Blue Mountains revision restart – FS stumbles out of the gate

The three forest supervisors for the national forests in the Blue Mountains published a guest column with an invitation to meet with any and all interested parties as part of a “re-engagement strategy for the communities in the Blue Mountains.”  Unfortunately they also chose to make an off-script policy statement:

We want Forest Plans that provide resiliency for our communities in Eastern Oregon and Washington; Plans that support the local economy and the social values of the people who use and depend on them. We also want resiliency in ecosystems that can withstand: drought, floods, wildfire, invasive species, human impacts and have the strength to return to healthy ecosystems in the long run.

These plans are being developed under the 1982 planning regulations, but that does not excuse them from the agency policy on “resilience” (which I’m fairly sure is not found in the 1982 regulations).  In the 2012 Planning Rule, the term resilient/resilience is used only in the definitions of “restoration” and “viable population,” and the concept of “resilient ecosystems” (or “healthy ecosystems”) was replaced by “ecological integrity.”

Most importantly, the Planning Rule never uses the term “resiliency” in connection with social or economic factors.  It recognizes that forest plans can NOT “provide resiliency” for communities, and that this should not be used as a justification to support any particular local business or values.  Under the 2012 Rule, forest plans must “guide the plan area’s contribution to social and economic sustainability.”  And this is not limited to local interests, but instead explicitly extends to “the area influenced by the plan” and regional and national economies.

When you start by over-promising, there is a good chance you’re going to under-deliver (again).

3 Comments

  1. I was afraid someone might ask that. My answer would be none. From the definition of ‘sustainability:’

    For purposes of this part, ‘‘ecological sustainability’’ refers to the capability of ecosystems to maintain ecological integrity; …

    From the Preamble:

    The Department replaced the phrase ‘‘healthy and resilient’’ to ‘‘ecological integrity’’ in this paragraph and throughout this subpart. The Department also modified additional wording of this section to reflect this change. This change responds to public concern about how to define and measure ‘‘health’’ and ‘‘resilience.’’ Ecosystem integrity is a more scientifically supported term, has established metrics for measurement, and is used by both the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

    The way I read it ecological sustainability=integrity=resilience. So what was my point? The agency explicitly wanted to get the term ‘resilience’ out of the planning process (going so far as to remove it from the definitions section in the final rule). Continued emphasis on this term may cause confusion, and suggests being out of touch with agency planning policy, which could and did carry over into more substantive things (and suggests that it is good that the regional forester is still in charge of this planning process per the 1982 regulations).

    • “Ecological integrity” seems to be one of those “fuzzy logic” terms that has dubious measurement units. It seems more like a value judgement than something you can measure or quantify. Similarly, when logging happens, some people like to call it fragmentation, while at the same time, when large wildfires happen, they like to call it diversity. And, of course, many of those same people see no middle ground, insisting on “Whatever Happens”, and forest ecosystems without humans (but not their impacts).

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