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An imprecise term often used to refer to all those portions of wildlands in which usually there are no permanent, improved, or maintained access roads or operational, fixed facilities (such as lumber mills, ski resorts, or settlements with permanent residents). Deteriorating, unused and unoccupied structures may be present. Those roads which are present are only usable by trucks or 4 wheeled-drive vehicles and typically dead-end in the "back country", rather than continue through it. Any presently active uses only have primitive facilities, e.g., cabins, base camps, undeveloped campgrounds. In common usage, primitive and wilderness areas are backcountry types of wildlands which show no obvious evidence of permanent human uses or occupancy. These are any areas where the management objectives stress dispersed, off-road recreation activities, e.g., hiking, trail bike riding, hunting, and fishing. "Backcountry" is a recreation area while "wilderness" is defined primarily as a large natural ecosystem, to be experienced as it is. Recreational opportunities with structural elements can be enhanced or even created in "backcountry", but rarely in "wilderness".
Backcountry Recreation
A near-primitive recreation experience within the natural setting of a relatively roadless area where travel is primarily by horse or foot trails or by canoe.
The operation of filling an excavation or adding height to a road. Also the material placed in an excavation in the process of backfilling.
(1)Fire skillfully set along the inner edge of a fire control line to stop a spreading wildfire by reducing the fuel or changing the direction of force of the convection current of the fire. Using such fire to consume unburned fuel inside the fireline to speed up the line holding and mopup is usually called "burning out" or "clean burning." (2) A prescribed fire set to burn against the wind; (3) To set a backfire.
Background (Visual Distance Zone)
The distance part of a landscape; surroundings, especially those behind something, and providing harmony and contrast; area located from 3-5 miles to infinity from the viewer, characterized by perception of outline shape, landforms, and patterns of light and dark. Skylines or ridgelines against other land surfaces are the strongest visual elements of background.
Back Lighting
A view in which sunlight is coming toward the observer from behind a feature or elements in a scene. Solid objects are seen in shadow, silhouette, translucence, and/or with highlighted edges.
Bag Limit
The maximum number of individuals of a species that a hunter may legally take. This is usually accompanied by a period of time such as a daily or seasonal limit.
An alluvial plain formed at the base of a mountain by the joining of several alluvial fans.
Balance of Nature (Ecological Stability)
The apparent stability of the population density relationships between the many species of organisms that make up a biotic community. The concept of such a balance has been severely criticized. Population density of each of the species in a biotic community may fluctuate more or less widely from time to time (e.g., existence of population explosions, die-offs, epidemics, irregular migrations, succession etc.) and that the density of no species remains at a fixed value. The fluctuations in the numbers of each species, however, usually have fairly definite limits. Using `balance' includes the recognition that the population densities of every species making up a community fluctuate from season to season and from year to year.
Balanced Objectivism
An idealistic point of view which advocates that resource use decisions should be reached in a completely objective manner -- not disproportionately influenced by any special interest group pressure tactics, no special consideration given for any particular segment of society (whether privileged or disadvantaged), and not based on any of the other determinants of planning value -- biophysical, social, or economic. Balanced objectivism is conceptually unrealistic because it seeks to ignore the political reality of pressure groups, fails to recognize that issues (i.e., value conflicts between resource use audience members) are typically the impetus for any planning effort and that most value system clashes cannot be satisfactorily resolved by rational arguments.
Bare root Seedling
Young trees shipped without their roots being in soil.
Basal Area (BA)
(1) The area in square feet of the cross section of a tree including bark, at 4.5 feet above the ground. A tree 14 DBH is approximately 1 square foot. Generally expressed as the total of all trees, thus total Basal Area per acre. Measurement of how much of a site is occupied by trees e.g., 90-100 square feet per acre. (2) In range management, it is the area of ground surface occupied by the stem(s) of a range plant, as contrasted with the full spread of its herbage or foliage, generally measured at one inch above soil level.
