Introduction and Vision
Vision is Part one of the plan model.
The vision provides direction for management and describes the roles and contributions (niche) of National Forest System lands.
It describes the desired conditions of the landscape, the disturbance processes, and the benefits and experiences that these lands can supply. It contains monitoring measures to assess progress toward desired conditions.
We think the Forest faces a large set of major problems that need to be addressed by a plan. They may not be solved (or solvable) but there needs to be evidence that they were considered and an effort was made to take some of the edge off them.
These changes that we suggest are required because of:
We have to start with the perceived budgetary realities. The US Forest Service is affected by a national budget situation, one driven by record deficits, the decline of the timber industry, and the new "healthy forests" law aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
The overall Forest Service budget now seems to be cut by over 5.5 percent, to about $4 billion. The cuts come from within state and private forestry programs, maintenance of facilities, and about $20 million in funds for land acquisition. The cutbacks seem shortsighted and can severely limit the ability of local communities to prevent and fight wildfires (the top of some community lists of needs) - to significant improvements in the national planning process, now recognized as very inefficient, perhaps ineffective. New White River National Forest supervisor Maribeth Gustafson said the economy of many communities near the White River National forest is based on recreation and her focus will be on trying to meet those growing demands. Balancing human use and the conservation of natural resources is a never-simple task that has become more difficult in times of chronic Forest Service budget woes.
It is likely that some $283 million will be cut in fire management programs, also 41 percent cut ($118 million) for maintenance of Forest Service facilities. Such deficit-reducing moves seem likely to cost taxpayers greatly in the future. Campgrounds and trailheads are being closed because of the costs of maintenance. They just cannot be afforded. Ranger stations are being closed; Planning staff are being moved.
We are at the stage that in our opinion, the planning work can and perhaps needs to be stopped. The work on the Forest, one with inadequate budget, is simply one of minor administration, monitoring and inspection, and law enforcement. A plan might need to be created for such a situation. One is needed (evidently with options) for the future. If any funds are available, than the benefits possible from unmanaged components of the Forest might be emphasized by an information/education staff. The gains can be continued from the existing natural, unmanaged resources of the Forest. Under any scenario, the Forest must be protected from fire, insects, disease, and vertebrate pests, and invasives, then from trespass and poachers. There is no employee time or effort for sophisticated management. The need is for "shutting down" with full disclosure of the reasons.
"What we ask our folks to do is to take the money that they get from Congress and use it effectively as they can," he said. "We want them to be very aware of what the constituents of the forest want and need . … and despite a tight budget, those constituents still want quality recreation, protection from wildfire, and forest restoration," David Tenney (assistant undersecretary of the Natural Resource and Conservation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture) said. "The Forest Service is finding ways to cut costs and still provide services," said Tenney. "What we expect our folks on the ground to do is be very aware of what those priorities ought to be from the standpoint of the community."
Unless there is another option, the herein-proposed public-private conglomerate may suffice. Perhaps it is the only available alternative with high immediate probability for success.
The Columbia Basin Parallel
Under court order, the legal, policy, ecological, and planning dimensions of public land management have been scrutinized for the Interior Columbia Basin. The Forest can learn from that experience and use ecoregional assessment for integrated policy analysis as described in a Journal of Forestry article by that title (Quigley et al. 1998). It now has the GIS tools to assist. The assessment can give decision makers both public and private understanding of the risks and opportunities in tactics available. Important goals are said to be enhancing or maintaining ecological integrity and maintaining the resilience of social and economic systems. Ecological integrity is "the degree to which all ecological components and their interactions are represented and functioning." Resilience is "the degree to which systems adapt to change." Quigley and colleagues developed a composite rating system from the integrity scores for the main parts of the rural system. High scores reflect the degree to which ecosystem functions and processes are present and operating. Resilience scores reflect human population density, economic diversity, and lifestyle diversity. Management techniques were grouped to suggest possible effects on the ratings and means for reducing risks on both public and private lands. Similar analyses and mapping should be undertaken, perhaps with Southern Station assistance, to improve the procedure, gain the advantages offered, and avoid the parallel litigation of the Basin controversies.
It seems to us that if a general system could be developed, then forest plans that are very similar, could be developed in unison, that common regulations, laws and guidelines might apply, and that amendments and addendums can be made that make the general system fairly specific for each Forest, then a system can be made that produces results specific for each Ranger District. Past this, we citizens and our "involvement" begin to usurp the power, knowledge, and responsibilities for the ever-developing expertise of the local District Ranger.
