The idea of a “desired future” is found frequently in Forest Service NFMA and NEPA discussions/writing. I decided to see if I could find out where the idea of “desired future” and “desired future condition” come from. It sort of shows up in the 1979 NFMA Rule, mainly w/r/t wildlife populations, but gains a major toehold on FS thinking in the 1982 rule:
Sec. 219.11 Forest plan content. The forest plan shall contain the following: … (b) Forest multiple-use goals and objectives that include a description of the desired future condition of the forest or grassland and an identification of the quantities of goods and services that are expected to be produced or provided during the RPA planning periods
And it has been a part of FS thinking ever since. I can understand back in 1982 that the Forest Service wanted to remake America’s national forests into something foresters would desire, while zoning out Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and other “set-asides”. So the idea of “desired future” made sense, at least to foresters who were running the Forest Service back then, some of whom were desirous to see the allowable timber cut increased from 11 to 33 billion board feet.
But to continue to use the language in the 2011 proposed NFMA rule is a different matter. The focus these days is not on increasing “allowable cut,” but instead on restoring ecosystems resiliency. But there is still a hint of what author David Ehrenfeld called The Arrogance of Humanism, 1981 at work here. At least I think so. That is why I’ve advocated for simple scenario planning instead, in part to avoid what I believe to be a “desired future” trap. For an article length view, see Thomas Stanley’s Ecosystem Management and the Arrogance of Humanism, Conservation Biology, 1995 (pdf)
Let’s leave a couple of inquiry questions: Is the idea of “desired future” even needed in forestland adaptive management? Why does this language persist in NFMA rules.
[Update, 4/6/11: I noticed this AM that the Draft NFMA rule refers to "desired condtions" (219.7 (d)) instead of "desired future," or "desired future condition(s)" but the meaning appears identical, at least to me.]
Related: In Search of Our Desired Forest, John Rupe, NCFP, 2/18/2011