WYOMING – National Forests across the country are preparing to integrate the New Planning Rule’s emphasis on ecosystem integrity and best available science into their Forest plans. The Rocky Mountain Research Station recently connected with the Bridger-Teton National Forest to pilot a pre-forest planning science needs approach. To accomplish this, a dozen RMRS scientists and staff traveled to the forest for an informal science-manager engagement that perfectly complements the BTNF’s proactive pre-forest plan revision they are calling their “Readiness Strategy.” This Readiness Strategy allows for development of information, staffing, public engagement and governance components in advance, to support the future forest planning efforts.
The BTNF Readiness Strategy outlines three steps for the revision effort and options available for success.
- Step 1 - Readiness for Assessment and Concurrent Processes
- Step 2 – Assessment
- Step 3 - Plan Revision.
In order to begin the forest plan revision process, staff must first identify gaps in information and understanding around key management issues. This is where RMRS can help. RMRS has learned that early engagement in forest planning yields the best integration of science into the forest plan revision process.
To begin the collaboration, RMRS and BTNF used virtual pre-work to help develop an appropriate science-manager team to match preliminary science gaps. Once the team was in place, they met for two days of networking, information sharing and brainstorming. Working together, the team developed a collaboration strategy that identifies science needs and gaps on the forest and specific paths forward toward closing these gaps in the next two years. This collaboration plan includes:
- Using existing tools and expertise to model shallow landslide hazards
- Developing new eDNA markers for aquatic organisms
- Increasing the understanding of BTNF ecosystem services and recreation contributions to the local community
- Continuing discussions to match local forest products infrastructure and economies to a realistic scale of vegetation treatments
The collaboration between RMRS and BTNF is inspiring and utilizes an efficient, flexible proactive approach to forest plan revision.