The general perceived Forest Service attitude has changed in mysterious ways. Those who attended the 26th Annual Texas Wilderness Pow Wow (2005) heard that "After 30 years it is safe to say our relationship has changed," (Texas Committee on Natural Resources). "As a citizen conservation group we are an activist group …Through the years the committee has focused its attention on the management practices of the U.S. Forest Service, working through both the legislative and judicial branches as necessary….. In the early years, TCONR served as a counter-balance to the U.S. Forest Service." Noting the resolved lawsuits between the two parties, they said "We are definitely living in different times now and it is safe to say the U.S. Forest Service is a different agency now. We are entering a new era with the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Forest Service is reaching out to TCONR... and TCONR is developing a good relationship with the U.S. Forest Service."
A patch-up and minor-revision effort will not meet these influences and changes affecting the past plans forcefully. Daily problems and policy issues, including denegrating the importance of planning, have been distracting. Thus, as "citizen involvement" we suggest the following changes.
Direction for Management (reference the official Vision statement above)
Citizens and staff are very aware of and informed about the legal bases, regulations, handbook, and manual of the US Forest Service. We know that these will be changed by established processes. We shall continue to participate in informing those changes.
We also know that there has been an evolution of concepts and thought-provoking phrases that have influenced establishing, funding, managing, and protecting the National Forests. We are aware of the changing roles of laws and policies and "Executive Orders" and directives. We are especially aware of the evolution of concepts, perhaps best called "policies" such as
We predict continuing evolution, for these have been serviceable political terms, not having the precision of scientific words and first-use priority of definitions. They have not had the related needs for clear, broad-scale public understanding. We are distressed by the "physical ecosystem" emphasis (the denotation) of the current banner of "ecosystem management," an undue emphasis apparent when so many needs of forest lands and the entire National Forest System, Research and State and Private sectors included, are socio-economic and political. Of course they are all related, but the term misplaces emphasis, like discussing ducks when the topic is waterfowl. The term connotes little of the importance of gas and minerals, access and transportation issues, air quality, landscape views, or the dynamics of resources over great periods of time….or of communities of woods-workers, or of people within ecosystems (in contrast to outside of them and affected by or managing them). Perhaps within the plan there may be a more comprehensive vision, one of a total system, one for humans over the far distant future, one not only for citizens but all people, one demonstrating the best of land use for a set of stated objectives such as might be held by nearby private land owners and small communities, one encouraging and dynamically responding to results of research and development, past and present. The people (made impersonal by "public") want their federal agency to do things that individuals and private groups cannot do alone, manage on different scales of space and time, seek basic models, assist in overcoming catastrophe, advance new theory, link countries, assess world effects on their US forests, show new ways to gain resource benefits from the same lands while storing energy and enhancing that multi-dimensional space. We know there is no single word or phrase for a concept as large, diverse, complex, complicated and related as these ideas, and thus we have used in our suggestions made-up words (without prior meaning…and then defined), Greek letters, and acronyms. We believe that by continuing using simple, well-known words and trying to re-define them to mean large, complex, changing concepts does not, and will not, serve the Forest well.
For example, we believe that "watershed" is now outdated, inadequate, and usually improper for the complex management of all of the resources of most Forest land units. (It remains adequate only for sediment, peakflow, and flow rate and a few fishery phenomena.) We believe the alpha unit, (the 10 x 10 meters cell or pixel of the GIS) is the appropriate unit. Each watershed has so many ecosystems within it that discussing both "watersheds" and "ecosystems" with the general public in the same meetings on a single topic cannot be good, even harmful to the Forest.
For another example, emphasis on "scientific land management" may not serve the Forest well, given both the difficulties of the scientific community (ethics, data falsification, drug recalls, etc.), disputes over research motives, the high costs relative to the gains, the private uses of public science, the continuing philosophical issues related to researchable topics, and the range of differences within scientific communities in the nature of expertise required, required accuracy, precision, and confidence. Even debates over "qualitative vs quantative research" add to difficulties. We now suggest a phrase like "continuing to build a practical knowledge base." See the Inquire suggestion.
We have tried but now know that the word "wildland" works poorly, for it does not readily include water and there is more urban and residential interest than in the wilds…which are no longer remote and having low human presence.
"Conservation" has had its meaning criticized since the 1930's and gains nothing, even further misleading the public and its general meaning is further narrowed by "conservation biology" interests.
