R., and M. Marvier. 2011. Conservation In The Anthropocene. Breakthrough Journal, Vol. 2 (Fall 2011).
2 Schellenberger, M. and T. Nordhaus. The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post- Environmental World.
3 World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Our Common Future (The Brundtland Report). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4 Pinchot, G. 1911. The Fight for Conservation. New York: Doubleday.
5 Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
6 Wilson, E. O. 2012. The Social Conquest of Earth. New York: W.W. Norton.


Essential Tools for Sustaining America's Forests:
Reauthorizing Stewardship Contracts on Federal Lands
Brian A. Kittler and V. Alaric Sample

Al-Qaeda knows we have a forest health problem ("Al-Qaeda Urges Terrorists to Set Wildfires in Montana" The Missoulian, May 4, 2012).1 As usual, they see our vulnerabilities more clearly than we sometimes do ourselves- and how to exploit them. Why risk smuggling a bomb into the US when there are so many already here-in our forests-just waiting to be lit?

We too know we have a forest health problem. We know it has gotten bad, as insect and disease outbreaks and drought have resulted in extensive areas of dying forests and dangerous accumulations of dead wood. And we know that all this is likely to get worse as the effects of climate change become more pronounced, and more readily apparent to resource managers and stakeholders as well as scientists.

In the West, where the vast majority of federal forests are, the lingering effects of fire exclusion, overgrazing, cutbacks in silvicultural treatments, and other activities of the past century are now multiplied by the effects of climate change, contributing to the vulnerability of present-day forests. In the East, while management issues are different, they are not necessarily less challenging, and flexibility in management is needed.

In many places, the consequences of not intervening to alter the current trajectory of these ecosystems through appropriately timed and scaled management is the diminishment or outright loss of the services these resources provide—clean air, clean water, biological diversity, wildlife habitat, sequestration of atmospheric carbon, recreation opportunities, and utilitarian benefits, as well as numerous cultural, spiritual, social, and economic values.

To address challenges like this, two things are needed: knowledge, and the tools to apply that knowledge. With the wealth of recent research on climate change effects on forests, we now have a clearer understanding of what to expect, and how it will affect forest health, productivity, and essential services from these natural systems, such as water resource protection and biodiversity. Our knowledge is not perfect, nor can it ever be. But we do have a reasonably clear understanding of constructive steps that can be taken, results monitored, and adjustments made.

Stewardship Contracting Awaits Congressional Reauthorization

We also have specialized tools that are well-suited to the task. The first “stewardship contract ” pilot projects were authorized by Congress more than a decade ago. More than six dozen pilot projects were eventually authorized on National Forests around the country, their progress noted by local communities and multi-party monitoring teams, and their results reported annually to Congress. In 2003, Congress gave a strong policy endorsement to stewardship contracts by granting a 10-year extension of the stewardship contract pilot program, and expanding it to encompass all National Forest and BLM lands across the country. Unless reauthorized, the agencies’ authority to use this innovative contracting mechanism will expire on September 30, 2013.

Right now, Congress has an opportunity to ensure that federal land managers continue to have this essential ecosystem restoration tool available to them. Reauthorization of stewardship contracting in its current form has broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and across the interest group spectrum. The version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (i.e., the 2012 “Farm Bill”)2 passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26, 2012 contained a provision to permanently extend the authority of the Forest Service and BLM to use stewardship contracts and agreements. That bill is on its way to a vote by the full Senate, while the House has yet to take up the Farm Bill. In addition to the Farm Bill, several other legislative channel proposals for reauthorization have been made.3

Support for Stewardship Contracting

Agency heads and resource managers at both the Forest Service and BLM value stewardship contracts as one of the most effective and cost-efficient tools they have for accomplishing critical ecosystem restoration work on federal lands. As one indicator of the growth of this tool, in 2011, roughly 20 percent of all timber sold from the National Forest System was removed as a necessary part of restoration work and hazardous fuels work accomplished through stewardship contracts and agreements. For the BLM, roughly 14 percent of all timber sold from public domain lands is presently removed as part of the restoration work done under stewardship contracts.4

Studies by the Pinchot Institute show an increased acceptance of stewardship contracting by agency field managers, with 85 percent of agency personnel now saying that they would participate in another stewardship project, saying it is a “great tool” with “positive benefits.” As a Forest Service field manager in the Northern Rockies explains, “Stewardship contracting allows the Forest Service to create on-the ground results that we feel like we cannot get with the other tools available to us, like a traditional timber sale or service contract alone. Stewardship contracting utilizes the skills of our community in a way that we haven’t had available to us before in the manner that we think it’s a better result.”