Base Flow
That portion of the water flowing in a stream which is due to ground water seepage into the channel. Often the minimum length of flowing water in a summer drought.
Base Rate
In forestry, the absolute minimum price for timber according to Forest Service rules, equal to essential K-V funds (apportioned to each species in the sale) plus $0.50 per thousand board feet.
Base Map
A map showing certain fundamental information, on which is compiled additional data of specialized nature. Also a map to which all other maps and GIS map layers are registered and re-scaled.
Base Sale Schedule
A timber sale schedule formulated on the basis that the quantity of timber planned for sale and harvest for any future decade is equal to or greater than the planned sale and harvest for the preceding decade of the planning period. This planned harvest for any decade is not greater than the long-term sustained yield capacity. The schedule expresses the principle of non-declining flow.
Baseline Study, Ecological
(1) For a geographic area where human activities potentially affecting the environment are proposed, a study is undertaken to describe the existing conditions and trends. This description of key ecological system components and their functional relations through time provide a reference "baseline" from which the effects of the proposed action may be predicted. It also provides a benchmark against which future conditions and trends, occurring after the proposed activity begins, may be compared. Thus the purpose of such a study is to provide sound ecological information as input to the decision-making process for locating, designing, and operating new human activities which are potentially degrading to the ecological environment.
Bed Load
Soil, rock particles, or other debris rolled along the bottom of a stream by the moving water, as contrasted with the "silt load" carried in suspension.
Bedding Area
A specific site selected by big game animals to lie down and rest.
The more or less solid rock in place either on or beneath the surface of the Earth. It may be soft or hard and have a smooth or irregular surface.
An unproven assertion based on one or more fundamental assumptions. The assertion may be unprovable.
Below-Cost Timber Sale
Sale in which the total cost of administering and operating a timber sale appears to excede the revenues received from the sale of timber. (Typically land values, period of ownership, and management costs during the growing period are not included in the analysis.)
The surface of an excavated area at some point between the material being mined and the original surface of the ground on which equipment can sit, move, or operate. A working road or base which is below a highwall as found in contour stripping for coal.
(1) Sites for measuring natural phenomena in areas where human activity has essentially no effect. These sites would be expected to continue at least as long as natural conditions exist. (2) Certain existing examples or conditions in the field which are usable as established standards or definitions for practical comparison of "use capability" classes. Units of equal "use capability", but possessing markedly different physical features or appearances, can be recognized as being equal. (3) A set of estimates used to establish standards by which to compare alternatives considered in detail. Benchmark alternatives include minimum level, maximum resource levels, and maximum present net value levels.
Benefit (Value, also Outcome)
Inclusive terms used to quantify the positive expected results or outputs of a proposed activity, project, or program expressed in monetary or non-monetary terms. Ideally, estimates of all benefits, outputs, or effectiveness expected to be received or achieved as a result of undertaking a proposed activity, program, or project. Realistically, a particular program and its outputs, some intended and very specific beneficial outputs, although some attendant outputs may be negative or non-beneficial.
Benefit-Cost Analysis (Cost-Benefit Analysis)
An analytical approach to solving problems of choice which identifies for each objective, that alternative which yields the greatest total discounted benefit for a given discounted cost or that alternative which produces the required level of benefits at the lowest cost. This same analytical process has also been referred to as cost effectiveness analysis when the benefits of the alternatives cannot be quantified in terms of dollars or when benefits are limited to those stated in objectives.
Benefit-Cost Ratio
An economic indicator of efficiency, computed by dividing benefits by costs. Usually, both the benefits and the costs are discounted so that the ratio reflects efficiency in terms of the present value of future benefits and costs. Benefits for projects should exceed costs or the ratio should be greater than 1.0.
The whole group of organisms in a water body (pond, lake, or river) which crawl about on the bottom, or burrow into the bottom, or grow attached to the bottom. Those aquatic organisms that are carried passively by water currents or the wind are termed plankton and those that swim actively and may move long distances for feeding or breeding purposes, nekton.