We believe that the above official statement about the Vision can be interpreted as for one about the Forest itself or about the way it is planned.
We suggest as a vision of the Forest itself:
What if the vision of the Forest plan was one of well-directed management of the Forest, that vision named and described as GeorgA (or some other assigned name)? We suggest the vision of the plan become that. We believe that the power of NED-2, a major system for forest and related land use developed by the USDA-Forest Service can be employed. Often the vision of the plan which is descriptive as well as predictive seems to be the same as the vision of the Forest itself when the plan is implemented.
The vision of the plan could be stated meeting the criteria outlined in the Preface or it could be as:
GeorgA is a modern sophisticated approach to planning. It is a dynamic planning system, describing George Washington National Forest management now and for the future. It is comprehensive, descriptive as well as predictive and prescriptive. It is described in the accompanying documents and may be of interest to and used by other nearby National Forests.
The vision of the planning system should go on to describe:
That GeorgA, the system and its approach, has the following characteristics:
|The dark line fluctuating system performance measure Q is shown with A the objective; B, the upper bound of the objective; D, the lower bound; C, inadequate performance, probably from many causes; E also under-performance but probably from a catastrophe; and F, balanced performance with knowledge, adequate financial resources, and superior management.|
While there exist excellent parts of the present plan and planning process, we contend that the above is needed. It is our vision of what sophisticated modern national forest management should be. We are willing to work toward these ends.
We recommend starting with clarifying objectives. The desired condition of the land should be the condition that best meets our objectives…there are limits and changes and conflicts, but we have management to keep trying…and what it can supply now may not compare well to anything it can or will provide tomorrow.
Role and Contributions of National Forest System Lands
These are things of the Forest (most of which are called "resources") that can be used and need management and from which, classically, "goods and services" (collectively "benefits, now classified as services, products, opportunities, views, ideas, information, memberships and social relations, and memories) can be secured. (Diverse dispersed outdoor recreation is discussed under "ranging." Geologic forms, soil, and climate are seen as basic elements of the Forest from which the above are extracted or dependent.)
See related policy and legislative dimensions of this proposal
See Center for Policy Alternatives.
From the Forest Service Foundation: "However, it is important to understand that the word "partnership" also has a more precise meaning according to federal policy. Federal policy defines partnerships as "arrangements that are voluntary, mutually beneficial, and entered into for the purpose of mutually agreed upon objectives." In this definition, "mutual benefit" specifically means that each partner shares in the benefits the project provides."
Production is not viewed as classical plant or animal growth but as outputs of benefits by several enterprises. These may include classical production but to them we add ideas, manufactured products, computer software, artistic expressions, safety and security operations, and services such as offices, warehouses, and motor pools and parking. It must do so now or soon, conspicuously. That message must be clear. It will be most clear when costs are reduced, benefits increased, and jobs (throughout the diverse enterprises of the public-private enterprise) are announced. The Forest can be a place producing profits, not exclusively from logging and its related activities. That message will be seen clearly in the graphs of the sustained ecosystem index, Q, along with graphs of growth in local taxes and employment.
One logger was told about the proposed conglomerate. He was told about the private owner of timberland who could elect to enter his land with the conglomerate. He summarized, "all you seem to be doing is providing an annual income!" He was right, for lack of it is a major reason for owners not investing in forest land, reforesting, and managing land well for superior financial gains over the longrun. That affects the owner, logger, and region.
We have a vision of the Forest as an area on which a grand experiment is developed and studied, that of the Forest as a natural resource and rural business powerbase. This is a modern-world vision, not of a national forest or the George Washington National Forest with the simplistic identity as "a place with trees (and other resources)." This not the classical idea of National Forests helping the economy of a region by logging and mill work. It is not the general glossary definition of an area having "Social and Economic Elements. The variety of tangible and intangible uses, values, products, services, opportunities, and benefits provided by National Forest System lands."
