1998 Report of the Forest Service
Results Act Performance and Accountability Report
The performance indicators described in the following sections represent activities that contribute to understanding, restoring, and maintaining ecosystem health and biological diversity within the National Forest System (NFS), on State and nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) lands in the United States, and throughout the world. In most cases they are the same set of indicators listed under the corresponding objectives in the FY 1998-2000 annual performance plans. For ease of reference and consistency they are shown in the same order. Definitions of the performance indicators are included at the end of this report.
In most cases, annual progress toward longer term outcomes is portrayed by short-term output indicators. Final output levels for the associated performance indicators in FY 1998 are summarized along with a 3-year historical average. More detailed displays of funding and performance are shown in the Statistical Appendix. Indicators that most closely represent the four emphasis areas of the Natural Resource Agenda are highlighted in bold. Output and outcome indicators are being developed and refined in the context of Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests. Established as part of an international dialogue, this effort has since become known by the name of its host city as the Montreal Process.
Goal 1: Ensure Sustainable Ecosystems
Objective 1.1: Healthy, biologically diverse and resilient aquatic ecosystems restored and protected to maintain a variety of ecological conditions and benefits.
Aquatic ecosystems are dynamic, biological systems. The restoration and protection accomplishments under this objective show progress toward longer term objectives of resiliency and stability. Current conditions are known for about 60 percent of the aquatic ecosystems on NFS lands. Additional inventories of resource conditions conducted in FY 1998 will contribute to the accomplishment of management and restoration objectives.
Collectively these efforts help determine the best mix of investments and activities to employ in restoration work. This in turn leads to healthier aquatic ecosystems capable of providing quality water, biological diversity, quality recreation opportunities, and sufficient fish populations to meet subsistence and commercial needs.
Restoring watersheds improves ecosystem health in the immediate project area as well as downstream. Runoff control structures and revegetated areas on NFS lands (see following graph) help improve water quality and control erosion, leading to healthier, more diverse aquatic ecosystems. Stewardship planning and management practices implemented on nonindustrial private forestlands (NIPF) in FY 1998 also helped ensure that aquatic ecosystems were maintained and restored across all boundaries (see Table 10 in the Statistical Appendix).
Performance objectives for these NIPF lands focused on coordination and cooperation with similar efforts conducted by State forestry agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency, and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. Refer to Tables 5, 6, and 31 in the Statistical Appendix for related information. Stewardship Management Plans, based on landowners' objectives, were prepared by State forestry personnel or private forestry consultants, and then implemented by the landowners. Close coordination assures consistency between programs without overlap.
As an example of international cooperation, the Forest Service recently entered into a unique partnership with Ducks Unlimited to acquire, conserve, and restore wetlands and riparian habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, and wetland wildlife in North America, Mexico, and Latin America.
The majority of fish habitat restoration and enhancement and soil and water improvement projects were completed by agency employees in FY 1998 (see Table 14). However, challenge cost-share agreements and other partnerships with State agencies and private groups such as Trout Unlimited greatly increased total accomplishments while improving relationships.
In the arid Southwestern United States, riparian habitats in the Middle Rio Grande Valley are stopover hotspots for birds such as the Wilson's Warbler as they migrate to and from the neotropical zone. Migration is extremely energy demanding and poses very high risks for the survival of these bird species. Research efforts now underway will help answer why bird populations are declining, and evaluate quality of the riparian areas as habitats for migration.
Resource managers need ways to assess watershed and forest health. However, it is costly and impractical to survey all species of plants and animals. Scientists are working on species of amphibians that are excellent indicators of ecosystem health. For the redwood forest of northern California, scientists found that the tailed frog and the southern torrent salamander are very sensitive to fine sediment infusions and may be excellent indicators of sediment impacts on streams.
Another bioindicator was developed by the Forest Service Southern Research Station to diagnose water quality based on the appearance of aquatic insects. The filamentous bacteria that normally colonize the gills and body of aquatic insects are stimulated into a bloom stage of growth when excess nutrients are present. In this stage, the bacteria can kill these aquatic insects. Field survey of this growth can be done with a 10-15X hand lens.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final Management Attainment Reports (MAR) for FY's 1995-98.
* Does not include approximately 22,000 acres of restoration/improvement associated
with emergency supplemental funding received for floods/hurricanes in 1996-1997.
Substantial funding to implement the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Watershed Cleanup Initiative has been appropriated over the past 2 years. In FY 1998, $4.6 million of agency watershed improvement funds were dedicated to the interdepartmental AML initiative. Over 38,000 abandoned and inactive mine sites exist on NFS lands. A great deal of planning and coordination with other Federal agencies, States, tribes, and interested stakeholders is needed to implement AML cleanups on a watershed basis. In FY 1998, inventory and assessment work was completed on the Animas River watershed in Colorado and a $1.7 million contract was awarded to implement reclamation work at the Silver Crescent Mine on the Coeur d'Alene River watershed in Idaho. Other regions have initiated partnerships with the States and initiated inventory activities to develop information and proposals for projects in FY's 1999 and 2000.
In FY 1998 the multi-agency Natural Resources Performance Measurement Forum was formed and began to identify common outcomes and performance measures for physical and biological resources. The Forest Service and other Federal natural resource management agencies, such as the BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service, and EPA, began to identify roles, strategies, and responsibilities related to larger, Government-wide goals. One of the Forum's first efforts was to develop and recommend a set of outcome-based, agency-wide goals for clean water in support of the President's Clean Water Action Initiative.
In addition to decommissioning about 2,100 miles of road in FY 1998 (see Table 13), the agency also developed an Interim Rule for an 18-month suspension of road construction and reconstruction in many NFS roadless areas. After conducting 30 public meetings and reviewing over 60,000 public comments, an environmental assessment with 6 alternatives was completed and used to set the stage for a long-term roads policy.
Acquisition of land, either through exchange or by purchase, can provide protection for important resource values, such as critical habitat for TES wildlife species, and allow for more effective watershed management. Depending on the nature of the lands involved, acreages are also reported under Objectives 1.2 and 1.3. Opportunities to acquire important lands can occur with little advance notice, and willing sellers often expect a rapid response. To accommodate the needs of all parties, the agency has worked with conservation groups such as the Trust for Public Lands and the Nature Conservancy. In FY 1998, these efforts resulted in the acquisition of over 50,000 acres, including the following highly visible and significant sites:
The New World Mine (Montana) - Located within the Gallatin NF, this site was purchased to prevent development of a gold mine just outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. This acquisition helps ensure the sustainability of a highly significant ecosystem, and permits cleanup of past mine wastes.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (Oregon and Washington) - Over 200 acres were added to this 115,000-acre national treasure which attracts nearly 5 million visitors each year. This continuing implementation of the comprehensive Land Acquisition Strategic Plan helps ensure that highly sensitive and vulnerable resources are identified and acquired.
The White Mountain Scenic Area (New Hampshire) - In FY 1998 Land and Water Conservation Funds were used to purchase 1,900 acres encompassing a large contiguous block of undeveloped lakeshore along four lakes and a nationally significant landmark involving the Appalachian Trail. Associated river and lake ecosystems are very sensitive, and with this purchase development pressures have been prevented.
Objective 1.2: Ecological integrity of forested ecosystems restored or protected to maintain biological and physical components, functions and interrelationships, and the capability for self-renewal.
The extent and severity of forest health problems are subjects of ongoing inventory, monitoring, and research across all ownerships (Tables 5-6). In the past few years, improved information has allowed the agency to refine treatment priorities, including efforts to reduce the build-up of combustible forest materials on NFS and private lands, reduce insect and disease threats, replant and improve forest stands, and prevent soil erosion. Around the world the Forest Service is working with developing countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia to share understanding and knowledge of forest ecosystem restoration, thereby protecting the watersheds of which they are a part.
To help achieve a more integrated approach to this objective, the Ecosystem Management Corporate Team (EMCT) was created to address issues that cross deputy and program areas, such as sustainable development, invasive species, and the Clean Water Action Plan. In one of its many coordination efforts, the EMCT played a key role in the agency's hosting of the 1998 Sustainable Forest Management Roundtable in Washington, DC. Attended by Cabinet-level representatives of all Federal land management agencies and over 30 State, tribal, and county agencies and national industry and environmental organizations, this roundtable generated a commitment to sustainable forest management and the use of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators as the basis for common measures and protocols.
The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program is the agency's premier program for tracking ecological integrity and sustainability of all of the Nation's forests. Forest Service employees completed measurement of 6 percent of the existing 120,000 sample locations, and produced 87 publications documenting status and trends in land use change, species diversity, growth, mortality, removals (harvest), and ownership patterns. An annual inventory approach was implemented in 7 States in 1998, with the goal of implementing it in all States by the year 2003.
Long-Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) sites were recently established in Idaho and Oregon by the agency's Pacific Northwest, Intermountain, and Northern Regions at the Priest River Experimental Forest; Payette National Forest; Boise National Forest (tentative); and the Umpqua National Forest (satellite plots). These LTSP sites are the latest additions to an existing system of over 100 sites at 36 locations in the U.S. and Canada, and fill critical gaps in the national network. The LTSP is designed to develop monitoring protocols to help the national forests comply with the monitoring provisions of the National Forest Management Act of 1976 and ensure the sustainability of a basic component of forest ecosystems.
Insect and Disease detection and evaluation surveys were conducted on 213 million acres of Federal lands and 575 million acres of nonfederal State and private lands (see Table 5). These surveys provide a more complete and timely report on regional instances of declining forest health attributable to forest insects and diseases. Survey findings, recommendations, and advice about suppression needs and available alternatives were provided to land managers. The goal of 675 million acres was exceeded due to increased acres reported in the East on State and private lands.
The Forest Health Monitoring Program's network of permanent observation plots was expanded to include the States of Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming. Fifty-nine percent of the forested area of the lower 48 States was monitored as part of this program, compared to 51 percent in 1997. This program, conducted in cooperation with State forestry agencies, provides long-term trends in forest health for early detection and diagnosis of changes in conditions. Full coverage is expected by 2003.
Nearly 1.5 million acres of prescribed burning and other fuel reduction treatments in 1998 enhanced forest health and diversity by reducing wildfire intensity, protected vulnerable urban-wildland interface areas, promoted forage productivity, and restored fire-dependent ecosystems. Also in 1998 the Forest Service and Department of the Interior started the Joint Fire Science Program to provide better scientific support for fuel management activities.
Stand improvements (nearly 300,000 acres in FY 1998, see Table 20), such as precommercial thinning, have improved forest health by reducing stand density and allowing the remaining stand to grow more vigorously. More vigorous stands reduce the potential for insect and disease outbreaks and high-intensity fires, both of which impair forest health.
Wildlife habitat restoration and protection projects also contribute to healthy forests, and help ensure continued availability of those lands for terrestrial wildlife species. In the past year, using appropriated funds alone, the agency restored over 167,000 acres of terrestrial habitat, including the nearly 42,000 acres within rangeland ecosystems (see Objective 1.3). These efforts were enhanced by challenge cost-share efforts with groups such as the National Wild Turkey Federation (see Table 14 for total acreages).
Commercial timber harvests can be another tool used to improve and restore forest health. In FY 1998 the Forest Service removed and treated southern pine beetle infested forests through properly designed regular program and salvage timber sales. These efforts helped restore affected ecosystems to a healthy, vigorous condition.
Promptly reforesting NFS lands after timber harvest (nearly 290,000 acres in FY 1998, see Table 15) helps retain soil in place, prevents harmful stream sedimentation, provides cover for wildlife, and improves the resilience of ecosystems. Reforestation needs have declined in recent years, paralleling the decline in timber harvest over the same period.
Regeneration of longleaf pine in the Southern United States is a important productivity and biological diversity issue. At the time of early settlement by Europeans, this ecosystem covered an estimated 90 million acres. Less than 3 million acres still exist today. Over 30 plant and animal species associated with the longleaf pine ecosystem are threatened or endangered. Scientists recently published Practical Guidelines for Producing Longleaf Pine Seedlings in Containers (General Technical Report SRS-14, 1998), which will help achieve successful restoration of this tree species.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final MAR for
Natural events, such as insect infestations and catastrophic fires, can have profound effects on ecosystem health. The impacts of future occurrences can be mitigated to varying degrees with appropriate prevention and control measures such as prescribed fire. In some cases, as with the American chestnut, mitigation may never be found. Several interagency efforts are successfully protecting forests and habitat from introduced insects and diseases.
The Forest Service, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Department of Commerce are working to prevent outbreaks and infestations by ensuring that logs, chips, and other wood products imported from overseas are not carrying insects, such as the Asian gypsy moth and Asian long-horned beetles. These insects can spread quickly in the United States because they have few natural predators, and cause significant economic, social, and ecological damage to urban, rural, and forest lands in North America, especially in areas adjacent to the east and west coasts.
Gypsy moth, southern pine beetle, dwarf mistletoes, and other insects and diseases were suppressed on 0.8 million acres of Federal and non-Federal land in FY 1998. The total acres treated decreased because of a drastic gypsy moth decline in the East and a decline in the southern pine beetle population in the South. The Slow-The-Spread pilot project in Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia demonstrated that gypsy moth spread can be reduced by more than 60 percent along the leading edge of the infested area.
Financial assistance for implementation of Slow-The-Spread projects was provided to Federal agencies, including the Forest Service, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, and to States for treatments that were shown to be economically, biologically, and environmentally sound. These suppression actions protected trees and timber, wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreation values as well as human health and safety.
Thirty-six Special Technology Development Projects (STDP) and National Agricultural Pesticide Impact Assessment Program (NAPIAP) projects were funded to develop, improve, and demonstrate new technologies, materials, methods, and strategies to improve the efficiency of forest pest management. These projects included the use of biological controls to limit the spread of noxious weeds and exotic insects, pest risk modeling, enhanced aerial surveys technology, and data visualization technology.
As detailed in Table 26 of the Statistical Appendix, 200,357 acres of national forests and grasslands were treated with pesticides in the past fiscal year. This acreage represents a decrease of 33 percent in the treated acreage from the previous year. The majority of the pesticides applied were for the management of forest vegetation (conifer and hardwood release and control), disease control in tree nurseries, native and exotic weed management, and predator control on rangeland.
Pesticide Treatments - Fiscal Years 1996-98
Nonindustrial private forest landowners control nearly 60 percent of productive forest land in the United States, but less than 10 percent of them have written forest management plans (see Table 10). By providing assistance in multiresource planning and management on non-Federal forest lands, the Forest Service is enhancing forest health across the entire landscape.
The Cooperative Forestry programs involve close coordination with Federal, State, local, and tribal government organizations and private landowners. Since Federal dollars are matched by State contributions, even small increases in Federal funds result in important on-the-ground accomplishments. For example, the Forest Service contributed $2 million to the Mountains to Sound Greenway project in which the State, environmental and industry groups, and other Federal agencies are working to acquire conservation easements from Seattle across the Cascades to ensure that the lands are protected.
The majority of the 30 areas purchased with Land and Water Conservation Funds in FY 1998 are forested lands with a wide variety of significant resource values. Depending on the nature of the lands involved, acreages are also reported under Objectives 1.2 and 1.3. One example is a 550-acre purchase along the Big Sur coastline located in the Los Padres National Forest of California. This parcel is one of the most scenic along the world-reknowned coastline, and complements the nearly 5,000 acres acquired over the past 5 years. The area also provides habitat for 12 wildlife species identified on Federal or State threatened or endangered lists.
Objective 1.3: Healthy, diverse, and resilient rangeland ecosystems restored and protected to maintain robust riparian systems, a variety of ecological conditions and benefits, and biodiversity.
Healthy rangelands provide habitat for many plant and wildlife species and forage for commercial use. Where they adjoin streams, rangelands support riparian species--including many listed as threatened or endangered. Although public rangelands are in better condition than they were at the turn of the century, an estimated 20 million acres of NFS rangelands do not meet forest plan standards or require further analysis to determine their status.
In FY 1998, the agency restored about 1 percent of those areas needing improvement, thus allowing them to support native and desirable nonnative plant species. The Forest Service improved approximately 24,000 acres of rangeland with nonstructural treatments such as seeding, fertilizing, and liming.
Approximately 6-7 million acres of NFS lands are now infested with noxious weeds such as Russian thistle, salt cedar, leafy spurge, and kudzu. These invasive species are spreading at a rate of 8-14 percent annually, for a conservatively estimated increase of 480,000 acres each year. Through the Invasive Alien Species Noxious Weed Strategy, the agency developed an action-oriented control program in conjunction with adjacent landowners and managers, and other stakeholders. In compliance with environmental analyses and decisions, over 75,000 acres were treated in FY 1998.
The agency's objectives for managing rangelands are diverse, ranging from enhancing grassland bird habitat to maintaining forage for domestic livestock. These objectives rely on research to guide location of range fencing to help restore riparian habitat or native vegetation. Research also focuses on the factors affecting rangeland health, including timing and duration of grazing by livestock and wildlife, recreation use, weather patterns, and development of gas, oil, and mineral resources.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final MAR
reports for FY's 1995-98.
