SUMMARY

 

This report is intended to provide the starting point for collecting additional data where it is missing, analyzing the available information, and ultimately drawing conclusions that can help make decisions which will improve the likelihood of sustainability in the future.

As the first step in this very important effort, the First Approximation Report has been an opportunity to comprehensively examine trends and conditions of forests in the U.S. In most cases the data is inadequate to draw conclusions about the ultimate sustainability of forest management. In many areas, extensive data exists, even over time, but has yet to be analyzed and documented.

An important benefit in this process has been the opportunity to bring together people with diverse perspectives about forest management, enhancing understanding about the complexities and increasing the commitment to work together in the future. With the connections established among agencies at different levels of government and the community of interests outside of government, the next steps can be initiated to respond to the recommendations made in this report.

I. Broad summary of indicator data.

Understanding the patterns of forest change frequently results through intuition as much as through data analysis. Changes in land and resource use in America have substantially altered the distribution of native species and communities. About one-third of the Nation=s forest lands and over one-half of the wetlands have been converted to other uses. At least 20 percent of the country=s one million stream miles have been altered by channelization, reservoir construction, or other conversion.

Following two centuries of general decline, the area of forest land in the U.S. appears to have stabilized. Nationally, the average volume of standing timber per acre is 30 percent greater today than it was in 1952. The tens of millions of acres that were cut over by 1900 have been reforested. At the same time, while there have been favorable trends in forest resources in the last century, increasing human demands will continue to affect them. Moreover, the ability of forests and rangelands to maintain a balance of successional stages through natural disturbances has been severely reduced, which in turn has affected the diversity of those systems.

The number of forest plant and animal species being added to the Federal threatened and endangered species list continues to increase. Those species are concentrated primarily in the southwestern and southeastern U.S. Species tolerant of extensive land use changes, such as conversion to agriculture and managed rangelands, have replaced species of the original communities. Urbanization and other forms of intensive development have also displaced native communities. The net result has been the extinction or restricted distribution of those species least adaptable to change. Projections of increased population growth, increased urbanization, and continued fragmentation of natural areas suggest that further losses in natural diversity are likely.

Forest health continues to be a concern. Monitoring programs are being expanded to address specific health issues, and resources are being invested on protection and restoration activities.

Global changes in climate, if they occur, could cause major changes in the productivity, health, and diversity of forest and rangeland ecosystems, and bring associated impacts on other renewable resources. Forests and rangelands would likely be affected directly by elevated carbon dioxide levels, as well as by changes in temperature and precipitation.

Social and economic benefits are a major component of decisions about forest management. If these issues were not so closely connected with the ecological issues, the reasons for investing so much attention to long-term sustainable forest management would diminish substantially. Increased public demand and a renewed commitment from Federal land management agencies to manage public lands for the protection of watersheds, wildlife habitat, threatened or endangered species, and biological diversity have reduced the volume of timber offered from Federal lands. The volume of timber offered is projected to remain stable over the next several years and then increase slowly for the foreseeable future. However, considerable uncertainty about sales volume remains, with conflicting values and needs continuing to generate controversy.

State and local governments are increasingly developing legislation and ordinances affecting renewable resources. Almost every State has begun programs to maintain or improve water quality, including mandatory or voluntary programs of best management practices. The number of local regulations affecting management of privately owned forest lands is also increasing.

The changing composition of America's population is having an effect on recreational use of forest lands. The nation's population is becoming more ethnically diverse, older, and more urban. The median age will continue to increase and the white, non-Hispanic proportion of the population will continue to decline. Patterns of recreation use are strongly influenced by ethnicity, age, and user proximity, and it is expected that America's increasing diversity may significantly increase the demand for recreational use of public land, particularly public lands that are near urban areas.

In the process of developing this First Approximation Report, technical specialists have identified several key areas where data is either not available or is problematic. Both technical solutions and funding and resource strategies are currently being sought to resolve the problems.

Much of the biological and physical data for forests has been gathered for timber lands but is not available for non-commercial forest lands. Some inventories have been initiated on reserved lands since they were designated for protection, but coverage of these land is still uneven and trends over time are not adequately documented.

In many cases, definitions, methodologies, and protocols for various elements are inconsistent across the country, resulting in questionable conclusions about the trends and conditions on a national basis.

Where basic inventories are conducted over time, the cycle of repetition may be so long as to be unable to provide timely warning when ecosystem problems are developing.

