USDA Forest Service
Partnerships for Southern Forest Science
Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth
Southern Forest Science Conference
Atlanta, Ga. November 28, 2001
I am very pleased
to be here today. We are here today for two purposes: To celebrate
past accomplishments in forest science in the South, and to
frame a common vision for the future of southern forestry research
I congratulate all
of you on a successful collaborative effort at the Southern
Forest Science Conference. These are some of the measures of
- You have brought
together many voices. There are folks here from the public
and private sectors, from state agencies, land grant and private
universities, environmental and natural resource industry
and organizations, and federal agencies.
- You have reached
across the real or imagined boundaries that divide us, and
I welcome that.
- You have laid
the basis for working hand-in-hand on the current and future
issues our decisionmakers must address. I think that is critically
Forestry in America
began in the South in the 1600s. Even before that, American
Indians in the South practiced sustainable land management,
partly by using fire to enhance local game and other resources.
Today, the nation looks to the South for much of its critical
wood supply. The forested lands in the South provide immeasurable
benefits to residents and visitors alike. So, as we look toward
the future of sustainable forestry in the 21st century, it's
fitting to hold this Forest Science Conference here in the South.
This week, you have
reflected on the strong history of forest research and development
in the South. You have examined the current issues facing forest
management on public and private lands. Today, we heard several
different perspectives on a strategic vision for the future
of southern forestry research and management. What I'd like
to do now is to highlight some of what caught my attention here,
particularly the common grounds I think we have found through
the Southern Forest Resource Assessment and the Montreal Process.
Then I'll close by again acknowledging the importance of collaboration
for sustainable forest management.
I am particularly
delighted that we were able to kick off the Southern Forest
Resource Assessment at this conference. The Southern Forest
Resource Assessment has been in the works for many years; it
represents a tremendous scientific contribution to the management
of forest ecosystems. It will help bring social and economic
benefits to American citizens for many years.
The Assessment is
a peer-reviewed science document. That fact alone will do much
to depoliticize the findings. The Assessment sets a new standard
for the term "best available science." Here are some
of the reasons why this study is so important:
- The Assessment
represents a remarkable partnership among four federal agencies
and the Southern Group of State Foresters.
- It gives us a
comprehensive basis for making informed public policy decisions
and for identifying research priorities.
- The Assessment
encourages thoughtful public review. It makes each chapter
accessible in hypertext, and it incorporates threaded messaging
for easy Internet access. That includes easy access both to
the material and to the comments of others.
- The Assessment
shows how important the decisions are that are made by a multitude
of private landowners, with government largely in an advisory
Most forests in the
South are in private ownership, so the role of the Forest Service's
Research and State and Private Forestry programs is especially
critical. But that doesn't mean the national forests have no
role to play. Findings in the Southern Assessment indicate that
national forests will be needed more than ever for recreation
and for the protection of rare species.
Now I'd like to talk
a little about the Montreal Process. You all know about the
Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable
Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests. That's a mouthful,
so I'm glad it's just Montreal C&I, for short. I think it's
fair to say that the Montreal C&I give us a common framework
for thinking and talking about sustainable forest management,
both in this country and internationally. That's true at this
conference as well. The range of papers presented yesterday
during the concurrent sessions will provide the basis for a
major publication addressing all aspects of the Montreal C&I.
What I'd like to
do now is to give you a few examples. The Montreal Process identified
seven criteria of sustainable forest management. For each criterion,
I'll outline how some of the papers at this conference illuminated
key tasks ahead.
The first criterion
of sustainable forest management is conservation of biological
diversity. Ben Wigley's paper, "Wildlife in Managed
Forests: The Evolution of Research in the South," traced
the history of forestry and wildlife research in the past century.
The paper raised many questions about a direction for the future
of ecological relationships and management of wildlife species
in southern forests. It called for balancing economic benefits
and wildlife habitats in managed forests through adaptive management
experiments. The key is to find the ecological factors behind
how wildlife responds to management techniques.
The second criterion of sustainable forest management is maintenance
of the productive capacity of forest ecosystems. The
trick is to choose the best management approach for a specific
forest landscape and owner combination. A new tool for this
is being developed by the Forest Service's Southern Research
Station: the Hypertext Encyclopedia of Southern Appalachian
Forest Ecosystems. This is technology transfer at its best.
It uses the latest technology to give users the right information
in the right form. It synthesizes and delivers knowledge in
a way that will truly benefit the American people.
The third criterion
of sustainable forest management is maintenance of forest
ecosystem health and vitality. We face severe forest
health problems. For example, on the national forests alone,
some 73 million acres are at risk from wildland fires that could
compromise human safety and ecosystem health. Through the National
Fire Plan, we're stepping up to the plate. Partly, that's through
research to address problems in fire-adapted ecosystems and
the wildland/urban interface. One example is the Southern High-Resolution
Modeling Consortium, part of the national framework of fire
modeling consortiums. The Southern Modeling Consortium will
develop tools for predicting local fire weather and smoke patterns.
With good prediction tools, fire managers and smoke regulators
can safely use fire to maintain ecosystem health.
The fourth criterion
of sustainable forest management is conservation and maintenance
of soil and water resources. In a conference of this
nature, it is vital to recognize the gaps in our knowledge.
In a paper called "'Normal Silviculture' and Forested Wetland
Loss in the Southeast," the authors examine unauthorized
wetland loss due to forestry in the Southeast. Nearly half of
the nation's wetlands are in the 10 southeastern states. Wetlands
are vital for maintaining water quality, retaining floodwaters,
supporting habitat for fish and wildlife, and providing recreation
and livelihoods for millions of people. The good news is that
the rate of net loss has declined in the past two decades. Still,
we need to do more in forestry research and management in terms
of monitoring wetlands and in terms of understanding the effects
of pine plantations and forestry practices in relation to the
Clean Water Act.