The vision is that of a unified system of resources, people, knowledge, and expert performance. It is that of the likely center of high regional quality of life, an entrepreneurial "commons," a core of economic presence and development. This is the place for a new public / private partnership, one between the Forest and either a new company (e.g., Rural System), an ad hoc local committee of stock holders, or a unique not-for-profit corporation, and they with affiliates. The Forest encourages use of its land in legal and supervised ways. The new partnership grows with employee-owned and citizen-owned principles. Over 50 small businesses are suggested, all working together from a single unit, incubator like, the headquarters of a new conglomerate. Employment is stabilized, the tax base is increased, and by agreement, part of the "profits" is allocated to maintaining and improving the resource base of the Forest. The developing enterprise works with the forest, but also for the betterment and maintenance of the Forest. The businesses are those of the Forest but also of the surrounding private lands and other supported enterprises. The collective businesses, the total conglomerate, work as a diverse stock portfolio, diverse and profitable. Educated crews with designed equipment, for example, do contract logging. There are jobs for guides, services, foods, computer work, equipment sales, etc.
New commitments are sought from other agencies and commissions (e.g., the Alleghany Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the National Forest Foundation, and state rural and economic development offices) and they are encouraged to join. Wildlife management and a modern fishery (described later) is practiced by the partnership, as approved, on the Forest and throughout the region, avoiding the instabilities of license sales and other state-agency game and fish problems. It brings entrepreneurial control over the full range of responsibilities assigned by law to the Forest but now clouded by past arrangements, letters of intent, memoranda of understanding, and pronouncements.
This new Forest and its region are much more than a place, a landscape.
The Desired Conditions of the Landscape
We mark major viewing sites from roads and 5-10 mountain crests (not all), then analyze the potential viewshed up to 2 miles. Class A1 lands are those in the viewshed and region but outside of the Forest ownership boundary. These are where private development may affect scenic quality of the Forest and developers need to have such information readily available. Contests after their planning and development for such area use is usually wasteful to all parties.
We know that streamside and riparian zones have been recommended for deletion but to do so can reduce the Forest to being largely inoperable. The limits can and should be explored with new variable widths used with GIS including soil, slope, and aspect maps with "revised-with-GPS" channel maps. The resultant map is of Class B land and that for intensive immediate analyses. This is the area likely for intensive timber management. We believe that selection silviculture can be done effectively in the streamside zone when so analyzed.
Much of the Forest, available to hikers, hunters, berry pickers, and mushroom gatherers and others is mapped as being in its predominant land resource service role as regulator of water, modifier of temperatures, and for housing and feeding diverse wild animals. Some of these areas are steep or inaccessible areas and are used in planned and tightly controlled non-timber forest product production (Jones et al. 2002).
We know from quick analyses that every alpha unit within this remaining area is potentially unique. We next delimit wetland forests because these will require special attention for equipment, access, ecological studies for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, seasonal work, etc. They are in a high- cost category. Using our slope, 2 aspect types, elevation, nearness to ridges and channels, and cove condition maps, we determine within Class B area the vegetation, the GeorgA "forest type" sites for dry hardwoods, mesic hardwoods, white oaks, dry conifers, white pines, and "other." There are thus 6 categories (map colors) closely related to potential natural vegetation but not engaging the complexities of that topic.(cf. Johnson et al. 1999:53-59, Ecological classification: why ecological classification is important to ecological stewardship. Over time, refinements (system feedback, (not experimental or adaptive as described by Holling 1978) but as re-described and changed by A. Malk et al. 1999:207-213) may be made. We move to well known sites, easily described areas, and know that different things will occur on these sites due to past fires, harvests, vandalism, etc. We drive roads and highways with GPS devices in hand, make observations, and use existing knowledge or databases to determine the likely dominant adult tree age in each such mapped site. (We may have to visit 5% of the remaining sites within 2 years.) We use area-proportional sampling and a rationally robust approach (Giles et al. 1993). We have an excellent working Landsat land cover map of the major forest communities of the Forest and can begin to apply feedback and corrective work to it (Morton 1998). In the meantime, we can gain inputs from the state wildlife information systems and evaluate the probable species and community diversity of these areas.
For maximum forest diversity as defined by many and when using the Shannon-Weiner index, the Forest is most diverse when it has equal acres in each age class within each type. (Age classes are in 5-year intervals to age 100, then and assigned to be in the class "over 110" to 150 years of the planning horizon. This can now be estimated and then the goodness and consequences can be seen and debated on this forest. The forest does not yet have to attain it, only see it and its meaning and consequences to the other forest benefits. How the theory of the distribution just described as being "best" can be difficult to derive, but needs to be. What may be good for salamanders may be very poor for shrews… or…?
