Chief on Collaboration

Collaboration on forest restoration projects key to sustainability (Go here to see all the hyperlinks.)
Agency Chief testifies before House Committee on Agriculture

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2012 —In testimony on Capitol Hill today, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell emphasized the importance of collaboration in developing restoration projects on national forests and grasslands.

“The aim of these efforts is to move beyond the conflicts which have characterized forest policy in the past and toward a shared vision that allows environmentalists, forest industry, local communities, and other stakeholders to work collaboratively toward healthier forests and watersheds, safer communities and more vibrant local economies,” Tidwell said.

Tidwell emphasized that such collaboration not only results in better projects, but will also create jobs.

His remarks were made before the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry.

“The Forest Service recognizes the need for a strong forest industry to help accomplish forest restoration work,” Tidwell remarked. “Forest industry involvement also lowers the cost of restoration to the taxpayer by providing markets for forest products.”

Tidwell presented a list of programs already in place at the Forest Service that will enhance the restoration and management efforts on the nation’s forests and grasslands:

– Implementation of the new forest Planning Rule that emphasizes restoration, public involvement, and sustainable management to provide benefits and services both today and for future generations.

– Investing in restoration projects with partners though the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. These projects have demonstrated that collaboration among stakeholders can facilitate large landscape scale restoration, thereby improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, restoring fire-adapted ecosystems, and increasing timber and biomass production from the national forests.

– The Watershed Condition Framework which provides a consistent and comprehensive approach for classifying the condition of the 15,000 watersheds that comprise the National Forests and Grasslands and for prioritizing restoration needs.

– Integrated Resource Restoration which allows the agency to align its budgeting to focus on landscape scale restoration projects across resource areas and, with partners, combine the restorative focus of several line items into a single item.

– The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy which is a collaborative process with active involvement of all levels of government, non-governmental organizations and the public working for an all-lands solution to wildland fire management issues.

– The Forest Service bark beetle strategy which focuses management efforts on priority treatment areas to ensure human health and safety and to reduce hazardous fuel conditions on more than 17 million acres of National Forest System lands impacted by bark beetles.

– Use of stewardship contracting which allows the Forest Service to offset the value of the services received with the value of forest products removed. This authority is crucial to collaboratively restore landscapes at a reduced cost to the government.

– Expanding markets for forest products through the development of new markets for woody biomass utilization and green building materials by providing a reliable and predictable supply of biomass for potential investors.

– Research using new technologies and cutting-edge science to help better understand impacts of forest disturbance on natural and cultural resources.

– Use of a new objections process prior to a decision, rather than using an appeals process after a decision. The process tends to increase direct dialogue between the agency and stakeholders and often results in resolution of concerns before a decision is made.

– Improved efficiency of the National Environmental Policy Act process by learning from and sharing the lessons of successful implementation of streamlined NEPA analyses.
“Today, people understand that forests provide a broad range of values and benefits, including biodiversity, recreation, clean air and water, forest products, erosion control and soil renewal, and more. Our goal is to sustain and restore ecosystems that can deliver all the benefits that Americans want and need,” Tidwell concluded.

2 thoughts on “Chief on Collaboration”

  1. I guess that means for new projects going forward. In the meantime, projects like the Goose Project in the Willamette NF in Oregon are old business as usual. Not only no collaboration but no real communication with the community in the planning phases. The FS just tells us how it’s going to be and goes forward in a sensitive watershed with no environmental impact statement. You are preaching to the choir!

  2. ““The aim of these efforts is to move beyond the conflicts which have characterized forest policy in the past …” (Chief Tidwell)

    “Just imagine what could be done given a shared vision and more positive relationships.”
    (Martin Nie, penultimate sentence from, “Governing the Tongass”)

    If this were as good as it sounds, I’d signup immediately.(Matter of fact, I tried to sign-up for collaboration on the Tongass, but was summarily rejected, twice). So from what I’ve seen so far, Collaboration is more about a stacked deck, and requisite oaths of loyalty. A closer look reveals it’s more sloganeering, marketing and repackaging familiar tropes of free market environmentalism.

    Unfortunately, this promised land of collaboration, variously described as an end to the “war in the woods” by getting “stakeholders” together to live happily ever after is rooted solidly in free market environmentalism’s marketing ploys which are big on corporate/government partnerships (with deregulation in the fine print), but AWOL on how best to analyze and address urgent, converging environmental and economic crises.

    Do we have a colossal mess of NFS mismanagement on our hands which has contributed to catastrophic climate change, species declines, water crises, etc. throughout the American West and beyond? Of course. But understanding how we got here is essential to understanding how to remedy these predicaments.

    The remedy will certainly not be derived from adopting the policy advice of the architects of the causes of the crises.

    It’s as if Alan Greenspan’s own admission during a congressional inquiry on the causes of our present economic disaster– that he made a “mistake” about his assumptions on free market fundamentalism — never happened.

    We ignore such forensic examinations of what went wrong at our individual, and at our planetary peril.

    Greenspan’s admission was an appropriate epitaph for the present zombieconomy which created the economic and ecological disasters we currently face as a nation and a planet. Marketing restoration as a “new” business model under the premise that our government is financially incapable of fixing its own mess is as eminently refutable as FSC certified forestry claims.

    Tidwell is just doing his part to tweak the message that a (not-so-slight) adjustment of public process devolving management decisions down to local business interests will save our bacon.

    And the cure to our ills is elimination of burdensome regulation, adjudication, and pesky appeals by citizens to their government to simply abide by the established firewalls provided by bedrock environmental legislation.


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