Because in the United States, the majority of forest land is privately owned, there is a conscious policy to minimize government controls as much as possible while still protecting the public interest. Given the reluctance to control land uses and activities, there has been less attention to inventory and assessment for those lands. While corporations that own commercial forest lands in most cases have adequate data to support their management needs, these data are mostly considered proprietary and therefore not available to land owners or the public.

Many of the legal and institutional structures are well developed in the United States, and have been modified or adapted over two centuries to respond to changing needs and issues. However, this process of adaptation is often done intuitively, without analysis and evaluation to determine how effective it may be. As a result, problems may be overlooked and opportunities to replicate successes can be missed.

ii. Specific Summary for Each Criterion

Criterion 1: Maintenance of Biological Diversity

American forests are home to a large share of the natural variety in the U.S. but changes in land and resource use in America have substantially altered the distribution and abundance of native species and communities across the country. About one-third of forest lands and over one-half of the nation=s wetlands have been converted to other uses. Less than one percent of the original tallgrass prairie of the Midwest remains, and at least 20 percent of the country=s one million stream miles have been altered by channelization, reservoir construction, or other conversion.

Information relating to biological diversity in forests is currently available from a variety of sources. Both public and private institutions gather, analyze, and manage such data. Basic inventories are collected and maintained by the Federal government in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) of the US Forest Service and the Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Both of these programs repeat the inventories on a regular cycle, and in recent years have developed standard methodologies and protocols to ensure that future inventories are consistent with one another. A future goal will be to reduce the length of the inventory cycles to collect the information more frequently.

A major shortcoming of these national databases is their limited coverage. Inventory data are generally available for all timberland in the U.S. but are lacking for forest lands that have historically not been used for commercial purposes. Inventories of reserved forest land, including Wilderness Areas, National Parks, State parks, and some other publicly owned forest land, are under way and should be available for future assessments. Information on industrial timberlands is collected and maintained by the corporate owners, but has not been made publicly available because of proprietary interests.

The Nature Conservancy, a private, non-profit organization, collects and maintains the Natural Heritage database, one of the most comprehensive sources of information about the biological diversity of this Nation. Additional data are available from a variety of State, regional, and local agencies, but most of these sources generally do not cover all landscapes, are not national in scope, may have limitations on compatibility both spatially and temporally, represent a variety of methodologies, and are often concentrated within specific ownerships. While these data may be useful for addressing localized needs or issues, they are not useful for purposes of a national assessment.

In many areas, species tolerant of extensive land use changes, such as conversion to agriculture and managed rangelands, have replaced some species of the original communities. Urbanization and other forms of intensive development have also displaced native communities. The net result has been the extinction or restricted distribution of those species least adaptable to change. Projections of increased population growth, increased urbanization, and continued fragmentation of natural areas suggest that further losses in natural diversity are likely.

The number of plant and animal species added to the Federal threatened and endangered species list continues to increase. A recent study showed 660 listed species to be equally distributed among forest, range, and aquatic habitats. Those species are concentrated primarily in the southwestern and southeastern U.S., areas that also support many species that are candidates for Federal protection.

Criterion 2: Maintenance of Productive Capacity of Forest Ecosystems

Following two centuries of general decline, the area of forest land in the U.S. has stabilized. Nationally, the average volume of standing timber per acre is 30 percent greater today than in 1952. The tens of millions of acres that were cut over by 1900 have been reforested.

Although there have been favorable trends in forest resources in the last century, increasing human demands will continue to affect them. The ability of forests to maintain a balance of successional stages through natural disturbances has been severely reduced, primarily through the suppression of wildfires, which in turn has affected the diversity of those systems.

Information sources for productive capacity of forest ecosystems are generally the same as for biodiversity. Again, information is generally available for timberlands, but is limited for other forest lands.

Timber volume on plantations is difficult to determine because smaller trees are not included in volume calculations. Survival rates are also not included in the data but can vary widely, with important influence on volume calculations. Species composition is not available for all timberlands, but can be determined in the South because of more complete data for that region. Also, the degree of natural regeneration, especially in the West is not considered, further weakening the data. The majority of non-timber products from forest ecosystems are localized, making data related to their production and sustainability very difficult to obtain on a national basis.

