All Lands Approach – July 2010 concepts

America’s watersheds, wildlife, water resources, and wild lands exist not only within national forest and grassland boundaries but across broad landscapes of varying ownerships and jurisdictions. All national forests and grasslands are connected in some way to lands beyond their jurisdictional boundaries. The threats facing National Forest System (NFS) lands, like fire, insects and disease, air pollution, and drought don’t recognize property boundaries.  Nor do many of the species dependent on NFS lands, or the benefits coming from them like water, and clean air.  

These realities lead us to the conclusion that NFS managers and the 2011 planning rule must take an all-lands approach to planning, in order to understand the unique role each unit plays (ecologically, socially, and economically) within the broader landscape, how threats and resources are crossing boundaries, how pressures and management of surrounding lands may impact resources or activity on NFS lands, and how each unit’s management plan could be revised or amended as a result.

It is important to note that this approach does not mean that NFS managers would seek to direct or control management of non-NFS lands.  Nor does it mean that NFS managers would conform management to meet non-NFS goals. It does mean that NFS managers would seek to ground planning and management of each unit in an understanding of the roles, values and contributions of NFS lands within a broader, all lands context. 

 How would an all-lands approach work?

 An all-lands approach to assessment would feature collaboration engaging the public early and often to build a common understanding of the roles, values and contributions of NFS lands within the broader landscape.  This phase would include evaluation of existing assessments to understand the condition and trends of natural resources across the region, social/economic indicators in the relevant landscapes, and the management intentions of neighboring landowners. Examples of existing assessments or plans which responsible officials might review include: state forest resource assessments, state wildlife assessments, regional scientific assessments, regional types and availability of recreational access, state and local government plans, and tribal management plans. 

Also in this phase, responsible officials may assess how and where stressors and resources cross ownership boundaries: for example, the assessments may review fire conditions across boundaries, how water moves across the landscape, where critical wildlife corridors exist, or where invasive species or outbreaks of disease are occurring. New social, economic and ecological assessments that set the context for planning may be prepared if necessary for moving forward with the planning process and subject to available funds.

It is important to note that the goal of these assessments would not be to conduct an exhaustive review or take on a huge new research and assessment agenda – taken too far, this new approach could overwhelm managers and the public.  The goal is to implement a workable, practical, and achievable approach to understanding and grounding management within the broader all-lands context.  Managers of each unit would work with the public to identify what assessments and contextual understanding are the most important and could be the most useful in informing the need for and direction of proposed plan amendments or revisions.

Based on the information from the assessments, the responsible official, engaging the public, would identify the unit’s unique role and contributions within the landscape context and potential areas for plan revisions or amendment as a result. 

When revising, and in some cases, amending  land management plans, the responsible official would consider the knowledge gained in the assessment phase and would work with the public to revise or amend management plans.  This phase would include the creation of proposed actions and alternatives in accordance with NEPA and APA, with managers building on relationships developed in the assessment phase to actively engage the public early and often.  In this phase, the unit would identify goals, objectives, and requirements based on managing for the critical roles, contributions, and values of the unit within the landscape.  For example, a plan might describe how the unit will contribute to a regional recovery plan for a far ranging threatened species like the grizzly bear; it might provide guidance for sustainable recreational access based on an understanding of demand in the region; or it might characterize the kinds of areas that might be the highest priority for projects or activities such as hazardous fuel reduction treatments.   

Monitoring  in the all-lands context means that monitoring plans would 1) take into account regional data to understand impacts to and changes on the unit, 2) seek to contribute to monitoring goals for the broader landscape.  Unit-level monitoring would be focused on detecting changes on the unit and determining how well the land management plan is being implemented and how effective management actions are in achieving objectives and moving toward desired conditions. Each NFS unit would be responsible for creating and implementing the unit-level monitoring plan, in conjunction with partners and scientists.  NFS unit supervisors would participate in landscape-scale monitoring plans and strategies, which may be developed collaboratively by one or more regional foresters, Forest Service research station directors, other government entities, private landowners, and others, and would be designed to detect changes caused by stressors outside the control of an individual NFS units. Landscape level and unit level monitoring would complement each other and would be focused on questions related to land management plan implementation.

What are the benefits of this approach?

(1) The all-lands approach will increase mutual understanding of complex issues across landscapes as well as regional conditions and trends. 

(2) The all-lands approach will ground planning and management of each unit in an understanding of the roles, values and contributions of NFS lands within the context of the broader landscape. 

(3) The all-lands approach will foster up-front collaboration that engages the Forest Service with local, state, tribal, and other Federal government agencies as well as with private landowners and citizens groups to build relationships and common understanding BEFORE the NEPA process for plan amendment or revision even begins.

Could “all-lands” planning affect private property or other landowner rights or plans?

The Forest Service only makes decisions about management on National Forest System lands – period. 

