Tomorrow afternoon is a live stream on the “Future of Pisgah-Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina” Newsmakers Forum, from Asheville, North Carolina. It’s free and might be interesting to sit in on.
We’ve previously discussed this forest planning effort. Jack Igelman of Carolina Public Press has been following it (and doing a great job IMHO) and has a story here. Here are some excerpts from today’s piece.
Here is Sam Evans on the “two-tiered” approach.
Another unique aspect of the plan is a “two-tiered” approach to land stewardship. The first tier identifies activities the Forest Service has the budget and other resources to accomplish, while the second tier outlines what the agency can accomplish with the help of partners.
Sam Evans, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, likes the two-tiered approach. He said that while the idea has been used before, the concept hasn’t been used to structure a forest plan and has the potential to incentivize more collaboration among user and advocacy groups.
“This is an idea that came out of the collaborative process, so it shows that the Forest Service was listening to the public,” he said.
However, Evans does have concerns about how the two-tiered approach will work, such as ensuring that clear “triggers” indicate when the agency moves from one tier to the next for a specific plan objective, such as forest restoration.
Thinking of Tier 2 objectives as “stretch goals,” Evans said, “The trick is to figure out how we can reach Tier 2 objectives in an integrated way without interfering with other goals.”
For example, he said, rather than identifying a single number of acres for timber restoration, the agency can mesh restoration objectives for specific species, such as pine and oak restoration, under a broader silvicultural objective.
“That is the No. 1 thing … to figure out what those triggers are and get them clearly written into the plan between draft and final,” he said. “That’s the biggest piece of work for the collaborative groups and the Forest Service.”
I like this general idea, as it sounds transparent and trust-building, but I can’t quite get a mental image of what “mesh restoration objectives for specific species, such as pine and oak restoration, under a broader silvicultural objective,” would look like. Perhaps Sam can weigh in on this.
I thought this example was interesting.
While Kelly believes the “building blocks” of the plan appear strong, such as the tiered approach, he’s hoping to provide feedback that will add specificity to the plan in areas where he said it’s lacking.
For example, he said, the current management plan finalized in 1994 requires the use of an aerial device to harvest trees on slopes steeper than 40% to prevent erosion and avoid landslides.
The proposed plan removes that requirement and allows an agency specialist to make a decision depending on the site and conditions.
While that may be a relatively minor detail, Evans said Kelly’s concern highlights a central tension in this plan: the balance between “certainty” and “flexibility” in management.
I see it as we can’t predict what technologies will be available in 25 years, nor what concerns will be then, and it’s best to use “best available science” for the project when the project document is completed.
I agree with Sam that:
The Forest Service is shifting its management toward big-picture ecological goals, such as restoring ecosystems and using fire, that require flexibility in management,” Evans.
“That’s admirable, but that discretion and flexibility can vary depending on the personnel and has the potential to be misapplied.”
However, IMHO the place to avoid misapplication is in real time, with real current science with the actual project document.
Anyway, lots of interesting info and quotes in this piece, so feel encouraged to find something that resonates (or doesn’t) with you and comment below.