Total roundwood supplies from U.S. timber resources are expected to rise through 2040. The demand for softwood and hardwood lumber, and most structural panel products will also rise through 2040. Imports of timber products have been rising and now supply an important share of the nation's wood pulp, newsprint, and softwood lumber. Future imports will be determined largely by U.S. demand and the availability, extent, and competitiveness of Canada's timber industry. Exports of softwood lumber are projected to remain relatively constant and, based on current trends, domestic forest lands will have to supply most of the anticipated higher demands. In addition, through the year 2010, timber stumpage prices are expected to rise rapidly--due in part to increased harvest restrictions on Federal lands. After 2010, supply from southern pine plantations and increased recycling should combine to slow price increases.

Criterion 3: Maintenance of Ecosystem Health and Vitality

Ecosystem health is influenced by a variety of disturbances. Some types of disturbances can be managed or controlled, such as insects and diseases or fires with various interventions, but are unable to affect others such as weather events that periodically cause major damage. New factors affecting and changing forests in the last century include the introduction of exotic pests and the increase in pollution from industry and urbanization. Changes in land uses have also been significant, including conversion to residential uses in previously undeveloped areas.

Disturbance plays an important role in forest ecosystems. In fact, without disturbance, forests would eventually cease to function due to excessive buildup of biomass and the end of necessary nutrient cycling. The key question for this indicator is whether the magnitude of disturbance is outside of the range of historic variation. Monitoring and recording of disturbances in forests has taken place only over the past 20 to 80 years. Clear evidence is lacking for more distant time frames, precluding certainty in understanding what the historical conditions and trends may have been. Data for insect and disease infestations and for fire is quite extensive. Data related to land clearance, salinization, and other human caused disturbances are more localized, making it very difficult to gather for a national report.

The frequency and scope of wildfire has changed dramatically since European settlers began to settle lands in the West in the mid-1800's. Introduction of livestock grazing and the reduction of burning by Native Americans inexorably changed the landscape. By the 1930's, Federal and local agencies were bringing more effective fire suppression to the land, but as fuels built up, wildfires in the West began to increase again in the 1980's.

Major weather disturbances seem to have increased in frequency and intensity in recent years, including hurricanes, droughts, and flood events, resulting in destruction of millions of acres of forest. However, data related to trends in frequency and severity of these weather events were not analyzed for this report. Droughts and other events, along with increased biomass resulting from fire suppression, have triggered extensive outbreaks of some insects and diseases. Many of these events appear to be interconnected.

Criterion 4: Conservation and Maintenance of Soil and Water Resources

Soil and water are basic to all of the other resources in the forest. Without their conservation and maintenance, no other resources will survive. The Natural Resources Inventory, conducted for non-Federal lands at 5-year intervals, provides an extensive data base of soil, water, and related resources for non-Federal forest lands. Data for federal forest lands is collected and maintained by the agencies responsible for their management.

There are still some major unknown factors in estimating erosion rates triggered by wildfires. The most important gaps in current knowledge are the nature and spatial distribution of impacts on rill erosion, the dominant form of upland surface erosion.

Some areas of Federal lands are set aside for protection on the basis of values such as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and outstanding native resource waters. Most states also have areas set aside for similar protective functions. Data showing such areas and their objectives for protection are available on a state-by-state basis, but additional analysis will be required to provide national figures and assess the implications for sustainability..

In addition to set-asides, regulation of land uses and practices provides for protection of streams through a variety of approaches including buffer zones where trees are not harvested. Some local jurisdictions protect and manage watersheds specifically for quantity and quality of water, but data on the total area is not currently available.

When lands are managed for multiple uses, it is difficult to attribute the area specifically to the protection functions. Developing this information on a national basis will be complex and time consuming, but could better reveal the extent of protection for various ecosystem functions.

Assessments of data measuring "natural" streamflow in the conterminous U.S. link increasing streamflow to changes in global climatic conditions. These data indicate that unimpaired streamflow has increased in nearly all regions of the conterminous United States since the early 1940's. They also show that, with one exception (New England), all of the observed positive trends occurred in autumn and winter.

Analysis of current trends may indicate significant impairment of the nation=s waters in some forested areas or regions. Data are available to provide a general summary for the type of change in historic stream flow and/or timing of flow, but has not been gathered and analyzed for this report. Impacts or changes to water quality, quantity, and timing also vary by region and trends for forested lands could be shown along with land use history and ownership to provide additional insight.

