USFS Retirees: Climate change poses ‘new reality’ for Forest Service

From E&E News (subscription). The links in the article are to the documents on the NAFSR web site.

Climate change poses ‘new reality’ for Forest Service, former officials say

A Forest Service retirees group issued recommendations for climate-smart forest policies.

The organization representing retired Forest Service officials urged their former employer to more aggressively address the changing climate, warning of mounting threats to the nation’s forests.

“Changing climatic conditions and weather patterns are affecting all the nation’s forests,” the National Association of Forest Service Retirees said in a letter accompanying two position papers on the issue.

“We believe that the cascading effects of extreme events require greater focus and attention because of their many effects on communities and people,” said the letter to Homer Wilkes, undersecretary of Agriculture for natural resources and environment.

The association said it supports the Biden administration’s near-term approach, including a wildfire strategy mapped out by the Forest Service to accelerate and expand forest management practices aimed at reducing wildfire risks.

In the position papers, the organization noted advances in the science around climate-smart planning and management since 2000, and suggested a need for more public investment in that area — an issue that could arise in negotiations around the 2023 farm bill, for instance. One paper outlined the organization’s positions, and another described some of the scientific basis.

4 thoughts on “USFS Retirees: Climate change poses ‘new reality’ for Forest Service”

  1. Steve, I worked on this one with many others..below are some of the solutions in the paper..

    “NAFSR supports the Climate Action Plan’s statements that planning must become more strategic and collaborative, focused on longer time horizons and broader spatial scales. To become more strategic, NAFSR believes that:
    • Defining desired future conditions should emphasize creating forests that are resilient—able to withstand and absorb disturbances from multiple stressors, whether intense infrequent episodes or chronic extended effects, while maintaining similar structural composition, functioning, and the flow of needed benefits despite the changing conditions.
    (I think this is a really good idea but not sure if that would run up against “ecosystem integrity” as defined in the 2012 regs; I was promoting resilience instead of integrity at the time, and it wasn’t popular).

    • Long-term projections of climate changes and landscape-scale trends firmly grounded in science are an essential ingredient. Projections and trends should look ahead multiple decades.
    Landscape-scale means considering what is happening on all lands, even across jurisdictional and ecological boundaries.
    (other members of the group had a great deal more confidence in long-term projections than I do.)

    To become more collaborative, NAFSR believes that:
    • Land management plans for individual national forests and grasslands still should consider local conditions and local needs, yet also consider future needs, risks, and uncertainties across larger landscapes. More people from more communities and groups should participate.

    (This didn’t seem very helpful to me, since I didn’t think we actually knew much about current planning is working. To know the FS needs to do more, you would have to know how much it is currently doing.)

    • Learning and progress happen more quickly when land managers, scientists, community leaders and others plan together, then design and implement projects and activities together, and monitor results together. Learning together and monitoring together builds trust faster and accelerates adaptation—both are essential to deal with rapidly changing conditions.

    (I was told that natural resource practitioners, who actually do much of this work, count as “scientists” in this list. )

    Bottom line, the paper says the FS needs to do adaptive management, which I think they’ve been trying to do for many years. Which raises the “next step” question in my mind.. have any academics or others rounded up why adaptive management isn’t working? or is it working in practice without the title? Whatever happened to adaptive management?

  2. They should be doing adaptive management with adaptive management. How is it working; should they be doing it differently?

    There was a lot of focus on the “landscape scale” when the 2012 Planning Rule was developed. The “context of the broader landscape” is mentioned in §219.1, and this shows up in the public participation and diversity sections. (I didn’t really expect this to change much with the agency planning bias to stay within the lines.)


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