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Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Forest Carbon Conservation

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

Raincloud Tree Farm Sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raincloud Tree Farm


Forest Carbon Innovations: From the President
The world needs forests now more than ever. More than a century ago, a conservation movement began when Gifford Pinchot and his peers foresaw the implications of the ongoing deforestation of North America. Ironically, the magnificent regrowth of these forests helped hide what has been happening ever since: the rapid rise in carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. may have already reached “peak forest”--i.e. losing both forestlands and total carbon storage in remaining forests--but there is actually disagreement over these numbers. The consensus is that if not yet, peak forest will happen soon as forestlands continue to be developed. The world, and especially the tropics, is losing forests and carbon at a faster and more catastrophic rate.

Since well before “cap and trade” and carbon offsets, the Institute has worked to advance science and policies that spur investment in forests to reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. We worked with partners on the development of protocols--not just for compliance (legally required) and voluntary purchases of carbon credits, but also to help landowners and their foresters store more carbon over time through management practices.  Fifteen years ago we believed that strategies to reduce emissions would have been well-deployed and adopted in the business of forestry by now--that by 2020 the global community would be well on the way to making “trees the answer” to global climate change. Proposed federal legislation in the U.S. rose and fell and it seemed a regulatory solution was always around the corner. It wasn’t. Certainly there is fantastic work being done around the world to sequester carbon and slow deforestation. But we and many others have been naive about the political will, and pace and scale of adoption.

Anything consequential that represents a fundamentally different pathway--a rethinking of how economies relate to nature--requires a longer and perhaps more painful transformation. People need to profit from their own experience of shifting from the business-as-usual scenario. Experience requires experiences, which take time, especially in forestry.

During this time the Institute has increased our focus on change mechanisms at the ground-level. New forestry, re-envisioned architecture and supply chains, and innovative expansion of the ways in which people use wood will all be necessary to address climate change. We will have to bend the curves of silviculture and “lignify” sectors that rarely use wood. Meanwhile, forestlands, from the soil to the canopy, must store more carbon for a longer time. And forest ecosystems and the species they contain cannot be diminished in the process. After all, the fight against climate change is not just to save beachfront property, it is to protect people and nature around the globe.  

Described in this Pinchot Wire is some of the Institute’s conservation work to transform how we manage forests in a way that benefits people and nature. In the Pacific Northwest, the Institute has been working with states, companies, landowners, and NGO partners to develop new policies, technologies, and forest management practices that, taken together, can make climate mitigation a profitable and more widespread enterprise. For several years, we have been working with the the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test how federal conservation programs might use private markets to sequester carbon on family forests. A complementary priority has been modeling new kinds of mill infrastructure and wood supply chains: in one case to make extending harvest rotations financially feasible, and in another, to provide markets for wood that comes from restoration projects. .

Four thousand miles away in Ecuador’s Choco-Darien moist forest, the Institute has worked for more than a decade on a similar challenge. The Choco is almost gone. Estimates of remaining primary Choco are less than 5%, and it is one of the world's most diverse ecosystems (e.g. spider monkeys, pumas, jaguars, and untold species of plants and invertebrates). The Institute's work is to save the biodiversity and carbon storage in these forests by working with local communities to develop a new economic model. It is a model that is desperately needed in the tropics. Delicate and selective harvests of multiple types of wood enable new designs and materials for flooring, countertops, and furniture. More importantly, the value added to natural forests prevents conversion to palm and cacao plantations and lowers the embedded carbon emissions in forest products. Originally a partner venture between the Institute, Ecuadorian non-profits, and a community, the work has spawned a for-profit company (https://wholeforest.com) that employs 70 people whose lands and labor now conserve these critical primary forests.

The Institute community believes that not just trees, but intact forest ecosystems managed and preserved for the nature they contain as well as people, are indeed “the answer.” Forests can play the role of a global natural climate solution when the policies, knowledge, and techniques that serve this purpose suit the people who own and manage forests. That is the focus of some of the work shared in this issue of the Pinchot Wire.

We invite anyone interested in what we do and committed to these same goals, to reach out, support, or join our work.

Carbon Pricing and Working Lands in Oregon
Carbon Policy and Working Lands in Oregon From cities to the country, the diversity of lands and communities comprising our landscapes are all exposed to the risks presented by climate change. These same lands and communities can take steps to reduce emissions and adapt to changing conditions.

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

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

A conference summary report includes salient background information, as well as, needs and opportunities identified by participants. An accompanying issue brief compilation provides a detailed overview of key topics:
For more background about carbon pricing on working lands from the conference presentations, see an introduction and top reported concerns of participants; an overview of the six issue briefs listed above; and lessons learned from California's carbon policy.
Inside the Institute
Announcing Two New Conservation Fellows
During their one-year appointments, Pinchot Institute Conservation Fellows collaborate with other researchers and policy specialists within and outside the Institute to identify, develop, and test new policies and business models for solving the complex conservation challenges of the 21st century. Conservation Fellows are often recent graduates of masters programs pursuing the next step in their careers through work that allows them to apply their passion and expertise to the cause of conservation.

Josh FainBased in the Portland, OR Western Regional Office, Josh Fain is working to find creative conservation solutions that address the financial challenges of family working lands and build landscape scale climate resilience. Before coming to the Institute, he spent 12 years working with the U.S. Forest Service in a variety of positions ranging from fire management to climate change research. Most recently Josh helped start the USDA’s Caribbean Climate Hub in San Juan, Puerto Rico, working to coordinate federal, state, and NGO efforts around climate change adaptation in agriculture and forestry. He recently published a study entitled “Climate Change and Coffee” that employed downscaled climate data to model the potential impacts of climate change on coffee growth in Puerto Rico. He has also written and co-authored several other publications on climate vulnerability in working lands and is a co-author of the upcoming fourth national climate assessment. Josh has a B.S. from the University of Georgia in Forest Resource Management and a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Eli RobertsEli Roberts is a forester from Connecticut who helps coordinate the CommonWaters Partnership in the upper Delaware River Basin. He completed a Master of Forestry the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where he concentrated on ecological forest management and agroforestry systems. His capstone project summarized the robust potential for expanding agroforestry in the northeastern U.S. Eli has been an elementary school teacher, landscape designer, vegetable grower, and part-time chestnut orchardist. His professional interests include working forests, environmental justice, conservation biocontrol, and cost-share programs. He likes riding his bike, collecting and planting seeds, and singing shape-note music. He also studied psychology at Villanova.

Institute Names Two New Senior Fellows
Pinchot Institute Senior Fellows contribute substantially to carrying out the work of the Pinchot Institute. Senior Fellows are appointed on the basis of their expertise in policy areas relevant to Pinchot Institute programs and priorities, and for their recognized accomplishments in their respective fields. Serving three-year renewable terms, the work of Pinchot Institute Senior Fellows is integrated with that of colleagues and staff at the Institute, and often provides a useful bridge between the Institute and a Senior Fellow’s home organization at a university or other research institution.

Recently, a strategic area of growth in the Institute’s corp of Senior Fellows is in the realm of public lands acquisitions, land exchanges, and right of ways, as evidenced by the exceptional capacity brought by our newest Senior Fellows Steve Rinella and Bob Dennee, both of whom join the Institute after concluding their careers in public service with the USDA Forest Service, the last phase of which was leading the agency’s Lands and Realty Management Program.

Bob and Steve’s expertise in the policies, programs, and procedures involved with exchanges and conveyances of lands into the public domain are integral to the continued success and conservation of these lands for the public interest. As Senior Fellows they will continue this work and help train the next generation of experts in this important field. This work is of increasing importance as the nation’s energy, water, and telecommunications infrastructure increasingly originates from, or crosses through, our public lands. Demand for outdoor recreation will continue to grow as an increasingly urbanized society seeks quiet moments and a natural connection in a world where we find ourselves continually plugged in and online.

Steve RinellaSteve Rinella brings extensive background in real property policy, management and law, following nearly 33 years with the USDA Forest Service. His background includes technical and managerial experience in South Dakota, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. He retired in 2015 as the Assistant Director of Lands and Realty Management. His experience includes real estate transactions, title issues, land uses, easements, and landsrelated legislation and litigation. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from Iowa State University. Throughout his career, he also satisfied his interest in wildfire management, and continues to, by serving as an Operations Section Chief with national incident management teams. He resides in Littleton, Colorado.

Bob DenneeBob Dennee has a lengthy track record of working effectively with landowners, agencies, and conservation partners to negotiate and develop successful conservation projects. In doing so, Bob spent much of his 40-plus-year career with the USDA Forest Service on the National Forests and Grasslands of Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with special assignments in Alaska and Washington, D.C., collaborating with public officials, federal and state agencies, conservation groups and landowners to complete more than 50 high-profile conservation and public access projects. Highlights include managing numerous land purchases and donations conserving more than 80,000 acres of critical private land and enabling the consolidation of more than 100,000 acres of public land. Bob lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Three New Members Elected to Pinchot Institute Board of Directors
Richard Cole AnthonyRichard Cole Anthony, a graduate of Denison University with a degree in history, was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy on active duty from 1967 through 1970. Starting in 1971 with The Hartford National Bank, Dick spent 30 years in the institutional fixed income investment arena as a bond portfolio manager, trader, underwriter, and sales executive. Dick retired in 2000 to pursue philanthropic and civic activities, including service on the board of the Weekapaug Foundation for Conservation and two terms as an elected town council member in Westerly, Rhode Island.

Tamara ChantHaving spent the past 31 years in Europe and the Middle East, Tamara Chant recently returned to her native home of Milford, Pennsylvania to join her children and parents. A Smith College graduate, Tamara managed marketing and sponsorship for Top Marques Monaco, a luxury car and goods exhibitor, in Monaco and Abu Dhabi. Tamara began working with non-profit organizations after completing a certification in fundraising at NYU, shifting her focus toward activism for vulnerable populations. She was recently appointed Executive Director of Safe Haven of Pike County, a domestic violence and sexual assault resource agency. Tamara also serves as a board member for the Nepal Orphans Home and the Good Shepherd Child Care Center.

Elizabeth CericolaElizabeth Cericola is development officer, individual giving, for World Wildlife Fund’s Eastern regional philanthropy team. Beth joined WWF in January 2014 from The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she worked on donor communications and philanthropic partnerships for Pew’s environment initiatives. Previously, she managed Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s major giving program. She has held internships at Worldwatch Institute and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Currently, Beth serves on the Planning Committee for the Association of Fundraising Professionals DC Young Professional Affinity Group. She received a B.S.F.S. in culture and politics from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. Beth lives with her husband, Nick, in Washington, D.C.

Working across All Lands:
The "Holy Grail" of Land Management?

Rachel Plawecki

Bob Christensen enjoys a challenge. In his Southeast Alaska home of Icy Strait, severe weather is so common that all plans he makes are “weather permitting.” His morning commute to Hoonah, a small village on an island near Icy Strait, involves taking a boat or small plane.Weather permitting, of course. As Christensen put it, “Pretty much everything you do here involves adapting to Mother Nature.”

Credit: Salmon Valley Stewardship For thousands of years, southeast Alaska has been home to the Tlingit people. Because of this strong native Alaskan presence, as well as the city’s isolated location, the community relies on local land and water for everything from food and commerce to traditional cultural practices.

“I like to think of a cash economy and a wild food economy, both, when I’m thinking about land management projects—especially in the native villages, but really throughout the region,” Christensen said. To this day traditional subsistence practices like hunting, fishing, and berry-picking are thriving in the area. Historically, salmon fishing, timber, and mining production ruled the cash economy, but booms and busts in those markets have opened the door for commercial fisheries, tourism, and non-timber forest products.

Christensen’s latest challenge is to find a sustainable blend of these cash and subsistence economies—to grow the natural resource economy while preserving native traditions. He and his team at the Sustainable Southeast Partnership are in search of what he calls “the Holy Grail of land management.”

Their quest is exemplified in an innovative project called the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, a science-based, landscape scale, community forest approach to watershed planning and project implementation. The project has brought together a diverse set of partners, including native corporations, government agencies, and conservation groups.

Credit: Ian Johnson The HNFP project area is approximately 150,000 acres covering all complete watersheds within which Regional Native Corporation (Sealaska) and Village Corporation (Huna Totem) lands exist, including almost 90,000 acres of federal lands. Earlier this year, project administrators hired six local residents to complete the area’s first comprehensive and consistent natural resource inventory. The data will inform next year’s pilot projects, which will include forest thinning that blends timber and wildlife habitat values, forest management activities designed to enhance berry production, and road work that improves tourism and access to wild food gathering locations.