The status of soil organic matter strongly reflects ecosystem disturbance. This is important for water retention, carbon storage, and soil organisms, and is an indication of soil nutrient status. Changes in soil organic matter can affect the vitality of forest ecosystems through diminished regeneration capacity, lower growth rates, and changes in species composition. There are standard definitions of soil organic matter as well as standard procedures for measuring it, but sufficient data are not available to make reliable estimates in most regions. During the last half century soil organic matter levels have increased in many forested areas of the eastern U.S. as forests recover from past clearing, cutting, and grazing and increase their biomass, both above ground and below.

Research currently underway on long term soil productivity will provide a foundation for documenting the changes in physical, chemical and biological soil properties and processes created by wide range of both experimental and operational silvicultural treatments. This work is coordinated with researchers in several other countries to ensure that data sets are compatible.

Compaction of the surface soil reduces water infiltration, resulting in increased runoff which can increase erosion, reduce biomass production, and impair watershed function. The long term soil productivity studies will also provide information on the effects of compaction on plant growth, both for trees and for associated vegetation. Recovery rates of soil after compaction and the effects on understory vegetation, climate, and other factors on the recovery rates are being studied. There is wide disagreement on what measurement(s) truly reflect compaction. Little quantitative, probabilistic data are available and there is disagreement on how to assess the extent and effects of compaction.

Grazing of forest land has decreased in some areas, so the extent and severity of compaction probably have decreased. However, areas of forest land intensively used for recreation have increased in many areas, increasing the potential for compaction in heavy use zones. Much logging equipment is larger than in former years, but operators are more sensitive to damage, thus mitigating some of the potential damage. Overall, the trends with respect to physical damage are difficult to assess.

Organisms living at the bottom of water bodies are especially sensitive to a variety of possible changes in aquatic ecosystems such as silt, oxygen levels, and temperature, thus providing an indication of the extent to which aquatic biodiversity is affected by forest management. Although aquatic biological data have been gathered for many years, only recently has there been an effort to develop and implement consistent methods on a national scale. Biological sampling protocols are now being developed but it will be almost a decade before we are able to describe what has happened during the last few years of the 20th Century. Also, the majority of data gathering sites are in streams and well sites so other water bodies (lakes, ponds, reservoirs, etc.) may not be adequately sampled for this indicator.

Sediment contributes to other pollutant problems because pesticides, nutrients, and other contaminants are absorbed to the soil particles. Erosion from all sources is the origin of 80 percent of the total phosphorous and 73 percent of the total nitrogen in the nations waterways.

There are not currently enough data to confidently report the number of lakes that support healthy aquatic life. However, of those aquatic systems that are regularly monitored, 50 percent of each category were found to support healthy aquatic life. Preliminary indications from regional and localized data sources suggest that concentrations of several water-quality indicators (fecal coliform bacteria and total phosphorus, for example) decreased during the 1980's and provide evidence of progress in pollution control during the decade. Trends in the concentrations of other indicators (dissolved oxygen and nitrates) changed little during this period.

The primary sources of persistent toxic substances in most areas of the country are industrial waste and pollution. Although some forest land may be affected by adjacent industrial activity, the total area is unknown and is probably small. Concern over accumulation of toxic substances tends to be at the local scale. A number of States and Tribes sampled toxicants in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in 1994. Elevated concentrations of toxicants were detected in 25 percent of the surveyed rivers and streams and in 29 percent of the sampled lake acres. Elevated concentrations of toxicants were also detected in 23 percent of the Nation=s estuaries.

Criterion 5: Maintenance of Forest Contribution to Global Carbon Cycles

Global changes in climate could cause significant changes in the productivity, health, and diversity of forest ecosystems, and bring associated impacts on other renewable resources. Forests would likely be affected directly by elevated carbon dioxide levels, as well as by changes in temperature and precipitation. This criterion focuses on the role of temperate and boreal forests in the Earth=s carbon cycle, and the response of forests to changes in the atmosphere, particularly in levels of carbon.

Tree carbon estimates are developed using conversion factors derived from biomass studies and wood-to-carbon estimates from forest products literature. Estimates of carbon storage in the soil, on the forest floor, and in the understory use models based on data from forest ecosystem studies. Inventories have not been specifically designed to quantify carbon in different ecosystem components over large regions, although NRCS is currently testing protocols and some FIA projects have recently begun for this purpose.

