Rural System's

A Proposed Planning System : GeorgA

It is one thing to have a vision of or for the Forest but it must be reasonable and coupled with practical realities, things that are known and ready to emerge, and financially within reach. There is a vision of an achievable system that can produce a plan for the near-future world that will result in a superior Forest with sustained human benefits.

GeorgA is a proposed prototype of a system for creating a Forest plan and allowing it to be updated as needed. It can likely be used on on other Forests. In addition to information for making decisions, it presents a scoring technique, one that shows how the system may be changing. The system is strongly focused on human objectives and on performance. Decisions implemented on the land (proposed or actual) are characterized by:

  1. Being holistic and comprehensive
  2. Being dynamic
  3. Combining and highly interrelating many existing USFS and other databases, programs, and modules
  4. Exploiting the synergism among these subsystems
  5. Having a computer-based objectives development system with high public participation
  6. Employing multivariate statistical analyses
  7. Having computer models for the map cells of a geographic information system
  8. Providing simulations of forest ecosystems, both deterministic and stochastic
  9. Using non-linear optimization, achieving objectives at a low cost or impact over a 150-year planning period, selecting the best action or alternative, given a set of objectives, constraints and probabilities
  10. Using expert system technology and concepts
  11. Simulating the consequences of possible actions
  12. Identifying the factor (s) to which the system performance measure is most sensitive
  13. Being tentative with strong corrective and improvement forces (system feedback, sometimes called adaptive management)
  14. Automating managerial report preparation
  15. Making available expert managerial syntheses, reviews, and summaries
  16. Providing automated public press releases
  17. Having practical and futuristic analyses
  18. Providing descriptions and inventory
  19. Providing monitoring (trend analyses)
  20. Guiding and justifying future studies and research
  21. Having appropriate security and limited access for reading and writing to files
The entire systems deals with on- and off-site management decision effects within the Forest. It is proposed as an example of how an extremely complex land unit can be comprehensively included in a system ... suggesting the same system can be used in other Forests of the Eastern U. S.

It is reasonable to be skeptical of such a model. The promise has often exceded the expectation. There are several reasons why this effort is different, reasons why such a system has not been created before:

Most of those reasons have changed or are changing as needs increase. The work can now be done.

The Forest is a microcosm of Service-wide contentions and opportunities. GeorgA specifically addresses in "chapters" or units with text, maps, and local analyses:

  1. Sustained yield
  2. Ground water
  3. Multiple-use
  4. Biodiversity -- several concepts
  5. Trout and stream fishery
  6. The lake and reservoir fisheries
  7. Landscape patterns and corridors (Harris 1984, Forman and Godrun 1986)
  8. Geographic information system (GIS) use
  9. Minimum viable populations
  10. Genetic diversity
  11. Soil erosion and best management practices
  12. Scenery and viewscapes
  13. Historic sites and archaeology
  14. Integrated pest damage management
  15. Old growth and ancient forests
  16. Public participation
  17. Automated first-cut impact analyses
  18. Special use areas
  19. Game and non-game management
  20. Threatened and endangered species
  21. Grazing
  22. Adjacent ownerships
  23. Mining
  24. Road closure and off-road vehicle use
  25. Trail use.

The Forest contains most of the array of problems likely encountered in the eastern U.S. The system will be faulted because it will not be big enough (some will want a regional system). It will be too precise for some people; too gross for others. It will be expensive to create, but no more than the cost of a single year planning effort and then it can be maintained and distributed for its use elsewhere and over time. "Expensive" is a relative concept. It will cost less than any 2 court cases, less than 5 miles of forest road, less than losing one species, less than losing the favor of 200,000 voters by one legislator. In preliminary estimates, expected benefits to expected costs exceed 5 to l over the first 10 years of use.

No scientific "breakthroughs" are needed. The proposed work is based on a new formulation of work over the past 20 years to develop a practical tool with self-adaptive features.