In the end the Partnership hopes that by scaling up their pilot projects, they will achieve “a measurable and resilient blend of timber, salmon and deer production, local economic diversification and improved watershed health,” all while supporting the native heritage that makes this place so unique.

1500 miles away Gina Knudson is taking a similar approach in the much drier landscape of Salmon, Idaho. She and her team at the Lemhi Forest Restoration Group (LFRG), a collaborative group coordinated by Salmon Valley Stewardship, face the conundrum of simultaneously addressing community wildfire protection, forest health, and economic growth in a county of over 90 percent public land. Landscape scale stewardship is LFRG’s solution to this integrated set of challenges, and the Hughes Creek project is proof that their approach works.

The Hughes Creek project area consisted of slivers of private land adjacent to the Creek, and the surrounding lands managed by the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The entire area is extremely fire prone, so LFRG’s top priority going into the project was community wildfire protection.

Work crews conduct a deer pellet survey to help understand the relationship between pre-commercial thinning, slash variability, and deer abundance. Credit: Ian Johnson A broad group of community members, elected officials, conservation groups, and business interests looked at the Hughes Creek watershed with an eye toward efficiency and cooperation. Hazardous fuels treatments happened on National Forest and private lands, including a narrow strip of about 600 acres surrounded by public land and owned by an out-of-state mining interest.

“Without treating the private land, the treatments on the surrounding public lands wouldn’t have been effective. The county and other collaborative members worked for months to engage the property owners, and Idaho Department of Lands designed a prescription that mirrored that on the neighboring Forest Service land,” Knudson said.

Credit: Ian Johnson As difficult as it is to fathom, the Chinook salmon and steelhead that are so abundant in the Hoonah landscape are just trying to re-establish a viable population in Central Idaho. The Lemhi collaborative wondered whether the Hughes Creek project could also improve habitat for these threatened and endangered species in addition to reducing wildfire risk to people. Salmon-Challis National Forest fisheries biologists concluded that the lower reach of the creek, partially flowing through private lands, had been seriously altered by placer mining in the early part of the century.

“So one of our collaborative members approached a young ranch family who owned this beautiful pasture with about a one-mile segment of Hughes Creek flowing through it....They agreed to let us put logs in the creek as part of a stream restoration project, and the Forest is now recording Chinook in the watershed in reaches where they haven’t been recorded for decades,” Knudson said. The collaborative sponsored the project, raised all the funds, and had a big volunteer day when draft horses pulled the logs into Hughes Creek.

Credit: Salmon Valley Stewardship“Under the old way of doing business, that project would not have happened.When we started thinking about what the watershed needed, instead of where the boundary markers were located, we were able to achieve better outcomes.”

There is a new name for this approach to collaborative land management emerging across the West: “All Lands, All Hands.” Natural resource management across All Lands involves multiple parties who rely on neighboring land parcels for economic, social, and ecological values. The parties identify common interests that cut across ownership boundaries and pool their resources to conduct collaborative restoration and stewardship activities.

So, why All Lands? Natural processes like fire, insect and disease outbreaks, and wildlife movement, operate without regard for the private and public land boundaries drawn on maps. Likewise, human relationships and economic markets operate across all lands. This approach to collaborative stewardship recognizes the interdependence that exists regardless of property and management boundaries.

The crux of the All Lands approach is this: we can accomplish more together than we can alone. By pooling our resources and working at broader scales, we can achieve more durable outcomes on the ground and create jobs at a scale that is meaningful for long-term workforce development. These things are critical if we aim to use stewardship to increase both natural resource and community well-being.

Credit: Salmon Valley Stewardship While an All Lands approach to land management may not be the cure-all for the rural West’s macroeconomic challenges, it does empower rural communities to plan holistically for their future and strengthens the social fiber within and across communities. As more collaborative efforts graduate to the All Lands approach, they are setting a new standard for achieving long-term ecological and economic solutions backed by social agreement and joint investment.

By working across multiple land ownerships, an All Lands approach allows land managers to address ecological issues at the scales on which they operate. Not only can managers do more work on more land, but they can also coordinate across boundaries to make sure work is done strategically.

“In Hoonah,” Christensen said, “we did what no one else had before.We did a comprehensive inventory of forest structure, and now all the landowners have the same data to work with.We did it with a single crew, a single pot of money, and in a single summer. This was much more efficient than if Village Corporation did one, then the Forest Service did one, and so on.”

Credit: Salmon Valley Stewardship This approach naturally appeals to a wide range of partners, leading to pooled and leveraged investment and more work done on the ground. HNFP was initially funded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which paved the way for further investment from other partners, including the Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Huna Totem. “This gets people’s attention at all levels,” noted Christensen.

Knudson points out that more work on the ground can mean higher community benefit. That was the case in the Hughes Creek project. Thanks to a stewardship agreement the Salmon- Challis entered into with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a local hunting outfitter cross-trained his wilderness crew into a hard-working hazardous fuels reduction crew.

“I think Bighorn Outfitters only ended up doing about 100 acres of thinning and piling on Hughes Creek. But that kept a seasonal work crew of about seven people working during the typically slower summer months. So you have workers who are sticking around for the majority of the year, renting houses and keeping their kids in a school that faces declining numbers, and the Forest Service is getting the benefit of the outfitters’ free and heartfelt publicity.”

In both Hoonah and Salmon, there is a history of conflict around natural resource issues.The partnerships described in both cases probably would not have happened just a few decades ago. But working across ownerships and sectors develops relationships based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding. “My hope is that through the [HNFP] project, we’ll be able to heal some of those old wounds,” Christensen said.

These relationships are critical for collaboration to produce the returns on investment that rural communities need. The momentum, optimism, and relationships built through projects like these will translate into more effective management of our public and private lands.

For this approach to work at scale, the conservation community will need to connect and learn from the Hoonah’s and Salmon’s of the world—the innovators who have been experimenting and finding success for over a decade. Building capacity for replication in the rural West will continue to be essential for realizing success with the All Lands, All Hands strategy.What is more, it will be vital that these lessons and stories make their way to Capitol Hill to inform and encourage policies that enable good work on the ground.

Knudson and Christensen are working on that front too. They are both on the Leadership Team of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC), a unique network of local, regional, and national groups tackling the tough ecological and economic challenges facing isolated rural communities across the West. For the last 15 years RVCC has brought the voices of these communities to Washington, DC and has served as a network for practitioners.

“Soon after finding my realm of community forestry,” Christensen said, “I found my way to RVCC and immediately benefited greatly from learning about projects happening all across the West. It’s helped me see a bigger vision for what I’ve stumbled into and given me courage to do what looked like a daunting task.”

Over the next year, RVCC will be formalizing the learning exchanges within their network, and taking a more intentional look at leadership development in rural communities. They will be encouraging the use of the All Lands approach by building relationships across landscapes and relaying lessons learned to policy makers. Stories like Christensen’s and Knudson’s will certainly be told again.

Rachel Plawecki is a legislative aide to Michigan State Representative Darrin Carmilleri. She previously worked for Wallowa Resources and Sustainable Northwest in Oregon.
Understanding and Managing Forests as Ecosystems:
A Reflection on 60 Years of Change, and a View to the Anthropocene

Jerry F. Franklin

Jerry F. FranklinThere have been major revolutions in forestry, environmental affairs, and the wood products industry during my career. I was aware that things were changing and that I was participating in this process, but at the time I failed to appreciate the magnitude and direction of these changes in forest policy and management.

These past several years I have had to think deeply about the nature of these changes as my co-authors and I were completing a new textbook entitled “Ecological Forest Management.”1 The bottom line is that forestry is in an immensely different place and facing very different challenges than when I began my career 60+ years ago.

In this personal reflection I focus on three topics: 
  • First, how our view of forests has shifted from seeing them simply as collections of trees managed primarily to produce wood, to understanding them as complex, biologically-diverse ecosystems, which provide multiple ecological services and goods. 
  • Second, how this change in perspective has influenced forest policy, primarily but not exclusively on federal lands; this change is reflected in laws and regulations, as well as management plans. I will use the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) to illustrate the changes. 
  • Third, the challenges and opportunities provided by the arrival of the Anthropocene Epoch, which will certainly involve significant social changes as well as environmental. The social issues include highly polarized views about the meaning of the Anthropocene and how humankind should respond to it.
Forests as Ecosystems
When I was an undergraduate forestry student in the late 1950s, forests were viewed primarily as collections of trees and wood production as the primary object of forest management. Furthermore, the wood products industry was dominated by vertically-integrated corporations, which managed the most productive of our nation’s forest estate to provide raw materials for their mills.

Natural resource managers at that time had similar views of their missions. Foresters focused on wood production and developing optimal agronomically-based approaches for efficiently doing that.Wildlife managers focused on production of game species and a major tool was elimination of predators.2 Fisheries managers focused on commercial and sport fisheries; in their view every accessible body of water should be stocked with game fish, with no thought to impacts on other aquatic biota, including native fish.

There was no scientific basis at that time for any other perspective, even if a manager had wished to consider others. There was no body of ecosystem science to learn from or draw upon. Although much forest research had been conducted it was directed nearly exclusively to the goals of growing, harvesting and regenerating even-aged collections of young trees of commercially important species.

Today a large body of knowledge about forests as ecosystems does exist; it is a product of research conducted over the last 60 years much of it supported by the National Science Foundation, which supported the first generation of old-growth forest studies. They were extremely productive of important fundamental and practically relevant knowledge, identifying and documenting the complex structural features and functional capabilities of older natural forests. These pioneering studies were followed by many decades of additional research that dove deeply into structure (e.g., dead wood), processes (productivity), responses to disturbances (Mt. St. Helens), and ecosystem dynamics.3
Shutterstock - KennStilger47
Emergence of Ecosystem Concept in Policy
In the 1960s ecosystem concepts were emerging into popular conscience even if not recognized precisely by that label as environmental issues emerged as a major social concern. This was certainly stimulated by the book, “Silent Spring.”4 There was a growing appreciation of that all things were ultimately connected!

The legislative consequences of this emerging awareness are obvious, with several laws passed that were relevant to forest policy: the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). These laws made adoption of an ecosystem perspective imperative in managing federal lands.5

Society at large responded to the lessons of emerging ecosystem science more quickly than resource professionals, whose fundamental management premises were challenged by both the science and the laws. Much judicial intervention occurred before the full implications of these laws were realized and the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) was one of the defining outcomes of that legal jousting.

The Northwest Forest Plan
Determining the substantive requirements of ESA and NFMA ultimately involved legal challenges in federal courts. In the Pacific Northwest (PNW) an outcome was the suspension of further timber harvest activities on federal forest lands within the range of the northern spotted owl (NSO) in 1990. This set the stage for the NWFP in which the consequences of both science and policy were realized. As the most important federal forest region, a crisis was created that was ultimately addressed by newly elected President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Circumstances were challenging. The management agencies had lost credibility and a team of scientists (Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team or FEMAT) was given responsibility for analyzing the science and preparing alternatives for a subsequent NEPA-based EIS. President Clinton directed that all alternatives provided to him be scientifically sound and legal under existing law—the substantive outcome required by NFMA and ESA6 —in addition to providing a predictable and sustainable timber sale program. Notably, FEMAT was conducted as a closed rather than a publicly open process.

The existence of a substantial and current body of science was fortuitous. This science was focused on the natural forests of the region and associated streams and rivers, as well as on the ecology of focal species, such as the northern spotted owl. Further, the scientific community was prepared to grapple with issues at this scale because of several earlier scientific analyses: the Thomas Report on a scientifically credible plan for conservation of NSOs7 ; and the “Gang of Four” report8 commissioned by two Congressional committees and—at their request—focused on conservation of old-growth forests and endangered fish stocks as well as NSOs.

The NWFP revolutionized management priorities for federal forests, shifting the focus from timber production to ecological goals. It stopped timber harvesting in most remaining older forests and planned for restoration of large contiguous blocks of older forest habitat (Late Successional Reserves or LSRs). The NWFP recognized the essential linkages between forests and streams and included multiple strategies to retain and restore aquatic environments. FEMAT adopted a coarse-filter ecosystem-based approach to conserving biodiversity. FEMAT emphasized the need for flexible, adaptive management and creation of a network of Adaptive Management Areas where experiments could be undertaken.