Estimates of carbon in forest products are based on removal estimates from inventories, timber product surveys , and various other sources. Estimates of harvested carbon are available at the regional and national levels. Annual products have been fairly reliable since about 1950. More information is needed for carbon decay rates in products, including length of product life. There is also uncertainty in estimates of the amount of wood burned for energy (domestic fuelwood) and of the amount of carbon emitted from logging residue.

Criterion 6: Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-term Multiple Socio-Economic Benefits

Measurement of production and consumption demonstrates the level at which goods and services are demanded by society, and how that demand has been met historically. In this respect, these measures provide a sense of the value society places on these products. Economic benefits are measured directly through the production of value-added products and trends in per capita consumption.

Production and consumption indicators examine both wood and non-wood products. Wood products information has been fairly well developed over the years. However, the U.S. does not currently maintain a comprehensive listing of non-wood forest products that reflects a national consensus on definitions, let alone an inventory of the supply, demand, or ecosystem requirements for these products.

Recycling of wood and paper products is likely to continue increasing due to expanding environmental awareness, changing economic incentives, and legislative mandates. Currently, recycled materials are used in about 35 percent of paper and paperboard production, and such use is expected to grow to 40-45 percent by the year 2000.

America's increasing diversity may significantly increase the demand for recreational use of public land, particularly public lands that are near urban areas. The nation's population is becoming more ethnically diverse, older, and more urban. The use of public recreational resources and patterns of that use are strongly influenced by ethnicity, age, and user proximity. Management of natural resources for recreation and tourism implies the active expenditure of funds, labor, and materials, as well as the designation of specifically identified sites and areas to accommodate recreation users. Inventories currently maintained for recreation opportunities do not differentiate between forested and other lands, making estimates of availability and use of forest land for recreation purposes somewhat questionable.

Corporations owning lands for production of natural resource commodities are beginning to make their lands available to the public, realizing additional benefits. Only a very small portion of corporate ownerships have been designated or are managed specifically for recreation, including lands used as resorts and areas managed for hunting. Currently, no data is available on this segment of the recreation resource.

Indicators of investment attempt to measure the amount of resources dedicated to future forest production, providing direct insights into the physical sustainability of resource management. Data on investment in forests, wood processing, and recreation and tourism indicate that investment in the forest sector has been and remains strong. However, the value of forest products has generally leveled off and is neither expanding nor contracting. The measures of gross investment, while not a complete picture of investment, indicate an expanding paper sector and a relatively stable lumber and wood products sector -- consistent with production patterns.

While total government expenditures for natural resource infrastructure has declined over the recent past, important recreation components, for example National Parks and National Forests, have increased. These trends indicate continued and perhaps increasing commitment of resources to provide forest-based recreation in the U.S.

Total funding for forestry research increased by approximately 20 percent in real terms between 1978 and 1994. Development and use of new and improved technologies, measured by examining total factor productivity indices, show that productivity in the lumber and wood products industry was nonexistent in the 1970's, grew fairly steadily throughout the 1980's, and has leveled off since the late 1980's, raising concern about the adequacy of investment in new technologies in the industry. Productivity growth in paper and allied products was sluggish between 1970 and 1992, possible due to a significant decline in forest products research in both the public and private sectors.

Rates of return on investment have increased over time in the South, North, and Rocky Mountains, indicating increased utilization of forest assets. Rates of return increased in the Pacific region from 1962 to 1986, but then fell between 1986 and 1991. This decline is coincident with decreased timber harvesting from public lands during that period.

A variety of land and water areas have been set aside to protect both historic and contemporary expressions of the cultural, social, and spiritual values of American society. Data are available on the area and number in these classifications, but they do not distinguish among land types for forest lands. Data regarding the value of many elements of the natural world are not available, and such values may not lend themselves to economic consideration at all. In some instances, a measure of Awillingness-to-pay@ can be used to approximate intrinsic value, but many would question the validity of this approach.

Employment and community needs are the final category of socio-economic benefits to be considered here. Data on direct and indirect employment in forest-dependent sectors are readily available from traditional sources. Input-output analysis provides a Ageneral equilibrium@ view of the economy and tracks the income, employment, and trade interactions between sectors. Employment has been relatively stable in the forest products sector, though forest sector employment itself represents a very small proportion of total U.S. employment. It is difficult to assert that this indicator gives any indication of long-term sustainability, since it is not possible to discern whether employment changes are due to resource degradation, changes in markets, changes in societal values, or changes in technology.