The system is largely "non-linear." It operates with a complex set of thresholds and constraints, uses curvilinear, multidimensional ecological succession and state transition functions (forest yield curves being an example), uses information on spatial arrangements (e.g., erosion from uphill sites or influence of private cropland on forest deer forage), uses a concept of zone-of-influence of any action, and allows any optional action to be studied (a simulation) and compared to an optimization run (the standard). Not an energetics model," the system uses energy throughout in parallel with other analyses as a fundamental modeling theme and as a basis for examining "costs"

Because the project is large (appropriate for the magnitude of agency problems and relations with other individuals and groups and dodging the piecemeal approaches of the past), a simplistic sketch may be useful.

A computer-aided project management system allows all of these parts to proceed simultaneously to a rapid conclusion in 3 years. We hasten to add that as a living, continuing, continually revised and corrected system it must be used and maintained for full benefits to be derived. Some reasonable, tentative commitment to its longterm use is essential. If absent, it should not be developed for time, expertise, and funds will be wasted.


GeorgA deals with the Forest and its immediate environment but also has state, national and even international dimensions (carbon sequestering, certification and export policy, and visitors and ecotourism).

No one, no computer or system, "knows" the future. It must always be predicted. Predictions can be improved; the magnitude of the difference between the actual and previously-decided condition can usually be reduced by the system.

There are great gaps in human knowledge about all aspects of economics, ecology, and other areas of concern in the management of forested lands. Filling these gaps requires much modern research and new strategies for gaining knowledge.This system is built so that it contains all relevant components and topics, even if knowledge from detailed research is not yet available. Rather than wait for all knowledge in all components at high levels of confidence, this system attempts to improve decisions

The context of the system and the scale have prevented certain assumptions from being made because it was unreasonable to do so. (For example, excessive wood production may deflate wood prices so that profits to people of the area may decline, even though wood production increases.) These out-of-Forest, market level changes are not computed. Systems design is for the hardware currently available. Changes in hardware are expected.

Only people who could work harmoniously on the objectives of the system under the constraints are recruited.

Only a reasoned set of possible typical, "projects" or proposed types of land use changes were included although the entrepreneurial concepts of Rural System are encouraged for study and development. By working toward capabilities in the named fields,
and emphasizing the fundamental dimensions of any resource, namely

and working with space being organized as it will be possible to create a system useful in assisting in a high proportion of difficult and risky decisions.

The system will not make decisions.

The system will not take risks.

The system will not establish objectives (only elicit them from managers and the publics) or any of their parameters. (It does, however, provide a methodology for studying the effects of altering different assumptions and dimensions of the objectives.)

These limitations are not seen as weakness but are a clear transparent statement of part of the context of the system and thus expectations for it and its results.

The Major GeorgA Project Objectives

To create a comprehensive expert system for aiding in

  1. providing knowledge about the Forest,
  2. simulating the consequences of proposed managerial decisions,
  3. selecting the best action from among alternatives, and
  4. reporting the status (Q*) of the Forest.

Sub- Objectives:

1To develop a concept of and explanation of desired human benefits from single National Forests (the George Washington National Forest Prototype).

2To relate and estimate potential human benefits from National Forest and to these desired benefits.

3To develop a fundamental array of generalized land uses and practices with costs.

4To develop a system for estimating the physical consequences (expressed in major benefit categories) of engaging in any of the fundamental uses and practices.

5To develop an estimate of the optimum land use system and to make comparisons of the existing or proposed systems to the optimum.

6To produce decision guidance and planning "documents" showing the state of the system, proposed (or needed) changed, effects of proposed changes on the state of the system relative to the optimum, and a limited set of suggested optional actions.

Each objective will be discussed briefly. Details will be provided.

1Objective 1- Human Benefits

The concept of happiness is such an indeterminate one that even though everyone wishes to attain happiness, yet he can never say definitively and consistently what it is that he really wishes and wills.

