People and the Environment – July 2010 concepts

People and the environment—communities and their landscapes—are inseparable and interdependent. People throughout America depend on National Forest System (NFS system) lands including national forests, grasslands and prairies for innumerable values, ecosystem services and goods vital to the well-being of society. 

Even those who live some distance from a national forest boundary, for example, benefit from the clean water, clean air, flood and erosion control, forest products, diverse economic opportunities, habitats for fish and wildlife species, cultural and historical sites, and beautiful natural places for recreation and spiritual rejuvenation provided by NFS lands. 

We heard from our publics that they want the planning rule to recognize the importance of multiple uses and the economic and social values provided by NFS lands while balancing those benefits among local, regional and national interests and the long term health and productivity of the land. We recommend that the 2011 planning rule specifically acknowledge and reinforce the linkages between people and the environment by requiring meaningful collaboration  with local governments, tribes, States, other Federal agencies, and other stakeholders across the country to conduct land management planning that leads to a sustainable ecological-social-economic system. 

Why is acknowledging and understanding the values NFS lands provide (social, cultural, and economic contributions) such a vital part of the 2011 planning rule? 

People connect to the land in different ways, and they have differing, often conflicting, interests and opinions on what’s best for their community and their needs. And with increasing urbanization, globalization, and changing values and concerns, we will see shifts in how people interact with NFS lands in the future. To determine and understand the needs of people and to figure out the best courses of action, every phase of NFS land management planning must provide opportunities to collaborate. It’s a complex task. 

Some counties might depend heavily on ecosystem services provided by NFS, like fresh water for public drinking supplies, while others may depend on the Forest Service for other public health and safety needs, like reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire or removal of hazardous trees. Some local economies are bolstered by drawing tourists to view the beautiful natural scenery, hike or fish, enjoy solitude, watch wildlife or engage in other kinds of outdoor recreation; while others might be more dependent on products like timber or minerals, or on restoration based jobs from NFS lands. Still others may depend on the increased quality of life provided by the FS and NFS lands to attract new residents or businesses to the area, expand educational or job opportunities for youth, or increase the health and vitality of neighboring residents.  Others may depend on NFS resources for subsistence.  Indian tribes connect with the land in special ways.  Many people, across the country and around the world, seek opportunities for spiritual, educational, and cultural sustenance and refreshment, and depend on having access to our lands for those experiential values. 

So it’s critical that our collaborative efforts proactively engage diverse views, cultures, and sources of knowledge. Only when we consider local, national and long term needs can we craft plans that consider shared goals across all lands , and that reinforce the linkages between people and the environment. People need to know that they are a vital part of the effort to sustain healthy, productive, diverse, and resilient  NFS lands for current and future generations, and see that by doing so, we sustain those values, products and benefits on which so many people, near and far, depend. 

How would the 2011 rule actively consider the multiple values NFS lands provide?  

Assessments  to determine the need for plan changes would look not only at the conditions and trends of the environment but also the linkages between landscapes and communities. Responsible officials would proactively reduce barriers to participation and develop relationships among stakeholders, to foster an understanding of the roles and social economic contributions of NFS lands within the broader landscape. Assessments would review existing social and economic assessments at appropriate geographic scales, such as statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plans and forest assessments, as well as county and tribal management plans. Assessments may highlight the distinctive roles and contributions of the planning unit(s) to provide multiple uses and cultural uses, opportunities for solitude and diverse recreation settings, aesthetic values, economic and employment opportunities, and other ecosystem services and benefits from NFS lands to the local area, State, region, and Nation. They may identify vulnerabilities in the social-economic-ecological systems related to the NFS unit. They also may identify types of management activities that are likely to yield the greatest benefit for the land while providing economic and social values to society. Assessments would recognize that people from local communities, across the nation and literally around the world derive benefits and quality experiences from NFS lands. 

Again, the goal is to design a workable, practical, and achievable approach to understanding and responding to the needs of the communities and people—near and far—who depend on values NFS lands provide.  Managers of each unit would work with the public to identify what information could be the most useful in informing the need for change and direction of proposed plan amendments or revisions.  

To revise or amend  a plan, we would collaboratively develop desired conditions and objectives, taking into account the social and economic contributions of the unit along with the health of the environment. The Forest Service is committed to connecting people with the environment through responsible land management planning. Together we would clearly identify suitable uses and the types of management activities, plans, and infrastructure systems necessary to support those uses.  For instance, plans may identify suitability of uses including the extent, type and mix of sustainable recreation opportunities (motorized and non-motorized), as well as the associated suitable and sustainable facilities and transportation systems for air, land, and water. Plans would recognize the requirements of the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act.  Plans may include desired conditions and objectives that capitalize on opportunities to restore resilient ecosystems or increase the health of the land while providing economic benefits to communities. 