An explicit link between economic activity and the state of the biophysical resource would give a better idea of the long-term prognosis. This relationship could be developed from an integrated economic-ecologic model, which then could be used to estimate the ties between levels of direct and indirect economic activity and the state of the resource base. This, of course, would be far more data-intensive, and require more research to fully develop appropriate methodologies.

The viability of forest dependent communities and their adaptability to changing economic conditions are impossible to measure in any consistent way across the country. Economic diversity indices have been computed for all U.S. counties, labor market areas, and States, but not for all tribal governments. The indices suggest that economic diversity has increased over time in the U.S., but we cannot draw conclusions about the relationship of that diversity and the area for which it was calculated. At the present time, there is no way to illustrate a tie between forest preservation and economic diversity.

There is a striking potential for managed Indian forests to serve as models of sustainability. Reservations are permanent homelands where Indians live intimately with the environmental and economic consequences of forest management actions and they have a compelling need to balance competing interests. They have a well-recognized commitment to protect the resources that are both their heritage and legacy.

The area of forest land that is used for subsistence purposes may indicate that subsistence rights are being honored, and that society values the forest for reasons other than its direct economic benefit. Meaningful data for measurement of this indicator has not been developed. Only apocryphal anecdotes and descriptive analyses are available, with no consistency on a definition or agreement on the range of uses that should be considered. Much work remains for this element of community needs.

Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management

The overall policy framework of a country will make a crucial difference in whether a country has the capacity to manage its forests in a sustainable way over time. Criterion 7 addresses this framework, including some of the broader societal conditions and processes often external to the forest itself, but which supports efforts to conserve, maintain, or enhance one or more of the conditions, attributes, functions, and benefits captured in criteria 1 through 6. In effect, positive results for the other six criteria are the ultimate proof that the legal, institutional and economic framework is working.

The challenge today is to fashion a decision-making structure that is collaborative in design enabling the sharing of responsibility among all levels of government, interest groups, and neighboring land management entities. Such a framework would have to respect differing roles and responsibilities, land use objectives, and the limitations of the land.

It is critical to find ways to measure and monitor the most important elements of this framework so that success will be reinforced and disfunctions can be identified and responded to in time to prevent irreversible harm to forest ecosystems. However important this policy framework is, it is the most subjective and least measurable attribute of sustainable forest management. The strength and effectiveness of the various elements are influenced by subtle and often invisible forces both within and external to the country.

Quantitative data are difficult to collect and verify, and often even more difficult to interpret. In the U.S. there are laws addressing virtually any issue that might arise, and the enforcement mechanisms are fairly reliable. Institutions are well established to facilitate the democratic process that insures appropriate decisions regarding overall goals and policies for management of forest resources. Education and information are readily accessible to those charged with managing the resources as well as those who care about the outcomes of that management. Public and private investment in research and technical development has been maintained over time, though funding levels have fluctuated, sometimes dramatically.

State and local governments are increasingly adopting legislation and ordinances affecting renewable resources. Almost every State has initiated programs to maintain or improve water quality, applying various levels of voluntary or regulatory measures insure protection on non-federal lands. Information on implementation of management practices and best management practice codes on individual forest tracts or small forest areas is lacking.

Federal law mandates and governs Federal land use planning. Formal planning is now more extensive, procedurally and substantively. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Forest Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 are the principle laws mandating public participation in forest management planning and decision processes. Other Federal statutes demonstrate concern for management of a wide range of environmental, cultural, social, and/or scientific values on Federal lands.

The legal, administrative, and voluntary programs that prescribe, measure, and monitor forest practice codes and best management practices (BMPs) in the United States have expanded rapidly in the last few years. Modern BMPs were developed as the principal implementing mechanism to protect water quality from nonpoint source pollution. The use of BMPs has expanded to include a variety of water quality protection measures and broader forest management, regeneration, and environmental protection measures. Alternatives to outright regulation of forest practices are becoming more popular, including non-regulatory or voluntary BMP programs, cost-share payments, preferential property or income tax treatment, technical assistance and extension programs, environmental education and urban forestry programs, and conservation easements.