There are algorithms (Giles 1990, Waldon, 1975) for scheduling forest harvests to derive a stable supply of probable available benefits from valued plant and animal species. NED-2 also has such units. The ex post distribution of acres by types and ages has not been estimated. The optimum distribution of trees to achieve a desired diversity index may not be, as assumed by some people, to be optimum for all species of biota (apparently assumed for most proponents of "diversity"). Regular harvesting with silvicultural design is needed to maintain the desired ages within each type if one major standard of "diversity" is to be achieved. This decision about proper conditions for diversity needs to be formally debated for "this egg cannot be unscrambled." Stephen Boyce, however, commented to the author that examples of a single long-standing silvicultural practice are very difficult to find. Major revisions of marking rules, harvest guides, and area limits and drastic changes in practices when District staff change all suggest lack of understanding or control. The desired precision specified in plans may not be found in the residual forest.
The Disturbance Processes
The Benefits and Experiences that Lands Can Supply
The Forest has been a caretaker of the land, allowing some minor and poorly accounted uses and issuing permits and contracts for limited private use. Under current budgets and human pressures and under a strongly and oft-stated desire (or set of objectives) for sustained ecological conditions and sustained economic conditions, caretaking (still needed) will not suffice. Increasing funds are needed to maintain the status quo under present pressures. Demands increase; the status quo is not achievable with the present administrative conditions. Day-pass and recreation-user fees are inadequate, costly to administer, and politically infeasible.
The Forest can become the powerbase of the region. When the potential measurable, personal, community-specific financial benefits are clearly seen, then there can become a sustained and sustainable Forest within a vital region. It will have reasonable potentials for now and the potentials of globalization for the future. Herein we are not describing outmoded concepts of the role of forestry in regional development (Kromm 1972, Gregerson 1973. or Bliss 1988). We see the array of tree- and wildlife- and other-resources-related potentials of the Forest for the region as planners did for Michigan, i.e., "Strengthen and diversify Michigan's economy through forest resource development. Strategies include encouraging expansion of the wood products industry, assuring adequate timber supplies, improving wood products utilization, promoting forest-based recreation and tourism, and enhancing wildlife and fish habitat."
We request local documents, workshops, and local conferences on the applications of the findings in Richardson's (1996) bibliography.
By design, clear personal incentives can create a new regional spirit of cooperation (at least for likely personal gain). The ecosystem principles (energetics, diversity, conservation, succession, modeled relationships, regulation and control, waste processing, etc.; see Perry, 1994) can be made to work within the regional human system. Significant annual financial gains for citizen-owners of forestlands of the region can be gained from enrolling and becoming Rural System Tracts, thus participating in computer-aided regional natural resource management - profits with adequate protection.
There are many ways to imagine this powerbase concept and describing it must be rudimentary and exploratory, but it can be suggested for software, forestry, fishery, wildlife, wilderness, range and pasturelands, and ecotourism and ranging. In them all, harvesting millions of dollars of public funds (USDA forestry and other research centers and participants) already spent to get research results needs to be clear (We propose encouraging, but not funding, more research for 3 years).
|Not just the maps and map layers are important but also the data that can be requested and studied for analyzing land suitability for different uses|
The Valles Caldera Trust was created by the Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 to preserve and protect the historic Baca Ranch of New Mexico's Jemez Mountains. The groundbreaking legislation that provided for the federal purchase of this 89,000-acre ranch nestled inside a volcanic caldera also created a unique experiment in public land management.
A nine-member board of trustees is responsible for the protection and development of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Seven of its members are appointed by the President of the United States. In addition, the current Superintendent of nearby Bandelier National Monument and the Forest Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest also serve on the board. All board decisions are made in public meetings.
In August of 2002, the management authority for the new piece of public land was transferred to the Valles Caldera Trust. With the prospect of the opportunities presented by a blank slate, the board began its work. This work includes continuing ranch operations while opening the preserve to visitors. We are using science-based adaptive management to inform our management and decision-making on the preserve.
Today, the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Valles Caldera Trust are still works in progress. With a small but creative staff, we're working to find ways to meaningfully include the public in the development of our programs and planning. (A non-proft, 501(c)(1) organization, the trust can accept donations.)
We need a change in the past plan so that the new Forest plan can provide the means to answer for the seriously-concerned citizen:
"How is the Forest going?"
And, because the Forest official knows that behind the question is a good answer to "as compared to what?"can satisfy the inquirer with:
"Our Q value is 83, up from 72 just last month! We're moving on up!"
Return to George Washington National Forest Planning central page
Contact R.H. Giles, Jr. for questions or comments.
May 13, 2012