(1) A strip of coal left in place temporarily for use in hauling or stripping. A layer of large rock or other relatively heavy stable material placed at the outside bottom of the spoil pile to help hold the pile in position (a toe wall). Also used higher in the spoils for the same purpose. (2) A small mound of earth on the outer edge of a mountain or secondary road.
Best Management Practices
(BMPs) Practices or their combination that has been determined by a natural resource agency to be the most effective means of preventing or reducing an amount of pollution, typically by non-point sources to a level compatible with resource (e.g., water quality) goals.
Beta Diversity
Any of a variety of definitions of diversity relating to differences among communities present along a gradient (e.g., soil acidity) or in the same place over time.
A plant species that lifes for 2 growing seasons.
Big Game
The larger species of animals that are hunted; e.g., deer, elk, bear, mountain sheep, mountain goats, bison, and in some areas, the wild turkey.
Biltmore Stick
Like a yard stick, calibrated to measure the diameter of a tree at breast height.
The uptake and retention of environmental substances by an organism by means other than the ingestion of food. See Biomagnification.
Determining the physiological effect of a substance (such as a drug) by comparing its effects on a test tissue, organ, or living organism with that of some standard substance; in contrast to chemical assay or analysis.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (also BOD; Biological Oxygen Demand)
A measure of the quantity of dissolved oxygen, in milligrams per liter, required to stabilize the demand for oxygen in a water sample, usually resulting from the process of microorganisms consuming organic matter and utilizing the available dissolved oxygen in the oxidation process. Adding waste to water may cause a high BOD, deplete oxygen, and kill aquatic life.
A charcoal-type material produced by cooking organic matter in a low-oxygen environment (pyrolysing) with potential for carbon mitigation.
Substances which can be broken into their component parts by bacteria and fungi.
No concensus or singular definition exists but it is included within more than 20 laws and regulations. It has various denotations and connotations. Its use is usually limited to animals, though plants and intermediate forms are "life". Microscopic forms are usually excluded and insects are rarely included. Distributions of faunalmass and phytomass have been implied by some workers. Most texts use species richness (the count and list of species) as a synonym. Some use indices of proportionate occurrence or rareness (Shannon and related indices) as a specific meaning. Whether constant abundance of plants (or animals) over many years (great evenness) is desirable or required by the definition is debated. Rapidly changing modern taxonomy, inclusion of migrants, sampling intensities, descriptions of patterns occupied in nature, appropriate levels of statistical confidence, and even the categories of life to be included are also debated and thus collectively result in a general word almost without meaning.
Relating to the chemical relationships between the geology of an area and its plant and animal life. In land use planning, the term is more often used for all of the naturally-occurring objects, processes, and relationships in an area. Often used in the sense of the biogeochemical parameters of a planning area. Biogeochemical is approximately equivalent to the natural ecosystem and ecosystem functions of a planning area. This composite term is based on the assumption that all naturally-occurring things can be classified as being biological, geological, or chemical.
Biogeochemical Cycle (Mineral Cycle, Nutrient Cycle, Material Cycle)
The circulation (cycling) of chemical elements such as nitrogen, carbon, etc. in specific pathways from the abiotic portions of the environment into organic substances (flora and fauna) and then back again into abiotic forms.
The translated Germanic and Slavic language equivalent of ecosystem.
A composite term often used to encompass all of the naturally occurring materials, processes, and relationships operating in an area. Often used in the sense of the "biogeophysical parameters" of a planning area. In such usage, the term is approximately equivalent to the natural ecosystem and ecosystem functions of a planning area. The word was constructed so that all the natural objects and processes operating in an area can be classified as being either biological (i.e., plant and animal species, ecological interactions, biotic productivity, etc.) or geological (i.e., rock types, soil types, geomorphic history, sedimentation, erosion, etc.), or physical (i.e., heat, light, electrical, gravitational, etc.).
Biological Control
Using organisms or viruses to control parasites, weeds, or pests.