Immanual Kant

Past modeling efforts in comprehensive forest and land management have failed because of poorly stated or overly simplistic objectives (e.g., maximize profits, minimize sedimentation). It has also seemed to fail because all people were assumed to have the same objectives or equally-valued objectives, or that objectives of different groups seemed to cancel out each other. In some cases people's objectives were assumed to be inestimable , i.e., that only computer simulation was used to estimate effects of projects with descriptions only of the physical effects of proposed actions. GeorgA emphasizes gaining clear, precise estimates of objectives (called by Nute et al. (2000:359) operationalizing them)...with continual testing and revision of the estimates.

The general system of general systems theory shown here is used. Modified, it includes the elements of "start" and feedforward (modifying the present based on predictions).

The proposed system is not an ecosystem model( Rauscher et al. 2000); it is more comprehensive and contains several other major components. It includes people, their economics and esthetics. It depends upon professionals to create a subsystem to quantify objectives with public help. Then it allows staff to seek realistic valuation of these objectives in terms of:

  1. the named resource
  2. the selected unit of measure (e.g., board foot)
  3. desired quantities (number of units needed or "demand"),
  4. relative importance of each unit desired (relative value of a unit),
  5. the risks of failing to achieve those amounts,
  6. realistic limits to production,
  7. needs for variety, and
  8. resource substitutability (e.g., a bear for a deer?).

The composite expression of desired benefits is Q*

It is possible to evaluate the benefits currently being produced by or potentially derived from the present Forest system. These are symbolized as b. The longterm progress of the system is seen in B* computed as

B* = ((B - b) / B) x 100

The perfect score is 100 when the system is "right on" the objective (or very near it, say within no more than 2% or at least 80% of the stated objective). These are called the bounds of the objective and are a managerial policy decision. It is undesirable to exceed the objective (suggesting excessive allocation of funds). Under achievement may be budgetary as well as from fire or other assault on the system.

The complex details of obtaining B*, B, or b are available to the public, but most citizens will be pleased if a high score or progressive improvement in B* can be shown. B* as well as the system score, Q,of course, will reflect forest fires, tornadoes or hurricanes, mismanagement, adverse political intrusion, and outside edicts such as land confiscation for utility corridors.

Individual decisions usually have costs to the U. S. Forest Service. Alternatives can be evaluated in terms of maximizing the likely benefits over time (say a 150 year planning horizon, T) by selecting an option

Q* = ( Et B*t) / C*t

(a simple purchase or a complex program or project) by attempting to maximize the "expected benefits" (where Et is the probability or certainty of a benefit in a future year) per unit of "expected discounted cost", C*. The cost includes inflation, changing resource value, etc.(Overton and Hunt 1974).Costs in dollars will be expressed as current and 2000 dollars. Costs will also be evaluated in terms of expected kilocalories of energy or fossil-fuel equivalents. Q* is subject to a large set of constraints.

This is an unconventional benefit-to-cost ratio. Benefits can be translated with difficulty and debate; real current monetary values can be suggested by the proposed conglomerate. Properly distributing costs to benefits (or assigning impacts) when complex projects are developed (e.g., a road, a dam, a multi-acre wildlife-area development) is at least as problematic as evaluating the worth of wilderness or wildlife. Just as gross system performance measures have served well in education, in public economic policy, and in crime analyses, so can Q* serve the Forest.

The system benefit performance is judged in B* the total system performance is judged in Q*.

For every project or any interrogation of the system, the results will be reported in terms of total system benefits.

The system denies a single-purpose or single-interest orientation because there are hundreds of constraints and the large set of objectives requires allocation of some resources, space, etc., for them all to be achieved in some manner. The analyses are for marginal gains, those advancing beyond the natural or current capabilities of the system.

2Objective 2 - Potential Benefits

The methods to be used to estimate potential benefits are categorized in the resource dimensions of (1) energy or matter, (2) time, (3) space, and (4) variety.

The "energy-matter" category include the nominal resources within the highly related or overlapping components of: