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Index and Introduction

Guidance is a planning system already in prototype form and delivered (paper copy) to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Maryland as its environmental plan. An advanced form was proposed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for ranch and farm planning (1997). The latest concept is of the plan for a military base or for a landowner available on a web site. The plan would have security. The landowner would be able to call up his or her plan at any time, see color images, maps, and the latest information about the plan. Models for components of everyone's plans are managed and improved from a central office but each person's or agency's plan remains directed to their individual objectives.

Replacing confusing concepts of planning (there are some 40 definitions), the guidance system unifies geographic information systems work (GIS), simulation, optimization, ecological data bases, and general information (e.g, a 100-page glossary available in electronic form) to allow the landowner to learn about the land and make decisions appropriate for the present and accounting for every decision or change on the future system.

Guidance is a large, complicated system under continual development. It is a system that produces a plan for each of many areas such as a system of parks, forests, refuges, military areas, or wildlife management areas. Of course it can produce a plan for a single ownership. It has people, space, past research findings, computer software, databases, and hardware all working to produce, on demand, a "document" which was once called a "plan." Each document or product provides guidance to managers who have the knowledge of local situations, expertise, and responsibility for decision making. Such decision making is typical for complex natural resource systems. Such system invariably have conflicting objectives and require trade-offs. Decision-making for them is believed to be among the most difficult, multi-faceted, high risk, and long-term in the world.

A singular, generic system produces a unique book (one rarely produced on paper because of its size and because it is readily seen at a web site in color) for each management area or unit. The book is like a good newspaper, out-of-date tomorrow. Guidance shifts the emphasis from the plan to a planning system, a computer-based entity being continually updated, revised, edited, expanded, and made more interactive than the day before. An entire book may be obtained by the landowner, but chapters, tables, figures, and maps may also be retrieved from a computer screen or page printer. Ancillary products such as photographs of seeds or slides of pathogenic materials may be included. The total plan may not be of interest on a particular day.

Guidance may help solve many major problems of land use management and provide site-specific answers in select areas of conflict. It will increase the efficiency and quality of decision making, thereby providing substantial cost and time savings to both managers and citizens throughout the regions of its use.

The system is composed of (1) a fundamental knowledge base; (2) tabular, statistical, and other data and analyses; (3) legal, regulatory, and policy texts; (4) summary information; (5) impact analyses or consequence reports; (6) optimum solutions to multiple-use problems; (7) ancillary products such as user texts and computer programs that can be down-loaded for intensive study of problem areas; (8) comprehensive guidance documents; and (9) computer-aided training modules (to improve use of the results). These all include graphics, maps, and dynamic media. The operational system is believed to provide a stable resource in the face of changing personnel and offers continuity in knowledge about local ecosystems and management policies.

Guidance integrates concepts of ecology, economics, esthetics, energetics, and enforcement in a multi-dimensional approach to major, complex land use problems through a centralized, comprehensive data base accessed directly by the system staff. The primary product of the system is a plan or plan part. Other outputs show in a variety of ways the consequences of any major land use act (for example, building a road extension). The consequences are shown in terms of the primary and secondary factors impinging on the action. The consequences of various types of approaches are traded off and combined in an R* index or resource-area system performance measure. The index can be used to expand and enhance multiple-use and ecosystem management decision procedures.

Within the system, overall scores of the managed area are computed under varying conditions, thereby allowing comparisons to be made among the present conditions (described by a performance measure R) and the optimum condition, one with a score of R*. In addition, there are procedures to gain wide citizen or key decision-maker inputs in a practical format. A modified benefit-to-cost algorithm is used, incorporating expert systems advances and artificial intelligence with non-linear optimization all placed on the land using the power of modern geographic information systems.

The system is a synthesizer, seeking to unify expertise from the field, science, business, government, and industry, all directed toward the benefit of people from natural resources contained on or enhanced in the surroundings of each management unit. The unique combination of expertise incorporated in the advancing system has the potential of reducing conflicts and encouraging cooperative efforts and partnerships that are financially beneficial, not only on but near each land unit.