The NWFP achieved much but also failed regarding key goals. For example it did not result in recovery of the NSO and primarily because of competition from the invasive barred owl. The NWFP has not been as adaptive as planned because agencies and stakeholders ultimately wanted certainty in terms of outcomes, such as land allocations and prescriptions, not the uncertainty implicit in adaptive management. The predicted levels of timber harvest have not occurred, partially because the coarse-filter strategy central to FEMAT was subverted by addition of Survey and Manage, a fine-filter screen for 427 species.

Importantly the NWFP did not mandate restoration of ecosystem integrity, including the array of successional stages needed to sustain the biodiversity and processes of PNW forest landscapes. Active management was permitted but not emphasized, excepting thinning of young stands in LSRs to speed their structural development. The NWFP did allow managers to undertake restoration of dry (frequent-fire) forest ecosystems in LSRs to more natural and resilient conditions but few managers chose to do so.

The NWFP immediately began undergoing change but primarily through internal decisions that were opaque to the public. For example, logging of older forests in the general management land allocation (Matrix) —a key element in the NWFP—was halted almost immediately by civil disobedience and legal challenges. Management agencies ultimately ceased attempting regeneration harvests in any age of forest and confined timber harvesting to thinning of younger stands.

Recently the NWFP has undergone significant change through publicly vetted processes conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The USFWS developed and adopted a recovery plan and designation of critical habitat for the NSO.9 The BLM developed and adopted new management plans for the O&C lands in western Oregon.10

The NWFP still needs significant revision to reflect changed realities and additional knowledge.11 One major need is to fully embrace the goals of restoring the integrity of ecosystems in both the moist forest (forests historically subject to wildfires with stand-replacement severity) and dry forest (forests historically subject to frequent, low-severity wildfires) landscapes of the PNW.12

Systematically planning to sustain well-distributed high-quality early successional or preforest ecosystems is the most important need in Moist Forest landscapes. It has become clear that much of the biodiversity associated with these landscapes occurs in the preforest ecosystems following disturbances.13 A revised NWFP needs a strategy for maintaining these disappearing habitats, primarily by variable-retention harvests in the immense acreage of existing plantations.14

The challenging task of restoring and maintaining resilient forest conditions in the dry forests needs to be aggressively embraced in a revised NWFP.15 A generic policy of retaining old trees is an appropriate principle in restoration because of their ecological and social significance.

The recovery plan for the NSO16 provides an excellent starting point for incorporating both the restorative moist and dry forest activities. Furthermore, both of these restorative efforts would be important contributions to preparing and adapting the federal forests to the expected effects of climatic change.

A key lesson we have learned about managing forests as ecosystems is that attempting to maximize management for any individual output will result in the marginalization or elimination of other important functions. Today on public lands we have largely moved beyond the notion that wood production is the overriding goal of forest management and other uses and values are merely by-products. Now proponents of other forest values—such as maximizing carbon sequestration—need to embrace the same difficult lesson. Managing forest to optimize any single function, condition, or species will result in marginalization or complete loss of other important ecosystem capacities; it will violate the principle of managing so as to maintain the fundamental integrity of the forest ecosystem. Natural forest ecosystems—our models for sustainable management—provide multiple values but maximize none.
Shutterstock - KennStilger47
Challenges of the 21st Century: The Anthropocene
So what does all of this have to do with the Anthropocene? A lot, as it turns out. There is a growing need for ecosystem-based active management to restore ecosystem structure and function, create resilient forests and landscapes, provide economic and other social benefits, and create novel solutions when ecosystems undergo failure.

In one sense the Anthropocene simply labels a reality that human influences are now pervasive and generating global-level changes both directly and indirectly.

What the Anthropocene should make apparent are humankind’s responsibilities for sustaining the functional capabilities and biological diversity of the global ecosystems for their future potential as well as their current contributions to humankind. The challenges of maintaining ecological integrity, let alone species, is going to be immense, as is the critical need of providing for economic and other societal values. Ecosystem science will be one of the major sources of knowledge that we are going to need in order to do that.

But we are faced—yet again—with significant social challenges, including some folks with pretty extreme perspectives about how we ought to proceed! As usual, achieving social consensus is likely to be a greater challenge than the scientific and technical issues.

On one side there are those who believe “nature is dead” or at least irrelevant. They think that since we are now in the Anthropocene and humans are recognized as the dominant influence on global conditions and since truly natural ecosystems no longer exist, nature, natural models, and natural science are all irrelevant. Solutions to problems will be technical and human-created—we will bioengineer our way out of any problems of food, fiber, and everything else.

On the other side are individuals and organizations that would ignore our scientific knowledge in favor of passively leaving solutions to Nature. Their mantra is, “You foresters (and other natural resource managers) have screwed everything up. You need to stay out of the forest and let Nature restore the balance!” Seemingly, some would rather allow forests to burn catastrophically than see resilient conditions restored through application of established science.

This is illogical. Take the example of the frequent-fire forests, which under historical conditions rarely experienced stand-replacement fires. Human activities have altered all aspects of these ecosystems from their structure and composition to the environment within which they exist. Left on her own, Nature will respond to these altered conditions but the outcomes are likely to be undesirable from the standpoint of human values, including maintenance of the ecological integrity of the forest.We have accumulated significant scientific understanding and practical experience in the restoration of such forests and landscapes.Why would we not use our knowledge in collaborations with Nature so as to restore a more resilient (and natural) condition to the advantage of both the forest and society?

Nature—natural science—is not just relevant in the Anthropocene; in fact it will be essential to our succeeding in efforts to deal with environmental change. Recognition of the Anthropocene can, in fact, be seen as an opportunity—indeed an imperative—to undertake a new partnership between Humankind and Nature. In this partnership Humankind utilizes its scientific knowledge and significant powers to assist Nature to the advantage of both society and the ecosystems on which it depends.

Understanding forests as ecosystems provides us with the essential basis for managing forests for multiple-uses. This was the most important development in forest science, policy, and management in the 20th century. Using this knowledge will be essential as we address the unforeseen and largely unforeseeable challenges of forest conservation in the Anthropocene.

Dr. Jerry F. Franklin has spent more than 50 years studying forest ecology, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. He has been a researcher for the USDA Forest Service, and at Oregon State University and the University of Washington. He is considered one of the country’s leading authorities on sustainable forest management, and he is often called the “father of new forestry.”
Will Price and Nick Niles award Jerry Franklin the Pinchot Medallion
Institute President Will Price (left) awarded the Pinchot Medallion to Dr. Franklin with Nick Niles (right), Chair of the Institute’s Board of Directors.

Editor’s note: This article is based on the 2016 Pinchot Distinguished Lecture given by Jerry Franklin. Dr. Franklin was awarded the Pinchot Medallion in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the science and practice of ecologically-sound forest management, and to major advances in our knowledge of the structure and functioning of old-growth forest ecosystems.

1 Franklin, Jerry F., K. Norman Johnson, and Debora L. Johnson. 2017. Ecological forest management. Chicago, IL: Waveland Press.
2 Leopold, Aldo. 1933. Game management. 481 p. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
3 Franklin, Johnson, and Johnson 2017.
4 Carson, Rachel. 1962. Silent spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
5 Skillen, James R. 2015. Federal ecosystem management. 348 p Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
6 Ibid.
7 Thomas, J. W., E. D. Forsman, J. B. Lint, E. C. Meslow, B. R. Noon, and J. Verner. 1990. A conservation strategy for the northern spotted owl: a report of the Interagency Scientific Committee to address the conservation of the northern spotted owl. Portland, OR: USDA Forest Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service.
8 Johnson, K. N., J. F. Franklin, J. W. Thomas, and J. Gordon. 1991. Alternatives for management of late-successional forests of the Pacific Northwest. A report to the Agriculture Committee and Merchant Marine Committee of the U. S. House of Representatives. Corvallis, OR: College of Forestry, Oregon State University.
9 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2011. Revised recovery plan for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). 258 p. Portland, OR: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2012. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants: revised critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. Federal Register 77(46): 14062-14165.
10 Bureau of Land Management. 2016a. Northwestern and Coastal Oregon Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan. Coos Bay, Eugene, Salem Districts, and Swiftwater Field Office of Roseburg District. Portland, OR: USDI Bureau of Land Management. Bureau of Land Management. 2016b. Southwestern Oregon Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan. Klamath Falls Field Office of Lakeview District, Medford District, and South River Field Office of Roseburg District. Portland, OR: USDI Bureau of Land Management.
11 Franklin, Jerry F., and K. Norman Johnson. 2012. A restoration framework for federal forests in the Pacific Northwest. Jour. Forestry 110: 429-439. Franklin, Jerry F., and K. Norman Johnson. 2013. Ecologically based management: a future for federal forestry in the Pacific Northwest. Jour. Forestry 111:429-432.
12 Franklin and Johnson 2012.
13 Swanson, Mark E., Jerry f. Franklin, Robert L. Beschta, Charles M. Crisafulli, Dominick A. DellaSala, Richard I. Hutto, David B. Lindenmayer, and Frederick J. Swanson. 2011. The forgotten stage of forest succession: early-successional ecosystems on forest site. Frontiers Ecology and Environment 9: 117-125.
14 Franklin and Johnson 2012.
15 Franklin and Johnson 2012; Franklin, Jerry F., K. Norman Johnson, Derek J. Churchill, Keala Hagmann, Debora Johnson, and James Johnston. 2013. Restoration of dry forests in eastern Oregon. Portland, OR: The Nature Conservancy.
16 USFWS 2011.
The All Hands, All Lands Approach
Susan Charnley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water is one of our most essential natural resources. Its scarcity shapes ecosystems and human infrastructure perhaps more than any other factor. Indeed, provision of water flows was foundational to the establishment of public lands, particularly National Forests. Now, with climate change and legacy management issues, more people are recognizing the critical role our public lands play in delivering our most precious resource. Yet, investments in the forests and watersheds where our drinking water is born remain relatively small. Although many of the programs designed to spur such watershed investments are nascent and few in number, some lessons learned are already beginning to emerge. This article discusses the rationales and needs for greater investment in watershed investment programs and provides two examples of successful models in the West.

Our Headwaters
As the nation’s single largest source of fresh water, our National Forests provide water to more than 123 million people. Thousands of communities— including cities such as Denver, Atlanta and Los Angeles—depend on our National Forests for a reliable supply of high-quality water. Our forested watersheds reduce storm runoff, stabilize streambanks, shade surface water, cycle nutrients and filter pollutants—all important functions that contribute to high quality water downstream. In addition to local communities, American businesses have long benefitted from cold, clean and reliable sources of water to support their operations.

Proactive hand-thinning and piling activities on the Coconino National Forest supported through the Northern AZ Forest Fund. Credit: National Forest Foundation In recent years, our water supplies have been challenged by myriad factors including climate change, legacy management issues, and increased demand at the tap. As these pressures mount, there is increased attention to the roles of businesses in water stewardship.

The importance of public-private partnerships to improve our forested watersheds cannot be overstated. Federal, state, and local land managers are confronted with seemingly insurmountable challenges across tens of millions of acres of unhealthy and at risk forested landscapes. Using ever tightening agency budgets, land management agencies must find the means to address uncharacteristically severe wildfires, outbreaks of insects and disease, drought, and invasive species. To overcome this management conundrum, land managers are recognizing the need to rely more heavily on private partners to accomplish proactive forest restoration projects. Partnerships provide an opportunity to expedite and expand restoration using outside funding and collaborative working relationships.

Fortunately, water utilities, private corporations, and other downstream beneficiaries across the nation are also recognizing the value of investing in and supporting work to improve watershed health. Although the particular rationale for investment may vary among partners, the common factor for participation is improved water quality and long-term water certainty. Activities in headwater forests that reduce the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire, limit erosion and sedimentation, and improve wetlands and stream channels help ensure that reliable, high quality water arrives at downstream facilities.

The economic case for investing in the health of our forests and watershed is not difficult to make. Proactive watershed stewardship helps avoid costs associated with building new or repairing existing infrastructure or increasing water treatment activities, which may otherwise be necessary to address the effects and consequences of an unhealthy watershed. For many investors, there is a long-term financial risk associated with not investing in watershed health. In particular, increasing water treatment requirements, decreased reservoir storage capacity, and loss of supply compels interests when rising costs can be directly attributed to business practices and bottom lines.