Education about environmental issues and forest management practices are key to insuring sustainable forest management. Different programs are targeted to various groups of stakeholders, depending on their roles and interests. An institutional framework supporting the development and maintenance of human resource skills in forestry has been in place for many decades and is relatively well developed. Trends in the combined national enrollment for forestry, natural resource and agriculture degrees showed a 27 percent increase between 1991 and 1995. Cooperative Extension serves 9.9 million owners of forest land by providing forest-related information and educational programs. The Federal Environmental Education Act of 1990 provides for a grant program and national teacher training activities with funding and program support provided through State and non-governmental organizations.

Investment and taxation policies and the regulatory support for them vary across the country. Direct regulation of private land is done only by state and local jurisdictions rather than the Federal government. An important part of the relevant economic framework is the provision of secure property rights which allow for investment in natural resources and inter-temporal efficiency.

The United States maintains extensive inventory, assessment, and monitoring capabilities at the Federal level. However, similar processes applied to non-industrial private forest lands are very limited. For corporate forest land, results of these processes are maintained by individual companies but, for proprietary reasons, are generally not available to other land managers or owners. There is also very little information collected on non-wood goods and services from any forest lands.

Research on forest ecosystem characteristics, functions and processes has been carried out in universities, federal agencies, and other research institutions for many years. Research capacity related to the impacts of human intervention on natural resources and the environment is spread out across many organizations. Funding comes from the full range of research funding sources, from State governments to the National Science Foundation and private foundations. Funding and the number of scientist-years devoted to research on assessing the socioeconomic consequences of new technologies in forestry has declined significantly since the late 1980s and early 1990s, even while public commitments are made to integrate the human dimension in ecosystem planning and management.

There is increasing interest in including the environment in national income accounts. To do this in a meaningful way, significant advances will be required in the underlying environmental and economic data, as well as methodologies for analysis. Experience with early discussions suggests that any move in this direction will almost certainly be controversial and problematic.

This effort to gather data and information on sustainable forest management in the U.S. is a historic milestone, but only a first step in an ongoing process. Much has been learned from this process, especially about how much still remains to be done. At the same time, it is clear that much is already accomplished.

FUTURE DIRECTION

This extensive analysis of each of the indicators in the Santiago Declaration has revealed several recurring themes. Implementation of the following recommendations will strengthen the capability of the U.S. to analyze the domestic sustainable forest management situation.

Use the RPA Assessment process for analysis and reporting of the status of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management in the U.S. The Assessment, required by the Renewable Resources Planning Act, is prepared every decade by the US Forest Service, and updated at mid-decade with additional analysis of emerging or changing situations. While previous Assessments focused largely on supply and demand issues, use of the criteria and indicators will provide the ability to address ecosystem condition and other issues related to sustainable forest management.

Extend current inventory processes to cover all forest lands. It is no longer acceptable to invest inventory efforts primarily on timberlands while neglecting forest lands that are not necessarily slated for commercial harvest.

Strengthen interagency efforts at the Federal level by establishing a permanent working group to coordinate the accumulating of data and information relating to sustainable forest management. This group should consider questions of definitions, data collection strategies and funding, roles, research needs, etc., and could establish committees to address the data gaps, methodologies, and protocols for each criterion

Continue development of data definitions, inventory and monitoring protocols, and reporting procedures for all data elements to insure consistency and compatibility across jurisdictions and ownerships. Coordinate these efforts at the national level, and integrate regional or more localized efforts in order to enhance understanding of the conditions on the ground and support strategies to protect and enhance forest ecosystems and continue providing the range of benefits from those forests.

Expand and intensify efforts to develop methodologies for assessing social and economic environment as they relate to sustainable forest management. While receiving verbal support, research support for this area continues to lag behind the more quantifiable biological and physical components of the environment.

Maintain and reinforce existing networks of stakeholders in the forest community to participate in domestic efforts on sustainable forest management. Experience and insights available from members of the forestry community must be incorporated into the process, and the stakeholders of America=s forests must have the opportunity to influence the interpretation and implementation of the analysis. Existing institutions should include:

The Seventh American Forestry Congress Roundtables,

National Association of State Foresters,

Coalitions of environmental and conservation organizations,

Professional societies such as the Society of American Foresters,

Landowner associations and the Intertribal Timber Council,

Industry associations such as the American Forest and Paper Association,

Academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations.

Future land use and resource management decision processes in all sectors can be expected to be more community-based, collaboratively designed, regional in scope, and more readily cross jurisdictional boundaries. More and more in the future, regional collaborative stewardship will prove to be the vehicle of choice for managers to protect and restore landscapes and to foster community understanding and the development of shared goals.

 

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