Rural communities express similar feelings, citing multiple instances where stewardship contracts support jobs accomplishing something that serves the broader public interest, and building stable local economies based on conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources. In the longer term, ecosystem restoration work accomplished with stewardship contracts will help reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to the effects of climate change and other challenges that come our way.

Lastly, the need to reauthorize this flexible contracting approach is exemplified by its direct connection to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP),5 a new initiative only recently created by Congress, designed to accelerate the collaborative restoration of our forests. Virtually every CFLRP project proposed during the first two years seeks extensive use of stewardship contracts and agreements in the restoration of forest ecosystems. Grounded deeply in collaboration, these projects typify the direction of Federal forest management— building from a foundation of trust to enable well placed interventions that promote ecosystem resiliency across hundreds of thousands of acres, while providing jobs in rural communities. Without stewardship contracting the CFLRP will most likely not be successful.



Building a Record of Documented Accomplishments


Since the introduction of the pilot authority in 1999, the Pinchot Institute has facilitated the community- based multi-party monitoring of the pilot projects, and helped compile the annual report to Congress that was required in the original pilot legislation.6 Through this effort, the Institute and its regional partner organizations have documented the successes and challenges of using this approach to contracting work on federal lands.

The series of annual reports show that each year a greater number of agency and non-agency personnel are utilizing stewardship contracts and discovering their value as a land management tool. Somewhat unique in the natural resources policy world, this monitoring program has allowed the federal agencies to track the successes and benefits of this contracting program.

Successes reported through the 2011 monitoring program include:
  • Restoration is being accomplished in areas where there previously was not interest or support. This appears to be building trust.
  • Existing collaborative groups continue to favor stewardship contracting and new groups have emerged partially due to their interest in stewardship authorities.
  • Agreements with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly conservation NGOs, have been successful in raising matching funds, with almost half of survey respondents saying that non-agency partners bring new funds into stewardship contracts and agreements.

Benefits reported through the 2011 programmatic monitoring program include:

  • Stewardship contracting has created capacity within the workforce of rural communities to undertake the diversity of tasks comprising ecosystem management and restoration. Top benefits cited include “using local contractors,” “creating/maintaining more local jobs,” and providing “other economic benefits,” such as documented reductions in the cost of fuel treatments and expanded capacity for utilizing low-value wood biomass.
  • “Improving public trust” and “increasing opportunities for public input” are two of the greatest benefits stewardship contracting has brought to the agencies, while a broad spectrum of interest groups praise stewardship contracting.
  • Performing more work on the ground in an integrated manner (e.g., hazardous fuel reduction, habitat improvement, noxious weed control or eradication, road improvements, road obliteration, and stream restoration).
  • Increased administrative and fiscal efficiencies achieved through the use of best-value contracting, goods-for-services, designation by description and prescription, and retained receipts. 

Conclusion

Considering the growing reliance on stewardship contracts and the numerous success stories and benefits cited by stakeholders across the country, federal land managers need to be certain this essential tool will continue to be available to them in the future. Communities and other stakeholders who treasure the aesthetic, ecological, and spiritual benefits these lands provide, and those who depend on them for their economic vitality, are working with Congress and other political leaders to ensure that they understand the value—and proven cost-effectiveness—of stewardship contracts, and will lend their support to their legislative reauthorization.

Our federal forests are up against the greatest challenge in their hundred- year history. Environmental stresses of an already changing climate have weakened their resistance to insects and disease. Extensive areas of dead and dying trees create conditions ripe for wildfires far larger and more damaging than would naturally occur in these ecosystems. Invasive species are poised to penetrate more deeply in the aftermath of such events, changing the composition of native forests and habitats for the foreseeable future. Diminished forests are less able to provide abundant supplies of clean water, affecting not just rural communities but major cities throughout the country that depend upon healthy forest watersheds. Stewardship contracting is a primary tool for federal forest managers working to sustain the health and productivity of America’s forests, one that they need to know they can depend on having as they strive to address the challenges ahead.

Brian Kittler is Project Director at the Pinchot Institute in Portland, Oregon. V. Alaric Sample is President of the Pinchot Institute in Washington, DC.


1 The Missoulian, May 4, 2012
2 Farm Bill
3 There have been several recent attempts at reauthorization in the House of Representatives: In 2011, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) offered a simple reauthorization; Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) offered a two year extension; Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) offered another eight years to match Simpson's two years, and more recently Lujan introduced a 10 year extension.
4 Note that stewardship contracting is rarely used on Oregon & California lands (O&C lands) in western Oregon due to regulations.
5 CFLRP
6 Past programmatic monitoring reports are available for download here.


Six former Forest Service Chiefs call for reauthorization of stewardship contracting, noting it as the "tool of choice throughout the USFS." Read their letter here.

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

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