Receiving public recognition for investing in watershed restoration projects may also provide a strong incentive to partner with land managers. For many, the idea of improved environmental conditions is a “feel good” decision and makes sense from a personal level.With increasing consumer demand for businesses to make socially responsible decisions and set sustainability targets, many corporations are looking for ways to demonstrate their commitments to the environment. More and more are demonstrating that commitment through investment in watershed improvement projects.

Whether a business decides to invest in watershed improvement projects to help their bottom line, demonstrate their commitment to the environment, or just do the right thing, the decision to invest is fairly easy. The more challenging question is often how and where to invest.

Finding Solutions: The National Forest Foundation
Post-fire landscape following the Hayman Fire, demonstrating the lack of forest regrowth several years after the wildfire scorched soils and seedbeds. Credit: National Forest Foundation One organization working with private investors on watershed stewardship is the National Forest Foundation (NFF). As the only non-governmental organization solely dedicated to enhancing our National Forest System lands, the NFF is well positioned to improve our forested headwaters. The organization brings a broad understanding of the threats facing National Forest, and knows effective ways to reduce those threats.

The NFF’s signature Our Forests, Our Water program perpetuates America’s great legacy of public lands through conservation of our most precious resource: water. The NFF works closely with the U.S. Forest Service and its network of local community partners to identify watershed improvement projects in high value watersheds across the country. Understanding the water footprint and interests of our partners, the organization ensures that these projects align with donors’ water stewardship strategies. Below are a couple examples of how.

Restoring Burned Landscapes — Hayman Restoration Partnership
In June of 2002, the perfect conditions for a devastating fire converged in the forests near Denver, Colorado. For twenty days, the Hayman Fire raged through the Pike National Forest and neighboring lands, burning a total of 137,760 acres. The fire consumed 600 structures, jeopardized habitat for numerous wildlife species, damaged trails and roads, and severely impacted the water source for more than 75% of Colorado’s 4.3 million residents and states downstream.

An example of the post-fire erosion the Hayman Restoration Partnership worked to prevent into Trail Creek, an important tributary of the South Platte River. Credit: National Forest Foundation Although natural recovery occurred across many acres, several drainages within the South Platte River watershed remained in significant need for restoration. Erosion is especially problematic in this area since it feeds sediment into one of the main sources of water for the Denve rMetro area. This increase in sediment negatively impacts fish and wildlife habitat, streamflow, watershed health, reservoir storage capacity and the quality and cost of Colorado residents’ water supply.

The Trail Creek watershed, a critical sub-watershed of the Upper South Platte River, represented the highest priority for addressing sediment issues. Although the problems facing the Trail Creek watershed were clear, the solutions were not.Working collaboratively with the Forest Service and local partners, the NFF developed specific goals for restoration of the Trail Creek watershed and then worked with a diverse group of partners to accomplish these mutually-developed goals.Work across the project area included activities that were designed to restore degraded perennial streams and ephemeral stream channels, improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and reduce erosion and downstream sediment flow.

The NFF worked with old and new funders to raise the money needed to implement restoration projects.With instrumental leadership support from Colorado-based Vail Resorts, the NFF was able to garner additional support from national corporations such as Coca-Cola, dependent water utilities such as Aurora Water, and philanthropic giving from foundations such as the Gates Family Foundation. The community and funders truly rallied to repair this damaged landscape.

The NFF’s focus on building local capacity and a lasting constituency of supporters were keys to its successful restoration efforts. By providing grants to local conservation organizations and local contractors, NFF invested in the local community, built the skills and knowledge of local groups, and supported the regional economy.

Keeping Our Watersheds Healthy — Northern Arizona Forest Fund
In 2014, the Salt River Project (SRP) and the NFF launched a program that provides an easy way for businesses, municipalities and residents of Arizona to invest in helping the lands and watersheds they depend on stay healthy. The Northern Arizona Forest Fund (NAFF) proactively addresses watershed health and provides a credible, reliable means for downstream beneficiaries to invest in watershed improvement activities.

The Northern AZ Forest Fund is helping return low-intensity, more natural fire to the Coconino National Forest by supporting forest thinning and prescribed burning activities. Credit: National Forest FoundationEach year, the NFF works with the Forest Service to identify unfunded, high-priority watershed improvement projects on National Forests in the Salt and Verde River watersheds, which supply surface water supplies to the Phoenix metro area. All projects must be “shovel ready” and completely implementable in one year. Those projects are reviewed by a local advisory council that the selects the NAFF’s annual projects. The suite of projects include activities that reduce wildfire risk, improve streams and wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat, restore native plants, and limit erosion and sediment into Arizona waterways.

The NFF and SRP work hand-in-hand to raise funds from Arizona businesses, municipalities, foundations and individuals to support project implementation. Funds are held and managed by the NFF. On a regular basis, the NFF deploys funds to local nonprofit organizations, private contractors, and the U.S. Forest Service to complete the previously identified projects. Each year, program partners and contributors receive official reports detailing stewardship accomplishments associated with these projects.

The strong partnership between SRP and the NFF and the integrity of this approach to watershed investment has created significant success for the NAFF. In its first two years of operation, the NAFF completed eight high-priority restoration projects with tangible results on all five National Forests in northern Arizona and garnered over $2M in investments.

Although neither of these watershed investment examples may be directly replicable in other communities or watersheds, they both provide important lessons. Businesses and foundations understand the importance of watershed health and are investing. A well-respected, trusted investor and partner can catalyze greater investment. Effectively measuring and reporting on conservation outcomes and improved watershed conditions is necessary to continue to spur investments.Working together with our public land managers and nonprofit partners, we can make meaningful impacts that improve and repair our watersheds.

A former employee of the Pinchot Institute, Mary Mitsos is President of the National Forest Foundation. Marcus Selig is the National Forest Foundation’s Vice President of Field Programs.
Credit: Salt River Project
The Growing West
Several trends have been transforming the Western U.S. in recent years. Population in the West grew by 107 percent from 1970 to 2010, compared to 41 percent for the rest of the country.1 With projections suggesting that by 2050 the U.S. could add another 120 million people,2 western counties likely will continue absorbing some of that growth. These growth trends are presenting forest managers and policymakers with new challenges as more and more people are living in closer proximity to western forestlands.

Fundamentally, land-use change and development are caused by population growth, and influenced by incomes, public policies, and other socioeconomic factors. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, population has been growing—with a 76% increase in Washington and a 54% increase in Oregon since 1980. Much of this growth results from in-migration. As other states in the U.S. have experienced their own growth, many western states are viewed as desirable locations for people seeking to re-locate to places offering economic opportunities, less traffic, greater environmental amenities and opportunities for outdoor recreation, among other factors.
Population growth and development in Oregon and Washington

One consequence of these growth trends will be continued fragmentation and loss of forestlands. By one estimate, natural areas are disappearing at a rate equivalent to a football field every 2.5 minutes nationwide.3 A second and related consequence is continued expansion of the wildland-urban interface, which is putting greater numbers of people and homes in proximity to remaining forestlands, and in the cross-hairs of increased wildfire risk brought about by fuel conditions and climate change.

The secondary consequences of current growth trends involve how remaining, more fragmented, private forestlands are managed. Nonindustrial private forest owners, in particular, often vary in their management objectives, with some favoring timber production, and others pursuing other nontimber interests. One study showed that in Oregon and Washington, for example, 20% of nonindustrial forest owners were solely interested in timber production, while 40% had recreation or other nontimber interests, and 40% had both timber and nontimber interests.4 Of forest owners who possessed exclusively recreation and other nontimber interests, they tended to own smaller forestland parcels—averaging about 50 acres compared to 105 acres for landowners having some timber interest —and nontimber owners were half as likely harvest.
Predicted development for Bend, OR vicinity, 2000 to 2040

One reason for this has to do with the economic viability of managing land to produce timber. Doing so favors larger land parcels over smaller land parcels. It likely also has to do with expectations and preferences of in-migrants purchasing those smaller parcels of land, which tend to lean toward securing forest amenities rather than timber production.Whatever the reason, as forest landscapes become more developed, and more fragmented into smaller and smaller land parcels, forest landowners collectively may evolve in their approach to forest management away from timber production and toward amenity protection and other nontimber interests.

The third outcome of population growth and development involves changes in public perceptions and preferences concerning forestland and other open space, and the influence these can have on public support for public policies to address development and related issues. Studies have examined the influence of development and loss of open space on public support for county referenda (or bond measures) to fund local open space protection.5 Open space bond measures are increasingly more likely to be found in places where development has already reduced open space, such that as population and development increase, and open space becomes scarce, people become motivated to protect it.
Predicted likelihood of county open space referenda in the US

What this implies generally is that the public eventually responds to natural resource and conservation when they can see clear evidence of a problem or need. In the case of forestland conservation, much of the political support generally will be in more densely populated and even urban areas—among people who have witnessed themselves the implications of expanding development and a more fragmented landscape.

A similar process may be at work in how people respond to expansion of the wildland-urban interface and the associated wildfire risks to people and homes. Data from a study in central Oregon suggests that homeowners may be fairly savvy about the need to address wildfire risk, and may even be rather accepting of the risks they perceive in the region.6 Seventy-seven percent of central Oregon homeowners conduct defensible space activities around their home to reduce their risk from wildfire. Rather than underestimating their risk, they may tend to overestimate risk, with 68% of homeowners believing a wildfire will occur near their home in the next five years, and 31% believing that such a wildfire likely will damage their home. Such numbers suggest that people can be educated about natural resource issues and they can be persuaded to address issues such as their exposure to wildfire risk. The question is how best to do that if it has not happened already.

For the most part, population growth is inevitable, and outside the influence of forest policymakers and managers. But forest policymakers and managers can influence the manner in which population growth shapes landuse change and development. Land-use policies, at both local and state levels, can be crafted to influence the pace and pattern of forestland development, and expansion of the wildland-urban interface. Public policies also can be crafted to influence how remaining forestlands are managed. For example, financial incentives, and education and technical assistance can be directed toward private forestland owners to assist them in managing remaining forestlands in ways that help to mitigate forest fragmentation, expansion of the wildland-urban interface, and increased wildfire risk. Education programs such as Firewise and assistance tools like the Fire Adapted Communities Network generally are viewed as successful, though as federally funded programs, they remain vulnerable to political trends and budget constraints.

The opportunities for addressing forestland development, fragmentation, and the expansion of the wildland-urban interface at varied governmental jurisdictions (e.g., local, state, federal) is a key factor behind the “all lands” approach to forest management envisioned by the USDA Forest Service. The approach seeks to supplement forest management activities on public lands with complementary activities on private lands, via incentives, education, and technical assistance targeting private landowners, among other policy measures.7 Such “cross-boundary” implementation of forest policy and management and the shared responsibility among local, state, and federal governmental jurisdictions and private landowners for addressing contemporary forest management issues is also embedded within the thinking that produced the “Cohesive Strategy” for fire management. The effectiveness of such a strategy in dealing with continued expansion of the wildland- urban interface is yet to be determined.

Jeff Kline is a U.S. Forest Service Research Forester at the PNW Research Station in Corvallis, Oregon.
Land management agencies use prescribed fire to help reduce wildfire risk to communities and municipal watersheds, to restore natural ecologic processes and functions, and to achieve integrated land-management objectives. Credit US DOI BLM CC BY 2.0

1 Headwaters Economics. 2012. West is best: protected lands promote jobs and higher incomes. https://headwaterseconomics.org/economicdevelopment/ trends-performance/west-isbest- value-of-public-lands/ (last accessed 2- 22-17).
2 Alig, R., S. Stewart, D. Wear, S. Stein, and D. Nowak. 2010. Conversions of forest land: trends, determinants, projections, and policy considerations. In: Pye, J.M.m H.M Rauscher, Y. Sands, D.C. Lee, and J.S. Beatty (tech. eds.). Advances in threat assessment and their application to forest and rangeland management. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-802. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest and Southern Research Stations: 1-26.
3 Center for American Progress. 2016. The DisappearingWest. https://disappearingwest.org/ (last accessed 2-22-17).
4 Kline, J.D., R.J. Alig, and R.L. Johnson. 2000. Fostering the production of nontimber services among forest owners with heterogeneous objectives. Forest Science 46(2):302-311.
5 Kline, J.D. 2006. Public demand for preserving local open space. Society and Natural Resources 19(7):645-659.
6 Olsen, C.S., J.D. Kline, A.A. Ager, K. Olsen, and K. Short. 2017. Examining the influence of biophysical conditions on WUI homeowners’ wildfire risk mitigation activities in fire-prone landscapes. Ecology and Society.
7 Collins, S. and E. Larry. 2007. Caring for our natural assets: an ecosystem services perspective. Gen. Tech. Rep. GTR-PNW- 733. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 11 p.
A Vision for Conservation in the West: Field Notes from a Strategic Convening

Brian Kittler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A friend once remarked to me how fortunate it is that the U.S. can afford inaction when natural resources are wasted. At the time we were looking at a fire-ravaged forest in California’s Sierra Nevada. Actually, it was not a forest any longer, and perhaps will not be for some decades hence, as the fire had burned so hot that a thirty-inch trunk had been reduced to a trench of ash in a shiny black slope of hardened earth. The snow and rain to come would of course flow from that slope undeterred by altered forest soils.