The agency leverages funds through programs such as grazing permittee construction or implementation of improvements, grazing fee credits on national grasslands, and challenge cost-share projects. USDA, DOI, and State rangeland managers have developed multi-State and multijurisdictional noxious weed management plans (e.g., the Greater Yellowstone Area), worked with local highway departments to spray road rights-of-way across jurisdictions, researched biological control methods, and prepared educational materials and training courses. This has helped the individual partners use funds more efficiently, leverage other resources, and reduce duplicative efforts.
In FY 1998, four program reviews related to Objective 1.3 were conducted in five regions. The key findings related to the NEPA analysis process for grazing allotments, grazing resource management planning and inventory, and wildlife program accountability.
Objective 1.4: Healthy, diverse, and resilient aquatic and terrestrial resources restored and protected through hazardous substances site response.
Through the agency's work and cooperative efforts, land and water resource conditions were restored and protected through hazardous substance site responses under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
HAZMAT site cleanup improves water quality, increases recreation opportunities, and restores fish and wildlife habitat. The Forest Service estimates there are 1,800 HAZMAT sites on NFS lands that will require cleanup action. Last year, the agency completed 68 response actions at hazardous substance sites, a 30-percent increase over FY 1997.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's1995-97); final MAR for
* Prior to FY 1998 site characterizations/cleanups were reported as a combined total.
Preservatives used to prolong life of wood used in outdoor applications can eventually end up in soils and streams. To prevent future problems, Forest Products Laboratory scientists are using preservative-tolerant fungi and bacteria as biotreatment of waste wood to reduce the volume going to landfills, and to recover wood fibers for recycling. Research and Development (R&D) also works to identify microorganisms that can help remediate polluted soils and wastewaters.
The agency is developing partnerships and securing additional funds by leveraging resources from Federal, State, tribal, and local governments; nongovernmental organizations; and potentially responsible parties. The Forest Service has worked with these partners to implement a multiagency abandoned mine lands initiative. In FY 1998, they prioritized the sites that need remediation, and they accelerated efforts to clean up and reclaim sites. This has been successful in western watersheds where CERCLA and non-CERCLA sites pose ecological and safety dangers.
Objective 1.5: Populations of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species are conserved through recovery and management efforts.
Recovering and conserving federally proposed and listed species, and agency-designated sensitive species are fundamental, legal responsibilities of the Forest Service. The existing and future welfare of threatened, endangered, and sensitive (TES) species is a key indicator of NFS aquatic, forest, and rangeland ecosystem health. Improving conditions for these plant and animal species, including the reintroduction of natural patterns of disturbance and other ecological processes, also benefits many other wildlife and plant species.
The agency supports R&D programs to better understand TES habitat needs and the complex interrelationships within the biotic and abiotic components of the environment. Understanding the habitat relationships and requirements for individual TES species is critical for managers charged with developing and implementing conservation and restoration projects. Monitoring TES populations and habitat components in project areas is essential to understanding impacts and revising practices to be more effective.
In FY 1998, about 3 percent of the identified sensitive species had a conservation agreement and/or strategy completed to guide resource management efforts. Approved threatened and endangered species recovery plans were implemented for 190 species. The Forest Service continues to restore TES habitat and ensure that agency actions do not jeopardize federally listed species or their critical habitat.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final MAR for
FY's 1995-98; Wildlife, Fish and Rare Plants Database, 1998. Refer to Table 14 in
the Appendix for accomplishments by region.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers, an endangered species, are found in open pine forests of the Southeast. The Forest Service, Department of Defense, FWS, State agencies, tribal governments, and private individuals are jointly protecting and enhancing critical habitat in these coastal plain and piedmont ecosystems.
Since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, recovery has focused on reestablishing birds in abandoned habitats. Working with the Department of Energy and Savannah River Natural Resources Management and Research Institute, agency scientists have developed a mobile aviary to allow "soft" release of captured birds into target habitats.
In February 1998, a severe windstorm on the Angelina and Sabine National Forests in Texas damaged critical habitat. Rapid consultation with the FWS and response from local groups helped the agency rehabilitate the blowdown area quickly.
Objective 1.6: Better ecosystem management decisions based on the best available scientific and management information.
In FY 1998 the R&D program continued to develop and provide managers with scientific and technical information needed to manage and sustain the forest and range lands of the Nation. Activities emphasized values, products, and services that would maintain and enhance ecosystem health at home and abroad.
Development of the Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) continued under auspices of the Ecosystem Management Corporate Team (EMCT) and the Interregional Ecosystem Management Coordination Group. Key milestones included production and testing of corporate data base prototypes for air, vegetation, and terrestrial modules of NRIS. Planning was initiated for water, fauna, and human dimension modules. Common data standards and delivery systems are being developed to generate information for planning, analysis, decisionmaking, and management of forests and grasslands. Key indicators are shown in the following table.