The fifth criterion
of sustainable forest management is maintenance of forest
contribution to global carbon cycles. We've all seen
rampant speculation about global warming in the media. It's
up to us to develop a clear picture of how human activities
affect the world's climate and how forests can reduce the impact
through carbon sequestration. I believe a healthy mix of forest
management activities, ranging from timber management to habitat
protection, can do much to offset the impacts of greenhouse
gas production. I am encouraged to hear about the related work
going on here in the South that was presented yesterday.
The last two criteria
of sustainable forest management are maintenance and
enhancement of long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to
meet the needs of societies and legal, institutional,
and economic frameworks. According to a paper under
the title "Southern Residents' Values and Attitudes Toward
Public and Private Forests," the public's changing social
and environmental values may be the primary problem facing traditional
forestry. A survey by the Forest Service's Southern Research
Station suggests that the public generally places the most value
on forests for clean air and the least for wood products. However,
there seems to be a different attitude toward private forests
than toward public forests. Those surveyed seem to value private
forests more than public forests for wood products and less
for clean air. Public values and attitudes profoundly affect
the legal framework for public and private forest management.
We need to deepen our understanding through more research in
the social and economic sciences. Particularly as we implement
the National Fire Plan, we will see more and more need for this
type of research.
Final Morning Wrapup
Before closing, let
me say a few words about the presentations this morning. The
Forest Service is proud to be a major player in the past and
future of forest research and development. I think it's timely
and appropriate that our budget for fiscal 2002 includes an
increase in research funding. More funding will help us continue
our strong research program here in the South and nationwide.
Dr. Robert Lewis outlined our program very well.
From the discussions
this morning, I sense a high level of enthusiasm for ongoing
teamwork among all the players involved in sustaining forested
ecosystems throughout the South.
- Arnett Mace from
the University of Georgia pointed out that the rapid change
that is occurring around us offers unprecedented challenges,
given our limited resources. We still face a low supply of
fundamental information about the various components of forest
resources. We must have a greater number of social scientists
involved, and research teams need to be interdisciplinary.
Research objectives must be clearly defined. Equipment needed
is dramatically increasing in cost. No one entity can operate
alone cooperation is essential the Internet
is a valuable tool for cooperation. Research teams must be
from multiple universities, agencies, and the private sector.
Traditional and nontraditional partnerships are essential
to bring together sufficient expertise and dollars to address
the challenges faced by the research community. Dr. Mace stressed
that we must be able to respond faster to change, we must
stay focused, we need to be even more creative in developing
partnerships, and we must always leverage, leverage, leverage.
And, most importantly, always remember that it is people who
always make the difference and I must say that I strongly
endorse that remark.
- Jim Hull from
the Texas Forest Service, representing the Southern Group
of State Foresters, stressed the great need by the states
for timely, accurate forest survey data in an annualized fashion.
It's the nucleus for politics, for leveraging, and for our
program. We are headed down the road toward establishing the
Southern Annual Forest Inventory System, and there is nothing
more important to the states. And, of course, fire is always
an important topic we have a great need for support
in dealing with wildfire throughout the South. Our congressional
delegation has a low understanding how important forest resources
are in the South, and we can work together in the future to
help them understand and appreciate the importance of southern
forest resources and research. Jim asked if we are prepared
to deal with forestry in a dry cycle for the next 20 to 30
years. He raised several questions that are important to nonindustrial
private forest landowners and that he feels need to be addressed
in the future. I want to assure Jim that we at the Forest
Service are listening; we do promise to work more closely
in partnership with the states on these key issues and in
setting research priorities with our partners.
- Al Lucier from
the National Council on Air and Stream Improvement discussed
the impacts of the cultural revolution on the forestry research
community. In the process of reacting to immediate needs,
developing core competencies has been neglected, and in the
face of flat or declining budgets, we have been unable to
maintain core programs. We can revitalize forestry research
by focusing on three critical areas: productivity (which pays
the bills), environment, and policy. Research has a valuable
role to play in affecting policy providing accurate,
timely data to policymakers; and evaluating policy and technology
options for optimizing environmental performance in the forest
sector. I certainly agree with Al that the South has a vital
role to play in leadership for sustainable forest management.
- Lark Hayes from
the Southern Environmental Law Center offered perspectives
from the nonprofit environmental community. Maintaining an
open dialogue and working relationships across agency and
private sector lines is an important part of making research
relevant in the South. Understanding what the public cares
about is a touchstone for determining research priorities.
Interpretation of information depends on the paradigms of
those doing the interpreting, and better synthesis will be
critical efforts should be interdisciplinary from the
get-go, during the framing of the questions to be addressed.
Lark reiterated the need for policy-relevant research information.
Reacting to changing demands is going to continue to be a
challenge for the southern forest research community.
This morning, we
heard about the many areas where a response from the research
community will be needed in the near future. We heard many specifics,
some of which might seem to conflict; we also heard many common
threads. The challenges for the South are numerous, but so are
the opportunities. What is evident is the need for collaboration.
I think this conference has made a valuable contribution to
collaboration. That's what has made it such a success. If our
past accomplishments point to one thing, it's the need to continue
to cross jurisdictional boundaries for sustainable forest management
on a landscape level. Finding common ground is critical in both
forest research and forest management if we are to meet the
challenges of the 21st century.
A lot of seeds were
sown this week. They give us all hope for the future of sustainable
forest management. We all need to continue nurturing these seedlings
of hope by continuing to build partnerships for the future of