This burned ground was upstream of the Oroville Dam, which national media has made one of the many emblems of decline in our national infrastructure. As writers point out in this issue of The Pinchot Letter, the dam is just one part of the infrastructure that provides water. The source water area, the place where precipitation first becomes water supply, is the forest.When and how it’s delivered behind the dam and how much sediment comes with it has implications for cities downstream, in this instance affecting the physical and intellectual capital generated by Sacramento and San Francisco. The crumbling dam is only the middle man, which can be replaced or repaired in a year or two. The forest cannot be replaced or repaired in less than a decade at the least. Right now, the cracks in our forest infrastructure are only widening.

“The friends and the enemies of the forest have both said more than they could prove ...“ — Gifford Pinchot, 19051

Aided by the scientific passions of its second chief, Henry S. Graves, the U.S. Forest Service has helped the world understand how watersheds function with and without trees. Field experiment stations in Colorado, Georgia, Oregon, New Hampshire, and elsewhere have shown that while forests tax the water they receive (a healthy share consumed by evapotranspiration), generally they pass along pure water in steady installments of underground and overland flow. Perhaps most importantly, a healthy forest will keep out most sediment. The science of watershed hydrology, at least in terms of water yield during the Holocene Era, is well settled. But we are now in the Anthropocene, or as fire scientist Dr. Stephen Pyne has called it, the Pyrocene-when the burning of fossil fuels and forests are part of the same phenomenon.

Fire is of course a natural and regenerative force to which forest ecosystems were once well adapted. And though what is considered a natural fire regime is not settled science, enough of the problem is indisputable — threats to irreplaceable ecosystems, water supplies, and people already in the wildland-urban interface — that action is necessary. There is also enough consensus that forests are not as well adapted to the severity and frequency with which droughts and fires now seem to be occurring. In the Sierras for example, there are more than 100 million dead trees, roughly a quarter of the forest. This problem is not confined to California, it exists throughout the western U.S. and beyond.

A more expensive problem is that people are not well adapted to coming changes in the fire regime.We will experience supply chain disruptions in the form of ill-timed and episodic slurries of water that we cannot store, treat, or use as we are accustomed.We need to do three things, in order of increasing difficulty: invest in this supply chain, roll back global CO2 concentrations, and become less reliant on water. The good news is that investing in forests will help with water supplies and CO2 concentrations. The bad news is that investing in forests as infrastructure is still regarded by some as the self-serving pitch of all those working to manage and protect forests. So perhaps the place to start is focusing on what we must do, and work efficiently in places that would eventually have to be defended or restored at greater cost.

"Nature is conservative." — Frederick O. Bower, 18982

One of the least discussed tenets of conservation is the principle of “efficiency.” Gifford Pinchot wrote incessantly about the need for efficiency in governance and in use of natural resources. He once wrote that “...the outgrowth of conservation, the inevitable result, is national efficiency.”3 At the time Frederick Winslow Taylor was championing the idea of efficiency. To Pinchot, efficiency could reduce wastefulness in resource management, compel only but the necessary use now to preserve resources for future generations. But “Taylorism” soon became the religion of industries seeking to squeeze labor, and through opposition from the labor movement, fell from favor among the Progressives. Nevertheless, Pinchot was proud of the efficiency of the Forest Service as an agency and its position as a beacon of administrative effectiveness within government.4 He also deplored waste. I presume to believe that Pinchot and others of the Progressive era would be appalled by the notion that we can “afford to waste our natural resources.”

There is a drumbeat for investment, new industries of all kinds (and especially biomass energy and tall wood buildings), which show promise and may get to scale when introduced in the right setting. The reasons for failure or slow progress in forest restoration are many: want of long-term agreements, distance to the resource, environmental concerns, policy change, procedural delays, supply chains, etc.5 Five years into the much celebrated 4FRI project in Arizona, fewer than 9,000 acres of the planned 50,000 have been treated.6 California, which has tried harder than any state to make lemonade from the lemon of catastrophic wildfire, has seen more than half of its biomass energy generation facilities close since the 1990s with the sunset of subsidies. Their Public Utility Commission now debates whether modest rate-hikes are worth getting them back online, just as the stockpile of biomass within the woods expands.7

For want of action CalFire now operates an expensive fleet of harvesters, haulers, and burners to incinerate Sierra Nevada’s dead trees so that they will no longer burn in the woods. The Forest Service and CalFire are together investing $43 million to deal with the situation—$11 million for the new equipment.8 Where once lower intensity fires culled and regenerated the forest, climate change introduces extremes at rates beyond adaptable limits. To avoid damage to homes, wildlife, water supplies, and long-lived ecosystems we are now bringing waste to nature. The costs of this waste are borne by taxpayers. Perhaps it is necessary, but it is a tragically inefficient use of scarce resources. There may be no clearer demonstration of the price of inaction, and the requirement of foresight on what may be most efficient and least wasteful.
 Credit: National Interagency Fire Center/Kari Greer

Accompanying these discussions is the fond hope that when public policy does not lead to a solution, the private sector will rise up and solve the crisis. Perhaps there is belief that a venture capitalist in San Francisco worried about her water supply will help save us from public inefficiencies or indebtedness. Something akin to this happened in Denver— water utilities investing in forest restoration. Of course private investment in public lands, for all that they provide is most welcome, and in fact, increasingly anticipated.9 But private investment will still require good public policy that assures reliable implementation and efficient operation. Agencies will at least need to help decide where demand has ready supply on public lands, based not only on where trees are dead, but where there is compelling public interest, social license, and capacity to do something about it.

Recently the Brookings Institution hosted a meeting on how and where to invest in transportation infrastructure.10 The insights were not obvious. Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser suggested that you should not always invest where infrastructure is dilapidated, but where new infrastructure will assuredly be used. Some infrastructure investments are GDP-neutral at best: they are never fully utilized or they entice only relocation of businesses that were thriving without public investment. In other words, invest in places that will know what to do with new roads and traffic lights, and know your return on investment. This is sobering but necessary, and poses questions about forests for which we do not have satisfactory answers.

For much of the history of forestry in the U.S., efficiency was associated with stopwatches at logging operations. But in conservation, efficiency must have a higher meaning, and acting based on an understanding of how we must manage to serve national needs and preserve future resources. Efficiency requires a pragmatic sense of the necessary, and making sure priorities reflect economic and political realities, along with ecological needs.

A compelling case for investing in forest infrastructure— to secure water supplies and improve public safety—might borrow the calculus applied to transportation investments. Sad states of disrepair unfortunately may not on their own justify federal spending. Certainly many ecosystems are priorities based on current conditions, and how far habitats may have deviated from the past and the possible. However, we must ask the question of whether an initial expenditure will lead to durable solutions—whether a restored ecosystem will endure, or simply need repeated and expensive interventions. In some places forests will just have to regrow in a condition and composition that we cannot currently prescribe. We also must be realistic about whether the markets needed to support restoration will be sustainable, and if not, whether the workforce and the infrastructure are mobile.

Mapping and analyses of fire-risk, forest reforestation needs, watershed conditions, and many other priorities are sophisticated and up-to-date. Less sophisticated is the understanding of what would happen otherwise, and whether one place or priority will have better returns than another. We need to invest in our forest infrastructure for all that it provides, but do so with a sense of what the return on that investment will be, and whether it is an efficient and responsible use of nature’s resources as well as our own.
—Will Price

1 Pinchot, Gifford. A Primer of Forestry. Bureau of Forestry, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. 1905.
2 Bower, Frederick O. Opening address to the British Association, Bristol meeting, Section K (Botany). Nature 59 (1898): 88-91.
3 Pinchot, Gifford. The Fight for Conservation. Doubleday, Page & Col., New York, NY. 1910.
4 See Fukuyama, Francis. (2014). America in Decay The Sources of Political Dysfunction. Foreign affairs (Council on Foreign Relations). 93.
5 Hjerpe, Evan, Jesse Abrams, and Dennis R. Becker. “Socioeconomic barriers and the role of biomass utilization in southwestern ponderosa pine restoration.” Ecological Restoration 27.2 (2009): 169-177.
6 “McCain Concerned About Slow Pace of Wildfire Prevention Efforts.” Prescott eNews. March 26, 2017. Accessed March 29, 2017. http://www.prescottenews.com/index.php/news/currentnews/ item/29666-mccain-concerned-about-slow-pace-of-wildfireprevention-efforts
7 “A beneficial way to dispose of the Sierra’s lost trees: Use them for energy.” Los Angeles Times. March 17, 2017. Accessed March 29, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-leslie-what-todo- with-dead-trees-in-the-sierra-20170317-story.html
8 “Drought killed 66 million trees in California.” U.S. News & World Report. June 22, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2017. https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2016-06-22/fedsdrought- kills-66-million-trees-in-californias-sierra
9 Public lands can survive political headwinds with corporate investment. Triple Pundit. March 28, 2017. Accessed March 29, 2017. http://www.triplepundit.com/2017/03/public-lands-cansurvive- political-headwinds-with-corporate-investment/
10 From bridges to education: best bets for public investment. Brookings Institution. January 9, 2017. Accessed March 29, 2017. https://www.brookings.edu/events/from-bridges-to-education-bestbets- for-public-investment/
Carbon Forestry Workshop
Camp Adams
Molalla, Oregon
May 6, 2017

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

Download the Pinchot Institute's Presentation

Download Forest Carbon Works' Presentation

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

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

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

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

Session 2. Ecological Forestry in Practice

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

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

Session 3. Forest Carbon Inventory

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

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

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

Policy Summit - Priorities for Our Shared Conservation Agenda
This summary report outlines major themes emerging from dialogue on:

First Session. The Growing West. What are the most effective ways to reduce the negative consequences of population growth for natural resources?
    Key insights:
    • Continued expansion of the built environment will further pressure natural resources and land management agencies.
    • Homeowner education and technical assistance through programs like Firewise are critical, but revisiting and influencing local land use-policy is warranted. Land-use policies that constrain or enable development are local, yet they are of national significance since an increasing amount of state and federal fire suppression resources are being spent to protect private property in areas prone to fire. 
    • Fuel reduction actions in the wildland urban interface in much of the West are inadequate given the scale of the problem. Escalated cross-boundary implementation and “all lands management” were highlighted as the best way forward.
    • Sprawling energy infrastructure could have the largest footprint across western forests and rangelands. Mitigation and smart landscape-level planning are necessary for avoiding and minimizing conflicts with other resource values. 
    • Collection and expenditure of revenues from energy development should help mitigate the long-term cost of natural resource management and conservation.

Second Session. Investing in Natural Infrastructure. Can "water funds" help protect and restore landscapes that are crucial to water supply?
    Key insights:
    • Watershed degradation is threatening drinking water sources for population centers throughout the West. 
    • Provision of water flows was foundational to the establishment of western public lands, and while at times forgotten, more people are recognizing this critical service today than ever before.
    • Water funds are developing in cities large and small throughout the West to support the maintenance and restoration of watershed function.
    • The opportunity to scale-up this approach is limited to specific locations where the science of source water protection and restoration justify these programs.
    • Innovative financing mechanisms (e.g. climate resiliency bonds, accessing lottery funds) and policy innovation such as California’s recent AB-2480 may accelerate the development of water funds throughout the West.