Because planning is poorly defined and because there are many concepts surrounding it, an alternative phrase is needed for this, a new system, that deals with describing and selecting optimum pathways to a desired future. The system presents reasonable thoughtful people with practical, cost-effective ways to that future. The name "guidance system"denotes a dynamic, real-time system on the world wide web (WWW) that provides advice, information, and screened suggestions to responsible decision makers who are working with large, complex, diverse wildland and natural resource systems. Results of the system support and guide decisions. Guidance is evolving to become that system.

The Major Concept

Guidance is a comprehensive, dynamic planning system that aids decision makers by:

  1. Providing an accessible lasting knowledge base for the concepts and principles of wildland planning
  2. Simulating the consequences of proposed managerial decisions
  3. Selecting the best action from among innumerable alternatives
  4. Reporting the overall status of the land and achievement of landowner objectives that exists and that will result from completing a proposed action
  5. Suggesting steps to improve the R index or "score" for an area, showing possible ways to reach the maximum or R*

More Detail

The system:

  1. Is a major part of a concept of a large regional wildland use and management system. (An overview is available.)
  2. Develops a concept of and explanation of desired human benefits
  3. Relates and estimates potential human benefits from the community and its surroundings to these desired benefits
  4. Develops a fundamental array of generalized land uses and practices with costs
  5. Develops a system for estimating the physical consequences (expressed in major benefit categories) of engaging in any of the fundamental uses, practices, and changes in land use
  6. Develops an estimate of the optimum land use system and makes comparisons of the existing or proposed systems to the optimum
  7. Produces decision guidance and planning "documents" showing the state of the community system, proposed (or needed) changes, effects of proposed changes on the state of the system relative to the optimum, and a limited set of suggested optional actions.
  8. Produces alternative media for education and communication about the prescriptions and consequences of changing land use.

Unique Details of Guidance, the System

  1. Centers efforts on an approximate system performance measure
  2. Unifies a variety of information systems and brings access to managers in a useful format
  3. Uses new technologies in a special combination
  4. Acknowledges cooperators and participants
  5. Goes beyond analysis and diagnosis to prescription
  6. Uses the drainage basin or watershed as a unit of management, but not the only one, and grasps the new opportunities provided by Alpha units, the 10 x 10 meter pixel, each being unique in the world
  7. Includes ecological succession (community transition) concepts
  8. Provides practical research questions of high priority for answers
  9. Includes realistic budgeting strategies
  10. Provides access to some relevant law and policy
  11. Is sensitive to regional differences
  12. Is sensitive to unique land use problems of an area
  13. Provides a missing union among personnel during periods of rapid turnover
  14. Provides unique algorithms for main topics of current interest such as biodiversity, sustainability, landscape ecology, ecosystem management, indicator species, old growth or ancient forests, and minimum viable populations
  15. Provides communication of the plan as part of the planning process, helping citizens integrate the technical aspects of management with political, social, economic and personal factors
  16. Helps citizens make sense of the confusing array of facts, falsehoods, metaphors, unknowns, and value statements about the environment in general, and to understand the consequences of actions on a land unit
  17. Includes international dimensions related to education, transfer of technology, and cooperative management in animal-related, migration-related areas.
  18. Includes adaptive strategies and tactics
  19. Includes both long- and short-term planning elements
  20. Has a theoretical and conceptual support base in a series of electronic publications (i.e., Lasting Forests)
  21. Seeks to provide balance, completeness, accuracy, consistency, and clarity in decision-making
  22. Provides a rich learning experience for users, especially managers and other people new to an area
  23. Provides briefing and media aids
  24. Places decision-making responsibilities with land owners and/or their managers
  25. Integrates hundreds of factors and values and presents the integration in the most understandable way possible at the time
  26. Preserves group memory and area history
  27. Provides leaders' letters - planning-progress reports to cooperators, governmental agencies, and legislators
  28. Attends to editorial and budgetary details
  29. Unifies the now-conflicting premises of centralized or dispersed planning
  30. Encourages relations with agencies and cooperators
  31. Avoids the complaint of a plan being "that dusty-book-on-the-shelf" for Guidance is in the computer (and parts, or all of it, can be printed on paper..

See early notes on the system description.

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Last revision January 17, 2000.