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A National Framework for Sustainable Resource Development

by Dave Radloff, Ruth McWilliams,
and Mark Delfs

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We are reminded of the saying, "Think globally, and act locally." A snapshot of sustainable forest management taken at the national scale provides a broad context within which to plan for and promote sustainability, and to measure and assess trends. Because issues of sustainability transcend regional and national boundaries, the national scale is also vitally important as the venue for State-to-State and country-to-country negotiations and agreements. There are limitations, however, as national scale assessments reflect a host of factors that may not be useful to measure sustainability at the local level.

The Forest Service has made sustainable resource management an overarching goal and the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators a management framework for the agency. In the past, national RPA assessments were organized according to resource areas such as timber, range, wildlife and fish, recreation, water, and minerals. Currently, the Forest Service, along with many stakeholders, is working toward a national resource assessment based on the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators. Coupled with field data such as that being identified by the LUCID project, this effort will result in a national picture to make sense of trends in the thousands of individual actions that collectively make up forest management in the United States.

We will learn where there are gaps in our understanding of the concept of sustainability and in the application of sustainable management practices as we apply criteria in promoting sustainable practices, and assess indicators. The unifying framework of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators provides a means to articulate national goals of sustainability that can be translated to action on the ground by Federal, State, and private land managers. It also provides a foundation for measuring, assessing, and reporting on progress towards sustainable resource management.

As a broadly accepted management framework the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators will help connect national intent with regional, State, and local decisions and actions, and facilitate the scaling up or aggregation of local data to better understand regional and national trends. The Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators provide sufficient breadth, clarity, and focus to promote a collective understanding of our Nation's status and progress on our common journey towards sustainable resource management.

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Minerals Management
Minerals are integral components of economic and social systems. They provide economic benefits and essential inputs to industry, in addition to influencing community social structure and institutions in areas where mining is prevalent. Although mineral resources are fundamental to human well being, their extraction, use, and disposal can alter biophysical system functioning or have other environmental consequences.

The USDA Forest Service convened the Sustainable Minerals Roundtable to identify the place of minerals in sustainable development and then work to develop a consensus set of mineral indicators that are applicable at the national scale. The roundtable currently has 70 members, representing a wide range of Federal, State, local, and tribal government entities; industry; NGO's; and academia and it meets every 3 to 4 months in locations around the country.

A number of research papers have been published on various aspects of applying sustainable development principles to minerals. Current work includes review of the energy and mineral indicators developed in Canada, Australia, and Europe, and organization of a September conference on Sustainable Mineral Resource Management in Karst Areas.

Written by Deborah Shields, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ft. Collins, Colorado

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Rangeland Management
Rangelands are lands where the natural vegetation is comprised mostly of grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, and shrubs. On rangelands, consumption of plants is a natural ecological process carried out by wildlife or, in their place, domestic grazing animals. Nearly 800 million acres are classified as rangeland in the United States. Although the United States and other countries have been using the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators for forest sustainability since 1994, only within the past year has there been any thought to applying these criteria and indicators to the sustainable management of rangelands. A group of scientists with backgrounds in rangeland science, wildlife biology, ecology, botany, and soil science evaluated the 7 Montreal Process Criteria and the 67 Indicators for their applicability to U.S. rangelands.

The scientists determined that the seven forest-related criteria had significant applicability to rangelands and concluded that the indicators that provide information on ecosystem biodiversity, health, and vitality, as well as soil and water conservation are most important to rangelands. A series of forthcoming meetings coordinated by the USDA Forest Service Range Management Staff will help refine the set of criteria and indicators to be used for sustainable rangeland management.

Written by John Mitchell, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ft. Collins, Colorado

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