When monitoring  we would proactively create opportunities for partners and publics to collaborate in developing and implementing the monitoring program. We would work with the public to identify the conditions, trends, and status of representative social-economic indicators for opportunities, values, benefits, settings, and uses—at both the local and landscape level—that would best answer questions related to management and to test assumptions made during the assessment and revise phases of the planning framework. For example, we would work with local governments and other interested stakeholders to track recreation use trends and visitor satisfaction to determine whether the recreation objectives in the plan are achieved. Data would be made public, and the unit would periodically evaluate monitoring results and share those evaluations with partners and stakeholders to build understanding of how NFS land and management activities are contributing to the social, cultural and economic well being of local, regional and national communities.  Information from monitoring will be evaluated to determine whether there is new information or changed conditions that would trigger further assessment. 

So, is there a catch? 

As we mention above, and as many of you have seen in your home areas and through this planning process, the Forest Service has a diverse group of interested publics who often have different, and sometimes conflicting, sets of interests and needs relative to National Forest System Lands.  The National Forest System cannot be all things to all people, all the time and on every unit, and our intent here is not to commit managers to meet every identified need, or to conform management to achieve non-NFS goals.  As mentioned elsewhere, it is important to remember that the Forest Service retains the responsibility and authority for making final decisions, using judgment and acting consistently with forest plans, laws, regulations, and the public interest. 

Our intent is to ensure that the social, cultural and economic contexts for management within the broader landscape are well understood, and are considered as part of the planning framework and process. This includes understanding how people are using our lands; the values, services and benefits they are deriving from our lands; how demands for uses or values are changing over time; and how we are contributing to those needs.  By specifically acknowledging and reinforcing the linkages between people and the environment, and especially by requiring meaningful collaboration  with local governments, tribes, States, other Federal agencies, and other stakeholders across the country, we hope to design a process that leads to and supports sustainable ecological-social-economic systems.

10 Responses to “People and the Environment – July 2010 concepts”
  1. There is a lot of talk here about cooperation and listening. Well, I have worked USFS on the Travel Management Plan with both the Inyo and the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forests on their plans in Nevada. The Inyo National Forests Office is in Bishop, California. There is a small portion of the Inyo National Forest in southern Mineral County, Nevada. It is almost a two hour drive to Bishop. The Inyo National Forest Staff went above and beyond to help me with any information I needed.

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  2. M Armstrong says:

    The relationship of the Forest Service to County government is one of “government to government.” It is one of coordination, not collaboration.

    The USFS, is an agency that has been delegated certain authority by Congress. It is headed by an appointed official. Its Organic Act declared only two limited purposes for which Forests could be established: 1) to ensure “a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of United States citizens”; and 2) to secure favorable conditions of water flows. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. New Mexico, 238 U.S. 696, rejected assertions that the Act established a third purpose for which forests could be created – “to improve and protect the forest within the boundaries.” The jurisdiction of the USFS is proprietary. It is responsible for land management. In Sierra Club v. Hardin, 325 F. Supp. 99 – D. Alaska, 1971, the court ruled that the Secretary of Agriculture may also consider the economic well-being of the citizens of a state wherein timber is located in administering national forest lands “for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States.”)

    The Counties in CA were created by the State legislature. County government was given the police power to make public policy and to pass laws to regulate activities to protect the general public’s health, safety and welfare from substantial injury. This includes jurisdiction over individual’s land use on the Forest to the extent that it is not pre-empted by federal law. County Supervisors and Commissioners are directly elected by the people to represent them. They are also closest to the social, economic and general welfare interests of the local public and the communities within which the Forests are located.

    “Collaboration” is to work together, to share resources on a joint project. This fits with the concept of “cooperating agency status.” This is where the County pays for its representative to participate on the IDT, subject to confidentiality agreements where the County government is not apprised of the content and the plan is under the ultimate decision of the Forester.

    The old USFS planning language and the BLM language prescribes “coordination.” This is a formal process that recognizes the jurisdiction and authority of local government and its autonomny from the federal planning process. It recognizes County government’s legislative, administrative and quasi-judicial powers and respects its independent discretion as an elected body. Coordination requires that USFS planning address and attempt to rectify inconsistencies between its proposed projects and plans and the policies and plans which have been adopted locally. It does not subordinate local government to an internal USFS planning process, nor does it relegate County government to the status of just another stakeholder.

    The current USFS Planning Rule specifies “coordination.” The current process requires coordination with local governments before enacting any change.

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  3. slucero says:

    Tribal rights to Forest Service lands is not the same as recreation and other “multiple uses.” The Federal government has specific obligations both through laws and based on treaties that put Tribes at a higher level than the public, state, and county officials.

    “Desired Conditions” for the Planning Rule must include the support and protection of tribal rights to cultural and other resources on NF lands.

    • Tribal cultural uses are not a part of the social or economic dimensions. Cultural does not mean just sacred sites. It also means resources and land use. Tribal cultural uses are different from general public cultural uses.

    • Tribes rely on National Forests for both traditional and contemporary practices.

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    • M Armstrong says:

      It should be noted that not all “treaties” were completed. In California, it was ruled that aboriginal rights to the land and resources were extinguished under Mexican rule before the US aquired the area. If a tribe did not make claim during the first two years under the lands commission established by congressional act in 1851 to implement the terms of Treaty of Guadalupe Hidlago, its aboriginal claims were deemed abandoned. Reservations created in California were done by Executive Order. The treaties were never ratified by Congress as they were deemed null on their face.