But, management on National Forest System lands will be enhanced by understanding and considering the plans and goals for private, tribal, state, and other surrounding lands. Where there are goals in common, such as providing for healthy watersheds, managing wildfire, controlling the spread diseases and pests, management of the unit may be able to complement or contribute to shared goals.  Where management goals are unrelated, different or in conflict, management of the unit can be informed by activity outside the unit boundaries.  By looking at the larger picture, managers can better understand how management choices and actions on and off NFS lands relate to the condition of resources on the unit, the role of the unit in providing certain values, and the actions needed to contribute to or achieve identified objectives and goals on and off the unit.  

Again, this approach does not mean that NFS managers would seek to direct or control management of non-NFS lands.  Nor does it mean that NFS managers would conform management to meet non-NFS goals. It does mean that NFS managers would seek to ground planning and management of each unit in an understanding of the roles, values and contributions of NFS lands within a broader, all lands context. 

So, what’s the catch?

An all-lands approach is a broader scale than typically undertaken by the Forest Service in land management planning. Realistically, the level of collaboration necessary will require additional time, resources, and training to achieve; it will also generate challenges to overcome barriers and improve levels of trust. Assessments and monitoring across landscapes will likely require adjustments in models, maps, and scientific tools and data. Unit managers will need to work with partners and the public to make sure that this approach remains focused, practical, and achievable.  However, investing in collaboration and an all-lands approach can also help land management planning become more effective, efficient, and sustainable, and we believe it is a critical part of responsible stewardship of the National Forest System into the future.

9 Responses to “All Lands Approach – July 2010 concepts”
  1. Fotoware says:

    I would like to think that surrounding private lands might have an effect on how the local public lands are managed. Chances are, if the private forests have been blitzed, more intensive management of public forests would not be implemented. Conversely, if sustainably-managed private forests harbor endangered species, I’d hope that more aggressive restoration projects could go forward in public forests.

    Northeastern California has private forests near Lake Almanor, some of which are intensively (and profitably!) managed as all-aged forests, and harvested carefully and selectively. Their forests are MUCH more resilient and healthy than the surrounding Lassen and Plumas National Forests. I think such a plan might get other lumber companies to re-think their management philosophies, as well, if they could get more timber volume from the Feds by managing their own lands ecologically better.

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  2. M Armstrong says:

    The all lands approach should not be limited to the physical environment. It should include the human environment as well. A post Northwest Forest Plan socio-economic monitoring of forest dependent communities in the Klamath and a 20 year trend review of federal timber harvest and socio-economic trends in Siskiyou County illustrate the direct relationship of Forest use or non-use to the well-being of local human communities. The shift of harvest pressures onto privately owned commercial forests has impacted the sustainability of the wood products infrastructure. We have experienced that if these facilities close, options for fuel management and forest health are severely restrained. There is no cost offset for thinning of stands or reduction of ladder fuels.

    We have also experienced the impact of road closures on access for cultural experiences such as hunting. It also impacts the development of tourism and recreational experiences – particularly when studies show an aging population trend of consumers. The loss of roads can also have a devastating and sometimes life-threatening impact on access for firefighting, protection of adjacent communities, the safety of firefighters traveling in vehicles and evacuation routes.

    Smoke and fire management also has a direct impact on the health and safety of local communities and private property. It can affect respiratory health. It can destroy local events for tourism – such as festivals, which may constitute a large seasonal sector of the economy.

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  3. Fotoware says:

    Here in California, much of the checkerboarded lands around here are owned by Sierra Pacific Industries. Since they are getting less and less timber from the National Forests, they will continue to highgrade and clearcut their own ample but degraded stands of cutover forests. They are also well-equipped with biomass boilers when the market conditions are right. So, if you apply the all-lands principle to California, does that mean even less timber harvesting (sustainable and scientifically-sound) on National Forest lands? With somewhere around 90% of the mills closed, here in California, companies like SPI will continue to hold a monopoly and be able to dictate what the will and won’t bid on. They have “low-balled” the Forest Service many times, and will continue to call the shots when timber does become available again. In the meantime, groups like the Quincy Library Group continue to suck up tax dollars, with no mill to send the products to.

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  4. Ernest Lehmann says:

    Especially if the USFS intends to consider “All Lands,” that is lands and communities in the proximity of National Forest, “All Lands ” should be be reprogrammed and named to “All Lands and All Resources.”
    As we tried to bring out in the Chicago Roundtable meeting, Forest plans need to fully respect the Congress’ multiple use mandate to the USFS. Multiple use means not only considering timber, water protection, and recreation but ALL uses including both leasable and locatable minerals.
    Mineral uses are often the highest and best uses of specific portions of forest lands. Modern mineral exploration and development can be conducted so as to minimize lasting, significant impacts to the environment. MIneral exploration and development create important sources of revenue for the individual forest units themselves. Minerals produced on federal lands provide revenue from a share of royalties payable to local schools and governments and provide an industrial base for adjacent areas, providing high paying jobs, substantial capital investment in the communities and local and state tax revenues.
    The lack of consideration of mineral resources and mineral resource related activities was specifically ignored in the last Forest Plan for the Superior National Forest (Region 9). The later reversal of the SNF position that the prior plan would govern as to minerals, has now caused over four years of delays in exploration activities in a geologically highly prospective but limited area in the forest. It has caused significant loss of income to nearby communities to say nothing of the direct costs to exploration companies and the forest itself.
    The proposed planning rule should specifically state that under an All Lands and All Resources approach forest plans must consider the all possible resources that may provide for the highest and best use of the national forests lands.

