Strengthening Our Roundtable Partnership for Sustainable Forest Management
I am pleased to be here today as the 15th Chief of the Forest Service. During the last 35 years, I have been part of the Forest Service culture, traditions, changes, and dialogue about managing the nation’s forests and rangelands. I am glad to see so many agencies and organizations represented here today, and I know there are many more folks who are concerned about sustainable forest and resource management.
Over the years, I have worked with many of you or else your colleagues. As a Forest Service employee, I’ve had several different positions in the agency, with experience in both the field and the Washington Office—as a forester, district ranger, forest supervisor, deputy staff director, and regional forester. This experience helps me appreciate the various views and interests related to sustainable development.
Today, we are focusing heavily on how our organizations work together. But I want to take just a minute to focus on internal collaboration within the Forest Service. Success for the Forest Service depends on building better connections within the agency. That includes State and Private Forestry, Research and Development, the National Forest System, our Business Operations, the Chief Financial Officer, and International Programs. Since April, when I became Chief, I have focused on getting our internal act together—that is, on improving understanding among the units and between the field and national headquarters. If we don’t get better connected internally, then we cannot be good partners with you.
When we talk about sustainable development or sustainable resource management, we are not just talking theory. Delivering results matters. That includes restoring forest and rangeland health, making lands accessible for recreation, protecting lives and communities from wildfires, and much more. To be effective, we must build better relationships with local communities, with States and tribes, and with the many organizations that share interests and responsibilities. We need local input, knowledge, action, and results. We need to find solutions to real issues by working more effectively together.
Sustainability as the Long-Term Goal
In the Forest Service, we are taking steps to turn the policy of sustainable development into action. I think we need to do three things:
- First, we need to agree on what sustainability is;
- Second, we need to agree on how to measure sustainability;
- Third, we need to agree on how to manage for sustainability.
Work done by the Brundlandt Commission during the 1980s, the agenda identified at the Earth Summit in 1992, and efforts now underway by Montreal Process countries on the Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests define the basic elements of sustainable development and serve as anchors for federal policy. This all is in keeping with the words of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, who put it this way many years ago: “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.”
Last year, the Forest Service incorporated these ideas into an updated expression of the agency’s mission. Our long-term Strategic Plan states: “The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” I think it’s fair to say that sustainability ideas have always been part of the mission of the Forest Service, as expressed through the various programs. But we recognize that the whole concept of sustainability and our knowledge about it keeps evolving.
Nationally, we value the work of the Roundtable on Sustainable Forests. We endorse the use of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators as a common framework in the United States. Even though there are many challenges to measuring sustainability, we agree that the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators make sense. They are a good starting point. And, in my opinion, there really is nothing better.
So how do we manage for sustainability in the 21st century? What has changed or will change? Sustainable resource management means connecting environmental, social, and economic concerns in dealing with real issues in real places with real people to get real results. Conservation, after all, begins and ends on the ground. We are using science to understand management options in more comprehensive ways; and we have laws that help us deal with all three concerns—environmental, social, and economic. The institutional parts also have to fit. We need to improve our capability to apply locally what we know. Through collaborative efforts—whether it is implementing the National Fire Plan, doing watershed restoration projects, or providing recreation opportunities—we need to be concerned about what we do and how we affect each other across ownerships and boundaries. We all know that we cannot hope to achieve sustainability on an isolated piece of land.
At the national level, I do intend to continue strong support for sustainability. We are advancing use of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators as a common framework for measuring progress. For example, we used the seven Criteria to organize the 2000 Assessment of Forest and Range Lands, and we are applying the Criteria and Indicators to local conditions on six national forests in the East and West to test their usefulness and better understand how to integrate processes across scales. We also are working with states (such as Oregon) to shape state resource planning using the Montreal framework, and are working with communities (such as Gogebic County, Mich.) to better understand how forest indicators fit with their community planning and monitoring efforts. More work is underway at the ecoregional, national, and global levels—and so now the key is to integrate our local to global efforts in ways that make sense.
Commitment and Challenge
The agency’s commitment to sustainable forest and resource management clearly includes support for the Roundtable on Sustainable Forests and similar efforts dealing with range and minerals. I’ve recently learned that a Roundtable is emerging to address our nation’s watersheds. There may come a time soon when these various efforts will need closer coordination.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Forests is doing important work. I applaud the thoughtful and careful way in which you are focusing on the use of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators as a common framework for sustainable forest management.
Since the last Executive Leadership meeting in 1998, the Forest Service has supported the Roundtable and will continue to do so. The formative work done by the Roundtable during the first couple of years spurred the federal agencies to develop the Memorandum of Understanding on Sustainable Forest Management Data. The agreement focuses our collective resources on resolving issues and producing the 2003 National Report on Sustainable Forests in collaboration with Roundtable participants and others. The agreement is so important that I want to personally thank the 11 other agencies that so far have signed it along with the Forest Service. The signatories include the:
- U.S. Department of Defense (Environmental Security) (represented today by Bruce Beard for John Paul Woodley)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Earth Science) (represented by Jack Kaye)
- USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (represented by Ralph Otto)
- USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (represented by Diane Gelburd)
- DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs (represented by Bill Downes for Terry Virden)
- DOI Bureau of Land Management (represented by Mike Haske for Sherry Barnett)
- DOI National Park Service
- DOI Office of Policy Analysis (represented by Daniel Jorjani and Ted Heintz for Lynn Scarlett)
- DOI U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (represented by Cathleen Short
- DOI U.S. Geological Survey (represented by Sue Haseltine).
I also am glad to see the State Department here today (represented by Kathy Stevens and Jeff Burnam). The State Department really supported the development of the agreement and is now supporting the interagency work underway as a result of it.
As the Chief of the Forest Service and as the Chief Forester of the United States, I challenge my agency and all of you—as partners inside and outside of government—to be engaged in the Roundtable, help the government develop the 2003 National Report, resolve long-term issues that affect what we know and understand, and share your perspectives as we prepare for global discussions in 2002. In 2002, we will be laying the groundwork for significant work we need to do together for many years to come.
Our actions demonstrate our commitment; talk only goes so far. We know we are part of a much larger effort to achieve sustainable development. Challenges exist and will continue to be face us; only by working together will we become more confident, more able to identify opportunities to advance sustainable forest and resource management in ways that address real issues in real places.
I want to thank both Phil Janik and Jerry Rose for their personal commitment as the cochairs of the Roundtable as well as those who participate in the working groups and core group. There is a lot we can and must do together.