      The tribes in California have no superior claim to state and local governments on the Forest. Under PL-280, their jurisdiction ends at the rservation boundaries, where the state and County governments share dual jurisdiction with the USFS on Forest lands.

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  4. slucero says:

    A major issue with the draft concepts for the Planning Rule is that Forest Service is still struggling with the concept of Tribes as stewards of the National Forests. The Planning Rule concepts still reinforce the dynamic where Forest Service is the manager and everyone else (including Tribes and tribal communities) as “users” of the National Forests. Tribes are not mere “users,” they are the original stewards of national forests and their resources. The Planning rule must acknowledge tribal rights, interests, traditional knowledge, respect the government to government relationship and the forest service’s trust obligations. Forest Service must work with Tribes in a bilateral way.

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  5. Ernest Lehmann says:

    Communities located near National Forests and the people who reside in and near them are dependent on the natural resources within and proximal to the National Forests.
    These natural resources include not only the land and the water, but also those commodities that can be grown or potentially extracted or mined from within and near the National Forests.
    As directed by statute, Forest plans must consider ALL MULTIPLE USES. The use of the forests for a variety of uses has been stipulated by Congress in various acts. Economically important deposits of energy, metallic and industrial minerals are often present on or beneath the surface of Forest lands.
    Extraction and utilization of these resources are of great importance to the nation as a whole as well as to the local communities. They are also a direct benefit the Forests themselves by producing royalties which are shared between the Forests and the local communities. These royalties, on a per acre basis, are commonly many times the value of any other potential uses of the lands. Further, the proper development of mineral resources on and near Forests creates permanent employment opportunites for nearby communities and generates local prosperity.
    To facilitate proper consideration of mineral resources, each Forest plan needs to consider the ways in which environmentally appropriate exploration for and development of energy and mineral resources can be promoted.

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  6. Harold A Dimmick Jr says:

    There is a lot of talk here about cooperation and listening. Well, I have worked USFS on the Travel Management Plan with both the Inyo and the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forests on their plans in Nevada. The Inyo National Forests Office is in Bishop, California. There is a small portion of the Inyo National Forest in southern Mineral County, Nevada. It is almost a two hour drive to Bishop. The Inyo National Forest Staff went above and beyond to help me with any information I needed.

    The Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest Office for this area is in Bridgport, California. The Majority of the Forest in Mineral County is the Toiyabe National Forest. Again it is around a hour and a half drive to Bridgeport. I must say that the level of cooperation on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 1. Being that this is the office that we deal with the most where I live, I don’t see much good coming out of the 2011 Forest Plan.

    You talk about using local input, but that did not happen with the Travel Management Plan in the Brideport Office. I want to give you one example: The reason that was given for one of the roads that was slated for closing was; that the traffic would distrub the Big Horn Sheep. My comment was “That this would not be the case, because if the so called experts that were stating this knew anything about Big Horn Sheep, they would know that traffic does not bother them. This is proven by the Big Horn Sheep that stand next to US Highway 95 at the cliffs at Walker Lake.” This comment among others were ignored. They were not shown on the list of comments addressed that was posted by the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest.

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  7. Amos Stone says:

    “People & the Environment” is a huge topic, so I’ll get climate change & greenhouse gas going. During the second round of planning, most considered that climate change was an issue out of the scope of Forest Plans. I’m hearing that this issue will be addressed this round.
    The FS is currently addressing climate change by focusing on increased carbon sequestration by preventing carbon loss such as from wildfire through controlled burns, fuel reduction by thinning, and retaining more biomass in large fire-resistent timber, etc. The State & Private branch of the FS can help by emphasizing more afforestation of non-forest land. All these actions should help some, although I feel that the FS should address another of its programs when considering climate change: the leasing of federal fossil fuels.
    I’ve read that coal-burning power plants are the largest producer of greenhouse gasses. Will the FS continue its current direction in the leasing of coal and other fossil fuels? Surely someone else has had this thought.

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  8. Fotoware says:

    Many “scientists” don’t want to talk about modern man’s role in our forests. It is clear that we cannot remove the auto accidents, the escaped campfires, the random fireworks, the rotten tree next to the powerlines and the serial arsonists from our National Forests. Studies from such scientists fail to factor in all those human impacts and risks. “Preserving” vast dead forests and not analyzing for the human impacts is very poor science. While a particular piece of dead forest MIGHT not burn under normal conditions, it surely WILL burn catastrophically if that “unplanned human ignition” happens at the wrong time. Saving dead forests just for that “wrong time” sounds pretty ridiculous. Or, saving those dead forests for when we are able to let them burn, with very questionable outcomes?

    Are we merely growing firewood with which to heat our atmosphere?!?

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  9. Garie Henry says:

    There is talk of multiple uses in these coments and I tend to agree with the general concept presented. However there is no mention of grazing as one of the multiple uses. This use benefits the forest and the other users in many ways. Number one way is wildfire control, by the utilization of the forage the livestock eat, which cuts down on the amount of fuels necessary to cause a fire to rapidly spread.

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