Biologic Diversity (Species Diversity, Biotic Diversity, Biodiversity)
Usually equivalent to species richness, i.e., the number of different species occurring in some location or under some condition such as pollution. "Biologic diversity" may also be used in a more general sense to refer to the number of higher taxonomic levels or types and amounts of organismal relationships in some location or under some condition -- e.g., the number of genera, families, orders or phyla present; or genetic pathways; or the number of biotic communities present; or the number of energy, nutrient, or food-chain pathways present. There are many measures and indices. Frequently used relationships are those for proportions of plants, animals, or areas present.
Biological Growth Potential
The average net growth attainable in a fully stocked area of forest land.
Biological Management Unit
A big-game management unit recognized by cooperating states even though it may not be strictly a herd unit. It may include a drainage system in the case of fishery management; any unit for species management, or any unit of intensive or special management.
Biomagnification (Bioconcentration)
The accumulation of toxic materials then passage to feeders in food chains. See Bioaccumulation.
Biomass (Protoplasm Mass)
(1) The total weight (at a given time) of living organisms of one or more species per unit of space (species biomass), or of all the species in a community (community biomass). Phytomass expresses weight of plants only. (2) The total weight of matter incorporated into all organisms (living and dead).
A major biotic community composed of all the plants and animals and smaller biotic communities, including the successional stages of an area. The smaller communities in a biome possess certain similarities in gross external vegetation appearances (e.g., deciduous trees, coniferous trees, grasslands, and savanna/woodlands) and environmental conditions present (especially gross climatic conditions -- e.g., desert, tropical, temperate, tundra). The North American Grassland is an example of a named biome.
The study of the statistics of biological phenomena; the application of mathematics and statistics to the study of living things.
All the naturally occurring objects and processes of an area on the assumption that all naturally occurring things can be classified as being either living (i.e., biotic) or nonliving (physical or abiotic).
Biophysical Determinism
A point of view in planning which advocates making resource allocation and use decisions primarily on the basis of the inherent ability of the resource to sustain use, i.e., an ecological carrying capacity concept of resource capability. Economic and social system needs and desires are viewed as being completely subordinated to this inherent capacity of the resource to meet any and all demands while maintaining its natural integrity, condition, and performance of other natural processes at a desirable level. Economic and social demands can only be satisfied within the ecological carrying capacity constraints. The terms "biological primacy," "physiographic determinism," and "ecological determinism," in their common usage, are equivalent to biophysical determinism - though "biophysical" more clearly implies concern with both physical and biological processes.
That part of the Earth's crust, waters, and surrounding air-layer which is inhabited by living organisms.
Biostimulatory Test
A test that determines the reaction of an organism to a given substance or set of conditions, such as cold, heat, and excessive nutrients. Algae growth potential is an example of this type of test.
The plants and animals of an area, taken collectively.
All of the natural living organisms in a planning area and their life processes. A resource classification category which subdivides the natural resources and properties into either the biotic or the abiotic (nonliving) entities and characteristics. Human activities are not usually grouped with either of these categories because they are not considered to be a part of a planning area's natural entities or characteristics. Nevertheless, native cultures have been actively influencing the course of biotic activity in some areas for centuries.
Biotic Potential (Reproductive Potential)
The inherent ability of members of a population to grow in numbers within a given time and under stated environmental conditions. This potential depends on the number of live, fertile offspring produced at each reproduction and, where sex is involved, the sex ratio, as well as the age classes distribution of the population.
A genetically homogeneous population composed only of closely similar individuals; a genotypic race or group of organisms.
Black Box
An unknown and often unknowable mechanism, process, or system which is judged solely by observing its inputs and outputs.
To mark a tree, usually with paint or cutting into the bark. Often used along boundaries.
Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior.
Bloom (Algal Bloom)
A readily visible, concentrated, distinctively colored growth or aggregation of plankton (plant and/or animal) in water.
Blow Down
See Windthrow.