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  5. I applaud the “all lands approach” for the NF planning rule to “understand the unique role each unit plays (ecologically, socially, and economically) within the broader landscape…”

    Regarding review of the Statewide Forest Resource Assessments and Strategies, please remember both components are relevant for review and consideration:
    1. Statewide Forest Assessments: provide a statewide context for NF plans, including key forest conditions, trends, threats, etc…
    2. Statewide Forest Strategies: identify broad, long-term strategies for addressing forest-related threats, benefits, and opportunities statewide. Most states, at least in the Northeast and Midwest, are taking an “all lands” approach and have worked with stakeholders and key partners to identify strategies, many of which the stakeholders and partners will help to implement. So, the Statewide Forest Strategies go beyond just the “management intentions of neighboring landowners.”

    In plans and management of the National Forest lands, I think the National Forests have an important role to play in helping to address some of the statewide issues and priorities identified in the State Forest Assessments, and to contribute to some of the strategies outlined in the State Forest Strategies.

    This is a fantastic collaboration opportunity for the National Forests, S&PF, the state forestry agencies, other partners, and most of all for sustaining our nation’s forests!

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  6. Judy Francis says:

    I like the “all lands” approach – its an absolutely necessary strategy to plan for long-term ecological health at the landscape and community scale – and does not have to exclude cultural issues. However – this comprehensive approach will require the agency to engage others in ways not previously demonstrated. I am excited that this is an option being seriously considered – but it will require the agency to be administratively agile and more commited to the public process than it has historically been.

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  7. Landscape scale scoping is critically important to truly ascertain appropriate management practices. The impact of human intervention has heretofore often been sequestered to agency jurisdiction rather than geographic and watershed scale analysis of conditions.
    The emphasis on the ecological issues is mandatory and should take precedents over other variables related to policy making for many reasons. The environmental conditions on the ground have for millennia defined cultural identities of people groups. The momentum of deeply entrenched cultural proclivities based on environmental conditions that have a long history of being abused or that no longer exist often leads to the irretrievable loss of species and watershed characteristics.
    I feel there is a great opportunity to develop a culture of restoration that has the ultimate potential of revitalizing the landscape for real sustainable interaction with the landscape. A culture that preserves what remains of late seral natural conditions and poises the rest to develop those characteristics within the context of sustainable management practices.
    Long term vision is what we have lacked. We have not interacted realistically with our forests. We’ve acted impulsively as though there was no end to biological resilience. We were wrong.
    We are not self-collected yet to achieve this “culture of restoration”. It is quintessential to develop it if we are ever going to have a “culture of sustainable interaction” with our natural resources. We are ready to venture forward to begin it. Conditions on the ground give us no other alternative.
    There is too much inertia dedicated to circumventing sustainable management practices. There is too great a sense of vulnerability on the part of those that would venture forward on a true experiment of large scale restoration.
    My hope is for the opportunity to *safely* develop such an experimental model within Region 6.

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  8. Kelly Turner says:

    I agree that looking at things from a landscape approach is a good way to view the lands. Unfortunately, you are still only looking at one side of the picture, the natural resource side, and ignoring the cultural resource side. Which is really too bad, considering the fact that the cultural resources specialists have been studying the concepts of landscapes for a very long time (since the 1960s) and could probably provide the people developing these ideas with some really good information on patterns of land use. Cultural Resource experts have long understood that cultural landscapes are influenced by and depend on natural resources and processes and because of this cultural landscape reports address the dynamic inherent in natural processes and systems, as well as the relationship between natural and cultural resources in the various landscapes. In developing this “All Lands Approach” the agency is conveniently forgetting that cultural use of the landscape has been occurring and affecting the lands for thousands of years. It is a major part of the equation that is being left out of the overall picture. It’s also a little sad that the agency continues to talk about improving the relationship between the agency and the various Tribes it deals with yet all the language coming out of Washington D.C. continues to be only about the natural side of the organization. Based on this fact, the question I have to ask is “How can you possibly imagine that you are going to improve relationships with the various partners across the county if you can’t even improve the partnership that is supposed to exist within the agency between the Natural side of things and the Cultural side of things? Are you going to ignore the issues with the external partners the way the cultural resources are ignored within the agency?”

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  9. Michael Harper says:

    Great approach! This has the real potential of weaving the Forest Plan issues with the local issues into a mutually beneficial set of plans.

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