Third Session. Principles for Addressing Large-scale Forest Change. What is needed to move towards consensus on land management within the context of mega-disturbances in Western forests?
    Key insights:
    • Many ecosystems in the West are experiencing disturbances on a mega-scale.
    • Driven by climate change, “mega-disturbances” are becoming increasingly common, forcing a perpetual disaster response mode among natural resource management agencies. Budgetary and structural implications are significant.
    • Operating in a disaster response mode distracts from actions necessary for reducing threats in places not yet negatively affected by mega-disturbances.
    • Working collaboratively across ownerships and at scales matching the scale of disturbance mechanisms is the only viable way forward.
    • Forest Planning processes need to adapt to the complexity and multi-ownership scale nature of mega-disturbances.
    • Widespread and controlled reintroduction of fire is of paramount importance. Smoke management concerns must be addressed.
    • A restoration labor force, while conceptually available for deployment, is lacking the equipment and/or expertise needed at scale.
    • There is a need for clear vision and action in the development of strategy for investment in wood processing infrastructure and market development.
    • This strategy needs to evaluate the right-sizing of utilization infrastructure.

Fourth Session. The All Hands, All Lands concept. What is the status and direction of collaborative conservation in multi-ownership landscapes?
    Key insights:
    • Over the last decade a number of policies and management authorities have been introduced to facilitate All Lands Management (ALM), leveraging resources and expertise of multiple jurisdictions across ownerships within a given landscape.
    • State and federal agencies play a critical role in ALM, whether as land managers or by providing technical and financial assistance to private landowners.
    • A culture of experimentation with ALM could spur the development of new governance models that share management and fiduciary responsibilities in places with a clear common concern. 
    • Many participants believe that the authorities needed to make a transition to greater experimentation with ALM are already in place and that it is often political will or social license that is, or is perceived to be, lacking. 
    • Reauthorization and expansion of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program and the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership should consider how to better serve ALM projects.
    • Greater quantification and communication of ALM project outcomes is needed.
    • Sustained investment in places having demonstrated impact could help, but likely disadvantages places where ALM efforts are needed but yet to develop.
    • An ALM innovation network could help cross-pollinate ideas and strategies. A network could be similar to the Conservation Finance Network that USDA NRCS recently supported through the Conservation Innovation Grants program.


In Memoriam: Jack Ward Thomas, 1934 - 2016
Jack Ward Thomas. Image credit: USFS

Jack Ward Thomas, renowned scientist, prolific writer, and 16th Chief of the US Forest Service passed on May 26th. Thomas began his career with the Forest Service in 1966 as a research wildlife biologist. Among his many accomplishments, he will be remembered for elevating science above all in bringing solutions to our natural resource conservation challenges. As Chief from 1993 to 1996, he guided the agency through the tumult leading to the development of the Northwest Forest Plan, and along the way ushered in more holistic thinking and the transition to ecosystem management on the National Forest System. Thomas published more than 400 books, chapters, and articles on wildlife biology and ecology, and how to apply this knowledge in land-use planning and management. Perhaps above all he will be remembered for his optimism, sense of humor, and storytelling. The Pinchot Institute joins all who knew Jack, both personally and through his legacy, in celebrating the life of a remarkable person.
Inside the Institute
Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Al Sample at the Leopold Family Shack in 2015. After 20 years leading the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, I retired at the end of 2015.With a strong set of conservation programs and a passionately committed staff, the Institute is well positioned for continued success and leadership in the field of environmental and natural resources policy. I too will continue my lifelong commitment to conserving and sustaining forests, and their many contributions to the world’s environmental health and well-being, as a Senior Fellow at the Institute and through continuing work with other public, private, and nonprofit conservation organizations.

Like any significant accomplishment, what has been done to build the Pinchot Institute from an idea into an internationally known and respected conservation organization has been the work of many hands. It has been my privilege and honor to work with a diversity of individuals who have devoted their energy and intellect to the search for genuine solutions to the challenges of environmental stewardship and the sustainable use of renewable natural resources. I could not have done this without the support and encouragement of board members past and present, staff members who were passionate enough about what they were accomplishing to work far harder than I ever would have asked, and conservation policy entrepreneurs who helped truly make the Pinchot Institute “an incubator for innovation and a catalyst for change.”

From my first day leading the Pinchot Institute, I have taken very seriously my charge to advance the conservation legacy of Gifford Pinchot.With the help of scholars and historians whose research has given me a richer and deeper understanding of the values that drove his social activism as well as his fight for conservation, I have been inspired daily to work toward science-driven conservation policies that are environmentally sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible.

I look forward to future opportunities to continue working with friends and colleagues in the development of innovative approaches to the world’s conservation challenges. Conservation that brings about “the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run” in the 21st century will require innovations that were unimaginable in Pinchot’s day. I hope that the Pinchot Institute will always be the kind of organization that creates an environment conducive to creativity and independent thought, and produces the kind of innovations that will be essential to the sustainability of humanity and the natural world in the decades ahead.

Best wishes,
The Business of Sustainability
Gifford Pinchot III

Business is the dominant institution of our times. When I was a kid, nuns ran hospitals; now big corporations do. When I was a kid, idiosyncratic families owned newspapers; now a few big corporations own most of the media. When I was a kid, legislators wrote laws; now lobbyists do.

In the last 70 years, big business and the morality of profit above all else took over the direction of our society. Now that is changing. For civilization to survive, it must change. Thank God for Pope Francis.

Why Relating to Business Matters
Minnesota Solar Challenge CC BY NC 2.0 A revolution is beginning in the way in which society is addressing climate change and other environmental ills. This revolution is expanding to address poverty. These issues have traditionally been addressed by non-profits and government, with business reacting to the pressures put on them by regulations, protests, and customer preferences. Now coming from within business itself we see more intrinsic drive and proactive progress in addressing climate change and other ills.

Much of our way of life is unsustainable; it must be reinvented. Business has an important role in this reinvention.The volume of innovation needed to create a sustainable society cannot be accomplished without enthusiastic sustainability creativity within business.

The way business provides for human needs today produces pollution, global warming, and exhaustion of resources. Because production happens in business, change must occur there. But how is that to happen?
  1. Will it happen because non-profits beat on business and tell business how bad it is?
  2. Will it happen because government forces business to change by telling it what to do?
Pressure from both governments and non-profits is essential, but it is not enough.Those who would change business from the outside must understand what is going on inside. Inside every large corporation there is a struggle for the soul of the firm occurring between those who want their work to help conserve the vitality of society and the planet and those who believe their responsibility is solely to shareholders’ financial interests.

Many conservationists, social justice advocates and environmentalists underestimate both the amount of intrinsic motivation to work for sustainability inside business and the critical role of that motivation in solving today’s major problems.Wholesale condemnation of business is not helping. We need to distinguish between leaders and laggards in the move toward operationalizing a broader view of the responsibilities of business.

Sustainability Innovators
Manure lagoons can contaminate surface water and emit methane, contributing to climate change. Image credit Bob Nichols/USDA NRCS Pinchot University1 student Kevin Maas and his brother Daryl were concerned about family farms going out of business and the impact of farms on pollution and climate change. Farm Power, their company, addresses these problems by ending a major source of pollution and by generating electricity from cow manure instead of coal.2

In modern dairy farming,manure is flushed out of barns into artificial lakes called lagoons. Methane bubbles out of the lagoons, contributing to climate change. Pollutants in the manure percolate down into the groundwater, polluting neighbors’ wells. In heavy rains, the lagoons overflow, contaminating both shellfish and finfish downstream. The EPA fines the farmers and demands major capital improvement projects they cannot afford. As a result dairy farms go out of business.

Farm Power’s first project was a giant manure digester that took the manure from 2000 cows, collected the methane, and used it to generate 700 kilowatts of continuous power.This was enough to power 400 homes.The project was profitable and so investors put up another $5 million to fund a second manure digester/generator project.This time they added a greenhouse to use the waste heat from the generator.That one was also profitable and investors funded another. Farm Power has now finished their fifth and is generating 4.5 megawatts of continuous power.

Manure digesters are a source of renewable energy that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and protect water quality. Image credit Stephanie Page/Oregon Department of Agriculture CC BY NC ND 2.0This story illustrates an important principle. The Maas brothers were inspired to address several social problems (farms going out of business, pollution, and climate change). They found out how to make it profitable to do so. The motivation that drove their creativity was to find a way to make a living that contributes to their community, their industry, and their planet. This is not the heartlessness that many see as the character of business. It illustrates an important role for business in transforming our society from unsustainable ways of providing what humans need to more nearly sustainable ones.

Sabrina Watkins, another of Pinchot University’s graduates, is the head of sustainable development for a major oil company. Each year her group orchestrates the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about a million tons of CO2. Most of those savings are permanent. It’s the equivalent of taking 470,000 cars off the road each year.This isn’t happening because of some government regulation. It is happening because people all over the company step forward with ideas for reducing the company’s climate impact. It is happening because many people inside the company care deeply about climate change, health, biodiversity, and poverty.

Will this be enough? Can we trust industry to self regulate?
Nothing that any one sector of the economy is doing is enough. We are headed toward a tipping point in climate change that will cause flooding and droughts that interrupt our food supply. We are poisoning the land and the ocean. We are letting the gap between rich and poor grow to the point where the social contract frays and civilization descends into internal conflict. We are not doing enough!

Under current legal framework, business will not make all the changes needed. There are many things that need to be done that are too expensive and have too little benefit to the company for a publicly traded company to do them. They are required by law to maximize profits.3

The fact that under the current circumstances business will not do enough to self-regulate does not mean that a blanket condemnation of big business will produce the changes environmentalists and social justice activists desire. Rather, environmental and social justice organizations need to find their allies inside corporations and work together to find ways that corporations can do more good. They need to push businesses to lobby not against sustainability, but for it.

Governments need to find ways to create “force fields” that push corporations to innovate in the direction of sustainability without telling them exactly what to do. Too much regulation can freeze innovation at the level of technology that existed when the law was framed. A good “force field” simply rewards steps toward sustainability and punishes continued waste, pollution, and contributions to poverty.

A carbon tax
Those who work for more sustainable practices within corporations desperately need a stiff carbon tax to make doing the right thing more profitable or more nearly profitable.More and more companies back a carbon tax because they know any additional costs they face will also be faced by their competitors.

Every major publicly traded oil company now has an internal carbon tax. When an investment decision is made a project is credited for any carbon emissions reduced and charged for any increases. As a result, they are making investment decisions as if a government- imposed carbon tax already exists. They are getting ready for government to act. A carbon tax is the most obvious way in which government can act to speed progress toward a sustainable world. Taxes on other harmful emissions also make sense.

Benefit Corporations
pull quoteStandard corporate law mandates that corporations must manage to maximize profit, and the perspective tends to be short term. Clearly this is not in the interests of sustainability. If we are to build a sustainable world, profit should be one, but not the only, objective of a business.Without creativity in the business sector motivated not just by money but also by a desire to solve the big social problems of our times, civilization is doomed. Now there is a new form of business organization that gets around the legal requirement to manage only for profit.

Benefit corporations put their social purposes in their bylaws and advise investors in advance that the management will guide their decisions toward a mix of benefits including both profit, the environment, and the well-being of society.4 Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, says that the benefit corporation creates the legal framework for firms like his to remain true to their social goals.5

Thirty states and the District of Columbia now have enacted legislation to allow benefit corporations to form and to make decisions on what is called the triple bottom line, to benefit people and the environment as well as to make a profit.6

The B-Corp is a type of benefit corporation certified by the non-profit B Lab. B Corps have a specific social or environmental mission and pass a rigorous 3rd-party test of their contribution to causes other than profit. This movement is growing rapidly. According to B Lab, there are now 1,442 “certified B Corporations” across 130 industries in 42 countries.”7

Business is changing
Business was not always guided only by profit. Many family-owned businesses have always had broader objectives. The sense of broader responsibility declined in the 1980s and profit became king. Now that belief is in decline.

Thus far thirteen of the largest companies in the US have made the Obama Administration’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. Change is happening.8

Let’s all help business to change even more rapidly—sometimes by protesting, sometimes by legislating, but also by celebrating the progress they make. Let’s work together to find solutions. Sure, let’s create better laws and fix the economic system, but also stop blaming business for doing what the system demands.We all have work to do.

