Navigating Social Forestry

Interesting open-access paper in the journal Land Use Policy: “Navigating social forestry – A street-level perspective on National Forest management in the US Pacific Northwest.”


• US National Forest management takes place within a vetocratic institutional setting.
• Non-agency actors both constrain and enable forest management.
• A mismatch exists between official policy objectives and institutional regime.
• Resulting decisions are sub-optimal for reaching management objectives.

10 thoughts on “Navigating Social Forestry”

  1. From the article, Navigating social forestry:

    … our findings raise questions about the ability of the social forestry regime to address forest management issues that warrant large scale, concerted actions, such as wildfire, insect outbreaks or climate change adaptation (see also Abrams et al., 2017b; Charnley et al., 2015). While the process of “muddling through” may function well at limited spatial and temporal scales, its current permutation may be less adept at addressing larger scale management needs. It should be noted, however, that many places across the U.S. West have been able to “scale up” social forestry to higher spatial and temporal scales, for example through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (Schultz et al., 2012). Prior research has also identified cases where leadership by local place-based organizations has helped to catalyze a relatively comprehensive, long-term vision that attempts to reconcile forest restoration needs with community economic opportunities (Abrams et al., 2017a, 2015). This suggests that one pathway out of the pitfalls of social forestry may be, paradoxically, the development of stronger civil society capacity and leadership that encourages local veto-players to think and plan at higher spatial and temporal scales and to consider a more holistic set of social and economic imperatives.

    … This study points to the need to think beyond the current manifestation of social forestry (largely centered on local-scale actors and concerns) to consider ways to address management needs over larger scales and longer time periods and inform local-scale decision-making. Issues such as climate change, associated patterns of fire and insect activity, and others will require governance processes beyond the local scale. Policy changes that eliminate or reduce the influence of timber targets, provide long-term funding for projects with both ecological and social merit, and engage veto players in collaborative learning and information-sharing would seem to hold promise in this regard.

    Sounds much like the gospel some of us have been preaching for quite some time. See, e.g.

  2. To me, it seems like no amount of action will ‘save’ forests in the southern Sierra Nevada. It is probably too late to do anything commercial with the salvage of millions of dead trees. Those dead trees will stay there and be fuel for the next inevitable firestorms. Additionally, it is clear that the window to thin our way to forest health has long since passed. There is no need to thin out the scattered survivors of bark beetles and drought. There won’t be any salvage logging after the fires do their damage, as well.

    It’s just a matter of finger-pointing, now, as those forests perish into an uncertain future, probably turning old growth into brushfields. Welcome to our new harsh realities, folks. Owls and goshawks will lose their irreplaceable nesting habitats. Frogs will find ash and debris, instead of food. Humans will have less reservoir capacity, due to catastrophic erosion. Campgrounds will not be rebuilt. Cultural sites will burn to a crisp. All thanks to inaction and gridlock, in an emergency situation.

  3. I’d like to know more about how that worked…

    “development of stronger civil society capacity and leadership that encourages local veto-players to think and plan at higher spatial and temporal scales and to consider a more holistic set of social and economic imperatives.”
    I’ll ask the author to write a post :).

    • Please ask why there is no mention of NFMA forest planning anywhere (other than implicitly as the “top-down” part of the process). It is a scale up from this study of projects, and it is (or NFMA says should be) the source of the timber targets that seem to (still) be problematic. Yes, there are other things that get litigated, but if forest plans could get the social license to log right – by identifying the “relatively constrained decision space that represents the area of agreement among various veto-players” (using the “safe from litigation” criterion as needed), life would be lot easier and efficient for the local managers and their partners.

      Regarding scales above the forest level, see the discussion of landscape conservation cooperatives in the comments here:

      What I get out of this is that things are about as they should be. “This compels forest rangers to focus on management options that they can realistically implement and that help to meet budgetary goals or performance metrics, rather than basing their decisions primarily on ideal management as perceived by agency silviculturists and some non-agency scientists,” or top-down political pressure. The decision-making process now includes the “overabundance of checks and balances and a proliferation of veto players” that comprise American society as a whole. Why is that not appropriate for the forests owned by that society?

  4. It almost sounds to me as if there are some history/personality of internal and external folks issues that underly the differences between the Siuslaw and the Williamette. Because of the LSR on the Siuslaw, environmental groups have “won” and can afford to be magnanimous, while on the Williamette the fight continues in M/L the same way it has since the 80’s???

    Just a note, the FS does things that get negotiated/ litigated without having timber targets so I’m not sure that targets per se are the problem, or just the requirements in laws for multiple use management. My experience includes litigation re: fuel treatments, ski areas, reservoirs, oil and gas leasing, coal, etc.

  5. I think part of it is the Willamette has a strong timber program, though it is only a small percentage of what it once was, while the Siuslaw has almost no timber program.

    • The Willamette is a lot bigger than the Siuslaw. Proportional to their sizes, the Siuslaw, at 44 mmbf, sells (FY 2017) comparable volume to the Willamette’s 79 mmbf.

          • Thanks for this video. I’ve posted it to my FB page. Besides, I love and am fascinated with hydrology and the entire whole surrounding it that makes it pure. Plus the practical applications that can be used within city environments whose design has always been to quickly facilitate water as quickly as possible back to the Pacific Ocean, especially in SoCal.

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