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Policy Summit: New Thinking and Priorities for Our Shared Conservation Agenda

Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
Priorities for Our Shared Conservation Agenda
Priorities for Our Shared Conservation Agenda
In the days leading up to a new Presidential administration and Congress, the Pinchot Institute convened a group of leaders from state and federal agencies, academia, non-profits, and foundations to discuss potential solutions to some of the most complex conservation challenges facing the western US. The title of this meeting refers to a “shared conservation agenda,” meaning an alignment of actions to improve the condition of forests and waterways. The Institute developed this summary report to outline 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.


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