Gifford Pinchot III is the founder and president emeritus of Pinchot University, formerly the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, in Seattle, Washington.
Sustainably managed forests enhance the resiliency of ecosystems and can stimulate local economies in timber country while sequestering carbon in long-term wood products. Image credit: Tony Hisgett CC BY 2.0

1 Pinchot University, an independently accredited degree-granting institution, is not affiliated with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.
2 http://farmpower.com/
3 eBay Domestic Holdings, Inc. v. Newmark, 16 A.3d 1, 11 (Del. Ch. 2010).
4 http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/ 13/assessing-the-benefits-of-a-benefit-corporation/
5 http://www.economist.com/node/ 21542432
6 http://socentlawtracker.org/#/bcorps
7 http://bcorporation.net
8 https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/ 2015/07/27/fact-sheet-white-house-launches-american-business-act-climate-pledge
Breakfast, Ethics, and Forestry in a Changing Climate
Robert T. Perschel
The US Forest Service has moved away from timber quotas as the basis for managing its lands. Pictured here: Mount Bond on the White Mountaion National Forest. Image credit: Sean Munsin CC BY NC ND 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Callicott, J. Baird. 2013. Thinking Like a Planet. Oxford,UK: Oxford University Press. 374p.
2 USDA Forest Service Cut and Sold Reports, http://www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/products/sold-harvest/cut-sold.shtml
3 Butler, Brett J. 2008. Family Forest Owners of the United States, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-27. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 72 p.
4 Van Fleet, T., D.B. Kittredge, B.J. Butler, and P. Catanzaro. 2012. “Reimagining Family Forest Conservation: Estimating Landowner Awareness and Their Preparedness to Act with the Conservation Awareness Index.” Journal of Forestry 110 (4): 207-215.
5 FY 2014 Annual Report to the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry: Maine Public Reserved, Nonreserved, and Submerged Lands, 2015. Augusta, ME: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Bureau of Parks and Lands. 35 p.
6 Callicott, J. Baird. 2013. Thinking Like a Planet.
7 Ethics for a Small Planet: A Communication Handbook on the Ethical and Theological Reasons for Protecting Biodiversity. 2002. Madison, WI. The Biodversity Project. 144p.
8 Meine, Curt. 1988. Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. 676 p.
Professional Ethics in Forestry - Serving People while Promoting a Land Ethic
Fred Clark
Image credit: Flickr user dbrandsma CC BY NC ND 2.0

Much like medicine, the professions of forestry and natural resource management bring technical knowledge and skills to the service of society. And, as in medicine, the moral and ethical dimensions that underpin professional practice are always present, even if their implications are not always completely clear.

An estimated 11 million private forest owners control 56% of the forestland in the United States. 92% of those owners are considered family forest owners who collectively control 62% of the country’s private forestland.1

Image credit: BLM CC BY 2.0 For most families forest ownership is a leisure-time pursuit focused around recreation and family-oriented activities. Although they may be very interested in the best outcomes for their lands, the skills, assets, and time required to manage forestland is simply beyond the ability of most forest owners to acquire.

In this environment, forest practitioners play an essential role as a source of trusted expertise. Much like an attorney, a country veterinarian, or a crop consultant, practitioners provide advice, guide owners in decision-making, estimate and project growth and income, navigate state and federal programs, and implement practices including timber harvests, tree planting, and silvicultural practices.

For those family forest owners committed to sustainable forest stewardship— to leaving the land better than when they found it—the role of the public service forester, industry procurement forester, and the private forest consultant are invaluable. And those professionals have a unique challenge in working with forests and owners with such varied relationships to land.

As in any profession, the engagement between practitioner and client has an important ethical dimension. A key question for any practitioner is: whose interest is being served? In medicine for example, professional societies such as the American Medical Association adopt and enforce codes of practice that protect both the interests of patients or clients and, by extension, the integrity of the profession.

The ethical dimensions of professional practice in private forestlands and family forests are multi-faceted and complex, and at times they can seem to be conflicting.

The sometimes complementary and sometimes competing interests around private forestland are driven in part by the employment and inherent obligations of professionals. Whose interests should take precedence often depends on the obligations, the relationships, and to some extent the personal ethics and values of the practitioner.

Federal and state agencies, like USDA NRCS and the Oregon Department of Forestry, can help family forest owners access the benefits of a consulting forester through technical and financial assistance programs. Image credit: Oregon Department of Forestry CC BY 2.0 Service foresters working for state or local governments provide valuable services to forest owners, however that service comes with strings—the obligation to protect the interest of taxpayers or the larger social benefits tied to the programs they administer. Likewise, foresters employed by the forest industry may assist owners with a range of activities such as wildlife management or tree planting. However, their obligation is fundamentally tied to the supply needs of a wood products business. Neither of these affiliations prevent positive outcomes from occurring. The most important characteristic of the relationship however is transparency about the interests being represented.

Independent foresters (also known as private or consulting foresters) work for and primarily serve the interests of their clients. A truly independent forester has no incentive to favor one government program over another or one forest business over another when advising clients on decisions around forest management.

But what obligation do any of these professionals have to advocate for the interests of the land itself?

Should it be a responsibility of natural resource practitioners, regardless of their other obligations or the source of their paychecks to ask of themselves, “what is best for the land I am entrusted to manage?”

In the United States, the concepts of land conservation have roots going back to the early 20th Century. Aldo Leopold expanded on the more utilitarian emphasis of conservation with his concept of a Land Ethic. Leopold wrote: “A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.” 2

But how do practitioners resolve their commitments to a land ethic when the needs, desires, or interests of the owners of that land may, or may seem to, run counter to that ethic?

The Forest Stewards Guild is a professional society whose principles include an obligation known as the First Duty Principle. The First Duty Principle states that, “A forester’s or natural resource professional’s first duty is to the forest and its future.” 3 The First Duty principle obliges Guild members to educate, advocate, or if necessary disassociate from situations that would result in unsustainable outcomes.

The ethical obligation to the forest and to the practitioner’s employer do not have to be mutually exclusive. In most situations, skilled, experienced professionals can adhere to both obligations without conflict. In situations where conflicts in these ethics do occur, they can often be resolved with skill, respect, and patience, particularly when all parties are willing to step back to consider broader contexts and longer time horizons.

Regardless of where they see their primary allegiance, much depends on the skills and willingness of practitioners to educate and advocate for sustainable outcomes, outcomes that may actually be in the best interests of a forest owner.

A practitioner comes to a relationship from a privileged position—not just with technical skills, but presumably with the ability to see potential risks and benefits that would be unknowable to a person lacking such experience. And so for example, an ethical doctor will not write prescriptions for narcotics simply because the patient asks for it. The reasons to deny such a request might rest in equal parts on a duty of care for the health of the patient, an obligation to avoid harm to others or to society, and to protect the integrity of the profession itself.

Natural resource professionals may draw on the same considerations to respond to the needs or requests of forest owners.

The need to reconcile short-term desires with long-term interests is especially acute in the case of forest owners with limited experience or history of ownership, where the likelihood of unrealistic expectations can be high. The ability to identify scenarios that are either inherently counter-productive, or for which the short-term benefits may be outweighed by long-term costs is a true test of a professional.

Will the cash offer for standing timber today result in a poor-quality forest tomorrow and a decrease in land value that offsets the timber income? Will implementing a longer term plan with more predictable income and expenses, and gradually increasing stocking levels, actually improve the asset value and the pleasurable use of the property for future generations? In most cases the answer will be yes, and when presented with information about those alternatives most owners will choose a course that’s better for their children and the land.

Professional foresters help landowners steward their forest for the long term. Image credit: Tracy Rubillard/USDA NRCS CC BY ND 2.0 Professionals committed to working for the health of land, and serving the best interests of their clients have a powerful opportunity to align those interests through their practice. Establishing trust through honest and transparent dealings, and educating owners with a skilled assessment of opportunities and threats are foundational steps. The trust that develops from such effective relationships can allow a practitioner to influence sustainable outcomes with families over multiple generations—a highly satisfying experience for both parties.

But it also takes effort by both parties to achieve positive outcomes that are good for the land and for people.

Practitioners with an overly-rigid paradigm, or who are not attentive to the owner’s long-term interests, will have difficulty developing a fully trusting relationship. Such relationships do not always last.

Forest owners primarily motivated by immediate economic returns, or just a simpler notion of land utility that rejects the idea of inherent values in healthy lands, may be unlikely to follow recommendations or invest in conservation practices that do not immediately advance their short-term goals.

A compounding factor that often drives unsustainable outcomes for forestland even by owners who would otherwise pursue a more conservative approach is a short-term need for income, often triggered by a family crisis.4 When a sale of timber occurs to fulfill such a need, the urgency of the situation may lead to multiple decisions that result in destructive outcomes that reduce the overall value of land. (The same pressures can affect institutional forest owners as well).

An ethical practitioner’s role in that case would be to clearly lay out the consequences of a given alternative, to explore other alternatives to achieving short term goals, and if necessary to attempt to mitigate undesirable effects of a less-than-optimal course.

For practitioners committed to serving both the interests of land and land owners, there will always be occasions when both interests can not be sustained, at least not fully. In those cases, the professional may need to make a choice about the best course of ethics. Serve the owner’s interests first? Advocate for a different outcome with the owner, and if unsuccessful refuse the work? Both choices are clear expressions of values.

These difficult decisions are telling in reflecting values of a professional, and in establishing their reputation. But perhaps the most telling mark of a professional’s success is how often and how fully he can chart an ethical course that brings the interests of forest owners and land health into the same frame.

Fred Clark is the Executive Director of the Forest Stewards Guild in Madison, Wisconsin.

1 Butler, Brett J. 2008. Family Forest Owners of the United States, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-27. Newtown Square, PA: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
2 Leopold, Aldo. 1949. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. New York: Oxford University Press.
3 Forest Stewards Guild Mission and Principles. http://www.forestguild.org /mission-principles.
4 http://www.pinchot.org/gp/FHHHI
Tracing the Threads of an Evolving Ethic
Curt Meine

One of my favorite items in the archives of conservation history is an exchange of letters between Gifford Pinchot and Aldo Leopold, more than three decades after the two American conservation leaders had first met. Pinchot was a generation older than Leopold. Through the largesse of the Pinchot family, Yale University established its Forest School (now the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) in 1900. Leopold graduated in the Class of 1909 with a master’s degree and joined the ranks of the newly established US Forest Service. Pinchot was then serving as the Service’s first chief. Although their careers would eventually take them both away from the USFS, they would remain in contact, intersecting over the years through various campaigns, conferences, and meetings.
Leopold's trips to the Rio Gavilan region of the northern Sierra Madre helped shape his thinking about land health. Credit USFS CC BY 2.0

In December 1939, Pinchot wrote to his erstwhile acolyte. Pinchot was giving thought to writing an account of the early days of the Forest Service—“the story of what we did, what we faced, and why.”1 He had sent off letters to a number of “old timers,” asking them to share their memories and stories. Leopold replied, “I applaud your proposal to write a history of the Service,” but wondered whether “any one book, even from your pen, will capture all the angles of the story, and perhaps a generation or two must elapse before its values can be truly weighed by anyone.”2

What has always impressed me about that exchange, however, is not the details of their recollecting. Rather, it is the spirit in which Leopold, then just shy of his fifty-third birthday, responded to his old boss.He addressed his letter to Pinchot: “Dear Chief ....”

In understanding the contrasts and conflicts in forestry and conservation history, we often use key figures as proxies for entire philosophies, paradigms, and styles: Pinchot the Wise Use Utilitarian; Muir the Wild Preservationist; Roosevelt the Bull Moose; Leopold the Land Ethicist; Carson the Environmentalist. This can help us to sketch the broad outlines of that history, but it tends to underplay continuity, to overlook the dramatic flow through which our collective conservation consciousness has emerged, evolved, assimilated new perspectives, and come to define new needs. Pinchot’s request to Leopold was more than a call for colorful anecdotes. And Leopold’s greeting in reply revealed more than just a playful deference to his professional elder. It signified that, despite conservation philosophies that had in some ways diverged, Pinchot and Leopold remained collegial allies, engaged in a common and continuing cause.

As the two veteran foresters reconnected, each in his own way was trying to comprehend where the ever-emerging conservation movement had been, and where it was headed. Leopold was increasingly interested in the ethical dimensions of conservation. He understood the dynamic state of ethics in human cultures and communities, and in the grand scheme of human civilization. “Conservation,” he wrote, “viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.”3 He held that this “new relationship”—continually informed by science and history, literature and the arts, faith traditions and philosophy—had to define a broader range of human responsibilities, for one another, for future generations, and for other species and non-human nature as a whole.
In the 1930s, sandhill cranes were rare in Wisconsin. Populations have since made a remarkable recovery and the cranes are once again a regular feature on the landscape that inspired Leopold. Credit: USFS CC BY 2.0.