Forest Service R&D has a diverse portfolio that addresses the key land management issues of Federal lands and provides intellectual leadership worldwide. The Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management provide a framework necessary to assess resource conditions over multiple ownerships. A multiagency group is developing common data standards and protocols to ensure consistent implementation and use. By completing integrated inventories and ecological assessments, researchers provide managers with the latest information about existing forest and rangeland conditions, potential resource capabilities, and demand.
The year 1998 also marked the 50th anniversary of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. A historical analysis of continuous research, including 700 scientific citations from the last decade, showed many long-term benefits to understand how "healthy" ecosystems function as well as results that help land managers make near-term decisions. This collaborative research effort has included the Willamette National Forest and Oregon State University.
The publication of Fire's Effects on Ecosystems (John Wiley and Sons, Inc.) in 1998 has already helped scientists, managers, and decisionmakers evaluate the impacts of fire on soil, water, vegetation, riparian, air, and social components of ecosystems. This book synthesizes information from the last 20 years of research into a format accessible as a reference to planners, decisionmakers, managers, and technicians.
As described in Objective 1.2, the gypsy moth continues to be a serious exotic invasive pest. In 1998 agency scientists published their work leading to the discovery and patent of a strain of virus that attacks the gypsy moth, but that is benign to humans and other organisms, setting the stage for commercial production. Compared to chemical and biological agents currently used to control gypsy moth, this new method has little or no environmental impact.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final MAR for FY's
For more than 70 years, the Forest Service has conducted an inventory and analysis of forested lands in the United States (FIA). This data base is routinely used by Federal land managers, States, private industry, and international groups. The natural resource information developed through research and the status information developed by inventory and monitoring efforts are crucial in the development of Forest Service policy, programs, and revision of land and resource management plans, helping to ensure that ecosystem health and productivity are maintained.
An annual inventory system is being implemented for the 13 States in the South. The annual forest inventory system provides the basis for integrating the Forest Health Monitoring and the FIA programs. Components of this system include: plot strategies, field logistics, use of remote sensing, models, quality assurance, and data base management.
Objective 1.7: Naturally functioning wilderness ecosystems where conditions are determined primarily by natural forces.
With almost 20 percent of NFS lands designated as wilderness, the National Wilderness Preservation System plays a key role ensuring sustainable ecosystems. The major purpose of the congressional wilderness designation is to protect and preserve the natural, "wilderness" character of the designated area while allowing opportunities for solitude and primitive and unconfined outdoor recreation (see Objective 2.1). As much as possible, natural ecological processes are allowed to operate without intervention. As such, wildernesses serve as laboratories where conditions are determined primarily by natural forces, providing a basis for assessing the effects of changes induced by land management practices, pollution episodes, and other human-induced events.
The Forest Service ensures that NFS lands with congressionally designated wildernesses and their associated ecosystems are influenced primarily by natural processes and protected from human-caused degradation. To help ensure this, in FY 1998 the agency acquired four parcels within existing wildernesses totaling over 300 acres in the States of Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Utah.
# Sources include Annual Reports of the Forest Service (FY's 1995-97); final MAR for FY's 1995-98.
Increasing use of wilderness areas, together with human activities and development pressures outside of wilderness, creates stresses that threaten the enormous biological and societal benefits derived from these areas. Managers struggle to understand these threats, and to protect and restore natural conditions and opportunities for wilderness experiences. To do so they rely on the results of rigorous research on wilderness ecosystem character, the biological and social impacts of human activities, the role of wilderness in larger social systems, and the impact of different policy and management alternatives.
There continues to be broad support among natural resource agencies for this type of wilderness training, education, and research. In FY 1998 the Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service, and FWS jointly trained employees and conducted research at the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute.
A recent product of the Institute, Stewardship Across Boundaries (Island Press, 1998), presents a framework for understanding administrative boundaries and effects. It deals with human, ecological, social, legal, and institutional aspects of boundaries around wilderness, private, recreation, and public lands. This book helps managers become more involved with users and individuals beyond their own boundaries.
In FY 1998, the Forest Service also continued its work with the Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, and DOI to address overflight issues that may threaten wilderness values and resources. This effort is coordinated through the Interagency Airspace/Natural Resources Coordination Group.