Board Foot
A measure of lumber volume in a tree (or elsewhere). A volume of unfinished solid wood that is one foot square and one inch thick (e.g., 12" x 12" x 1"; 144 cubic inches). (MBF = Thousand Board Feet.)
Main trunk of a tree.
Short log or square timber commonly 8 feet long.
A depression from which soil or rocks are taken to build roads, usually along side the road.
Botanical Area
An area which has been Designated as containing specimens or group exhibits of plants, plant groups, and plant communities which are significant because of form, color, occurrences, habitat, location, life history, arrangement, ecology, environment, rarity, and other features.
Box Cut
The initial cut into the earth (as in coal mining) driven in a property where no open side exists; this results in highwalls on both sides of the cut.
Breeding rate
Natural inherent capacity to reproduce; numbers per unit time, usually expressed as a theoretical or attained rate.
Broadbased Dip
A surface drainage structure in a dirt road designed to move water off the road while vehicles maintain normal driving speed.
Broadcast Seeding
Scattering seed on the surface of the soil. Contrast with drill seeding, whereby the seed is placed in rows in the soil.
Broadscale Assessment
: A synthesis of current scientific knowledge, including a description of uncertainties and assumptions, to provide a characterization and comprehensive description of ecological, social, and economic components within an assessment area critical for understanding past and present conditions and projecting fliture trends which provides a foundation for the identification of additional or necessary information for policy discussions or decisions.(USFS 1999)
Brood Rearing Area
"Bugging areas" or habitat providing abundant insects for young turkeys, grouse, or quail and other birds.
(1)That part of the current leaf and twig growth of potentially palatable shrubs, woody vines, and trees available for animal consumption. It includes leaves. Bark of some trees is included. Fallen leaves of some species are eaten and represent an undecided element of the definition. (2)The acts of consuming such growth.
Browse Line
(1)The uppermost limit on trees and tall shrubs to which livestock and big game browse. (Once called the plimsole line (seen on the side of ocean vessels)). Also grazing line. (2)The height to which animals have grazed or browsed and removed vegetation over an unspecified time.
Growth (stands or clumps) of shrubs or small trees usually of a type undesirable as forage for livestock or in timber management but of some potential value to wildlife and as cover for livestock.
Brush Control
Reduction of brush (volume, height, density, and biomass) to reduce its competition for space, moisture, light, and nutrients with plant species that are preferred for growing timber or forage, or, to reduce wildfire fuel.
Brush Management
Managing and manipulating stands of brush by mechanical, chemical, biological means, or by prescribed burning.
(1)Male deer; (2)To cut trees into short lengths such as for cordwood.
Budget Year
The fiscal year for which the budget is being considered, the fiscal year following the current year.
Buffer (Buffer Strip, Buffer Zone, Filter Strip)
A Designated land or water area, along the perimeter of some land use, the use of which is regulated so as to resist, absorb, or otherwise preclude unwanted development or other intrusions (visual, noise, recreational use) into areas beyond the strip of undisturbed vegetation that retards the flow of runoff water, causing deposition of transported material and thereby reducing sediment in receiving streams.
Buffer Species
A non-game or comparatively undesirable animal species that is food for predators. Its consumption reduces predation (substituting for it) upon game or other desirable species. Managers attempt to increase buffer species to reduce predation harmful to their species objectives.
Bulk Density
The mass or weight of oven-dry soil per unit of bulk volume, including air space. Typically grams per cubic centimeter, water having the weight of one gram per cc. Compaction from logging equipment, recreationists' use, grazing animals, etc. increases bulk density.
Bull Age Diversity
An attribute of population age structure providing a relative measure of the distribution of bull elk among age classes in a population.
(1)Area over which fire has recently run; (2)A management technique.
Burning Prescription
Written direction stipulating fire environment conditions, techniques, and administrative constraints necessary to achieve specified resource management objectives by using fire on a given area of land.
Butt Log
The first log above the stump and generally the most valuable log in a tree.

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Last revision January 17, 2000.