Leopold’s summary view, published as “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac (1949), expressed his understanding of both the substance of an ethic and the process by which ethics develop. “A land ethic... reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.”4 Essential to this redefinition of conservation was Leopold’s ecological understanding of “land” (by which he meant “soil, water, plants, animals, and people”5) as more than a mere economic commodity, but as a living and changing community.

Ethics provide guidance for our relationships within community. A land ethic, in Leopold’s view, cannot be handed down from on high; it is “a product of social evolution.” It is not reducible to formal documents or statements (even his), “because nothing so important as an ethic is ever ‘written.’” It is not the invention of any one individual; it “evolve[s] in the minds of a thinking community.” And it is not static, because “evolution never stops.”6

In all this, Leopold challenged the dominant ethic that he had inherited as a young forester and conservationist. His own experiences, relationships, reading, data, reason, and intuition led him to push beyond what he saw as the limits of the utilitarian, “wise use” philosophy typically associated with Gifford Pinchot. And therein lies the power and poignancy of his reply to his “Chief:” because Leopold understood himself in the context of a broader community of thinkers, and a developing body of thought, he had no difficulty acknowledging his debt to his elder. And Pinchot had no difficulty appealing to Leopold as a source for his own reflections. No Pinchot...no Yale Forest School ...no US Forest Service (at least as they came to exist). No Forest Service...no Forest School...no Aldo Leopold (as least as he came to be known).

We can trace such threads of continuity backward through time. Pinchot was, of course, an inheritor himself of connections and convictions. Before him there was, among others, George Perkins Marsh, who wrote in his foundational book Man and Nature (1864): “We have now felled forest enough everywhere, in many districts far too much. Let us restore this one element of material life to its normal proportions, and devise means for maintaining the permanence of its relations to the fields, the meadows and the pastures, to the rain and the dews of heaven, to the springs and rivulets with which it waters down the earth.” Pinchot received a copy of Man and Nature on his twenty-first birthday (in 1886), and later referred to it as “epoch-making.”7
The Leopold Family Shack: a re-built chicken coop along the Wisconsin River where Leopold, his wife, and children lived close to the land. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS CC BY 2.0.

Marsh had his own sense of a land ethic, his own way to frame our changing notion of our responsibilities. “All Nature is linked together by invisible bonds and every organic creature, however low, however feeble, however dependent, is necessary to the well-being of some other among the myriad forms of life.”8 And before Marsh, providing a foundation for a global view of environmental change, was the German explorer, naturalist, and polymath Alexander von Humboldt.9 “The noblest and most important result” of scientific study, Humboldt wrote, was “knowledge of the chain of connection by which all natural forces are linked together, and made mutually dependent upon each other.”10 In his epic work Cosmos (originally published 1845–47), von Humboldt aimed to provide nothing less than a coherent view of the universe, the Earth and its community of life, and the comprehending human mind.We humans had the capacity, he held, to perceive “unity in diversity,” to acknowledge “one great whole animated by the breath of life.”11

We can also trace such threads of continuity forward through time. Leopold’s expression of the land ethic lay relatively dormant for two decades, until an emerging environmental movement cast his words in a new and more urgent light. Readership of A Sand County Almanac burgeoned. Among its readers was the Trappist monk, activist, and writer Thomas Merton. In The Catholic Worker in 1968, Merton wrote: “Aldo Leopold brought into clear focus one of the most important moral discoveries of our time. This can be called the ecological conscience. The ecological conscience is centered in an awareness of man’s true place as a dependent member of the biotic community .... He must recognize his obligations toward the other members of that vital community.”Within his own faith tradition, Merton did not hesitate to press the case. “Catholic theology ought to take note of the ecological conscience, and do it fast.”12

pull quoteWhich brings us to the present. As a global community, we find ourselves searching for new ways to understand our changing human role on a rapidly transforming Earth, knowing that this also requires unprecedented change in our human relationships and responsibilities. We can now look back and see Leopold’s words in 1949 marking not only movement beyond an inadequate utilitarianism, but opening new conversations about the global prospects for humans and nature. The thread from von Humboldt to Marsh to Pinchot to Leopold to Merton leads directly to Pope Francis, who in his address to the US Congress on September 24, 2015, cited Merton as “a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”13

In his landmark encyclical Laudato Si’, the Pope has taken up Merton’s challenge. In “The Land Ethic,” Leopold had stated that “no important change in ethics was ever accomplished without an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections and convictions.” He expressed frustration that “philosophy and religion [had] not yet heard of [conservation].”14 Now Pope Francis in the encyclical calls for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots concern and affect us all.”15 The word ethic (and its variants) appears twenty-seven times in the document; the word responsibility fifty-five times.

In framing an “integral ecology” and emphasizing the “urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution,”16 the Pope has not only intensified the conversation within his own global institution, but entered into full dialogue with other faith communities and secular organizations. In the encyclical we find a tapestry of thoughts whose threads do include (among so many others) Saint Francis and Alexander von Humboldt, and that connect indigenous belief systems with contemporary science-based land ethics: “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.”17

We come to this moment in time and space from varied places, backgrounds, and traditions. In forging links between a local and intimate land ethic and an emerging Earth ethic,18 we find that, despite differences, we can and must benefit from all sources of wisdom; we can draw vital lessons from our diverse cultural experiences. The human meaning of conservation is still being forged, the ethic is evolving, our community of concern is expanding. Our differences will hardly disappear. But perhaps they will fade, or be folded in, as we strive to live in right relationship within “our common home.”

Curt Meine is a Senior Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation and at the Center for Humans and Nature. His publications include Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work, the first full-length biography of Aldo Leopold.
Credit: Flickr user DebAnne70 CC BY 2.0

1 G. Pinchot to A. Leopold, 11 December 1939. University of Wisconsin Archives, Aldo Leopold Papers (LP) 3B9, p. 526. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/AldoLeopold.ALStatesOHTN
2 A. Leopold to G. Pinchot, 4 January 1940. LP 3B9, p. 525.
3 Leopold, Aldo. 1940. “Wisconsin Wildlife Chronology,” Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin 5:11, 8-20.
4 Leopold, Aldo. 1949. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. New York: Oxford University Press.
5 Leopold, Aldo. 1947. “The Ecological Conscience,” The Bulletin of the Garden Club of America, 45-53.
6 Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac.
7 Mitchell, Nora J. and Diamant, Rolf. 2005. “The Necessity of Stewardship: George Perkins Marsh and the Nature of Conservation,” Forest History Today, 4-9.
8 Marsh, George Perkins. 1865. Man and Nature, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. New York: Charles Scribner.
9 See Walls, Laura Dassow. 2009. The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
10 von Humboldt, Alexander. 1858. Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe, Vol. 1 New York: Harper & Brothers.
11 von Humboldt, Cosmos.
12 Merton, Thomas. 1968. “The Wild Places,” The Catholic Worker 34. Merton’s essay was later reprinted and excerpted several times. See O’Connell, Patrick F., ed. 2013. Thomas Merton: Selected Essays Maryknoll: Orbis Books.
13 Pope Francis, “Address of the Holy Father,” United States Capitol, Washington, DC. 24 September 2015. https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150924_usa-uscongress.html
14 Leopold, Also. A Sand County Almanac.
15 Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home, para. 14.
16 Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, para. 114.
17 Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, para. 92.
18 Callicott, J. Baird. 2013. Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.
Introduction - Forest Stewardship and the Land Ethic: A Fresh Look
V. Alaric Sample

Forestry professionals have a special responsibility for the conservation and sustainable management of one of the most important natural resources on Earth. Forests represent a third of the planet’s land area, but they are home to two-thirds of the world’s animal and plant species, and represent almost three-quarters of the carbon present in living organisms. Forestry professionals today are highly educated in the science of how these ecosystems work, and are increasingly skilled in understanding the economic, social, and cultural contexts that make sustainable forest management possible. However, science and economics are not always enough. Aldo Leopold taught that there is an underlying land ethic in what foresters do, a moral responsibility to conserve and sustain these ecosystems for future generations and for the diversity of species that depend upon them. Foresters are the stewards of these important resources, with a responsibility to reflect this land ethic in their own actions, but also to educate and to lead.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Grey Towers Protocol, which established a set of guiding principles for forest managers, based on the “moral imperative” of land stewardship. It also came to define in the minds of many the values, mission, and purposes of the Pinchot Institute. The Grey Towers Protocol was the outcome of a symposium held at Grey Towers National Historic Site in November 1990, in conjunction with the centennial of the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. It was published by the Pinchot Institute in 1991 as a book entitled Land Stewardship in the Next Era of Conservation, and is still available from the Pinchot Institute in print and at http://www.pinchot.org/pubs/550.

The Grey Towers Protocol reflected the fundamental reexamination of forestry that was taking place at this critical juncture in the history of US forest policy. In the intervening 25 years, we have witnessed major changes in forestry toward the conservation and sustainable management of forests as complex, biologically-diverse ecosystems, supporting equally complex economic, social, and cultural systems in human societies. Ideas and approaches that were bold and controversial 25 years ago now have become widely accepted as standard practice on many private as well as public forest lands.

In this issue of The Pinchot Letter, we explore the ongoing evolution in both the philosophy and the practice of forest stewardship and the land ethic. Senior Fellow and leading Gifford Pinchot biographer Char Miller examines the tacit understanding that binds together even today’s increasingly urbanized and technology-driven society. It is the Earth’s natural resources that are the fundamental basis for our entire system, and we each have a responsibility to care for the resources that sustain us all. The irony in the supposed conflict between environmental stewardship and economic consumption is that environmentalism is not about saving the planet. The planet and most of its life forms will persist long after the Earth is no longer fit for human habitation. Environmentalism is as much about humans’ responsibility to one another as it is to saving Nature. The two are not separable. They are fundamentally the same.

Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine takes a fresh look at the land ethic and what Leopold called the “conservation aesthetic,” and how they have evolved since the 1949 publication of A Sand County Almanac. Meine explores the influences of Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy on Leopold, and vice versa, while Leopold was a young forester for the US Forest Service and over the remainder of their parallel lives. In his chapter on “Land Health and the A-B Cleavage,” Leopold differentiates between “group (A)” foresters who are “quite content to grow trees like cabbages, with cellulose as the basic commodity” and “group (B)” foresters who “manage a natural environment rather than creating an artificial one.” Today this is not an either/or proposition. Both are essential as we strive to protect the world’s “last great places,” but also to de-carbonize the world’s economy through a greater reliance on renewable resources and new technological breakthroughs in bioenergy, natural structural materials that are stronger than steel, and the use of nanocellulose for everything from computer screens, to saltwater filters, to body armor.

But how has this evolution in forest stewardship and the land ethic affected the everyday practice of forestry in the field? Forest Stewards Guild president Fred Clark explores the dilemmas in which field foresters sometimes find themselves when directed to take actions that, although not legally prohibited, are ethically questionable. His observations have challenging implications for the exercise of individual responsibility, but also for collective action by an ethical profession and the value of professional licensing.

Bob Perschel, president of the New England Forestry Foundation, takes the concept of land stewardship one step further, from sustainably managing an already functional forest ecosystem to restoring those degraded by actions in the past. Recalling the major shift in timberland ownership from forest products companies themselves to a new investor class over the past two decades, he describes how an increased emphasis on near-term financial returns by investors with no stake in long-term resource sustainability has left its signature on the land in New England forests. He looks to a new class of “social investors” with a truly long-term buy-and-hold approach to investing, to help acquire millions of acres of degraded forests and restore them to ecological health and economic viability.

Gifford Pinchot III further challenges the impression that corporations and other for-profit organizations must choose between rewarding their investors and contributing to a more sustainable society. He describes how a new generation of entrepreneurs is connecting the dots differently, and demonstrating that novel approaches and new technologies that advance resource efficiency and environmental sustainability are increasingly in demand, and will reward their innovators in the marketplace of the future.

The commemoration of Gifford Pinchot’s birth 150 years ago—and the 25th anniversary of the Grey Towers Protocol—offer opportunities for us to reflect on the conservation ethic at the roots of forestry as it developed in America, and the moral responsibility we share for conservation education and leadership today. Sustaining forests for all their environmental, economic, social, and cultural values in a world soon to be 10 billion people will require continuing improvement in our science, our practice, and in our ethical commitment to the current and future generations.

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