USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
1220 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

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» Science Synthesis to Inform Plan Revisions Within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) Area

Update July 17, 2018:

NWFP Synthesis Science Forum Recording, Transcript, and Presentations Now Available


The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest Research Stations developed the Synthesis of Science to Inform Land Management within the Northwest Forest Plan Area, which has now been published online. Written by scientists from the Forest Service, other federal agencies, universities, and tribes, the synthesis is a comprehensive review of the science that has emerged since the Plan was enacted in 1994 and will help to provide a science foundation for forest plan revisions for 17 national forests within the 24-million-acre NWFP area in western Washington, western Oregon, and northern California.


The research stations hosted a science forum on June 26 in Portland, Oregon, to provide an overview of the key findings of the science synthesis. The forum was also available remotely via Webcast. The recorded webinar, speaker presentations, and event transcript are available at:


News Release:
Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis released, June 11, 2018


An electronic copy of the final science synthesis is available online at:
Hardcopies of the report and its executive summary will be available later this summer.


Public input on the scientific content of the draft synthesis was compiled by Mackenzie Marketing, a third-party contractor is available at:  This information was shared with the Ecological Society of America, the organization coordinating the peer review, to provide to the group of independent peer reviewers for their consideration as they reviewed the draft science synthesis. The Ecological Society of America coordinated and conducted the peer review process and provided a peer review comment summary to the synthesis authors. Scientists then prepared a response to the peer review comments.  





Project Overview

Northwest Forest Plan.Background: The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (which includes Oregon and Washington) and Pacific Southwest (which includes California) Research Stations are developing a science synthesis to inform the revision of land management plans (forest plans) for 17 national forests within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) area. The NWFP amended land management plans in 1994 to protect threatened and endangered species associated with late successional and old-growth forest habitats while still contributing to social and economic sustainability. U.S. Forest Service Region 5 (California) and Region 6 (Oregon and Washington) have requested the synthesis to provide a thorough, up-to-date review of the relevant scientific literature pertaining to key resource management topics within the NWFP area. 


Purpose: Synthesis of existing science to provide managers with a science foundation for revision of forest plans within the NWFP area.


Approach: Science provides the foundation for credible decision-making. Forest Service Research and Development works at the forefront of science to improve the health and use of our nation's forests and grasslands. The 2012 Planning Rule requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions. The NWFP-wide science synthesis will inform the assessment phase of forest plan revision under the 2012 Planning Rule. It is essentially information gathering that brings together the relevant scientific information focused on key topics and management questions.


Figure 1. The NWFP science synthesis is part of the pre-assessment phase of forest plan revisions for R5 and R6.

Figure 1. The NWFP science synthesis is part of the pre-assessment phase of forest plan revisions for R5 and R6.


The synthesis is based on the 20-year Northwest Forest Plan monitoring reports, and other published peer-reviewed science and agency data bases.


The synthesis is a general technical report and was subject to peer review following the Office of Management and Budget and US Department of Agriculture guidelines. The science synthesis considers currently available peer-reviewed science that is published by a reputable scientific or professional journal or through an agency-sponsored peer-review process that meets the general criteria for competent and credible peer review.  University theses, government reports, symposium proceedings etc. may be considered if certain topics are not adequately covered in peer reviewed literature. In some cases analyses may be conducted using existing data to illustrate points raised in the literature. In such cases methods will be described.


Project Leads: Dr. Thomas Spies, recently retired from Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Dr. Peter Stine, recently retired from Pacific Southwest Research Station, are the co-leads and editors of the synthesis. Scientists from the PNW and PSW Research Stations are lead authors for synthesis chapters and sections. The 45 coauthors include other research station scientists and scientists from other agencies, universities, and tribes. 


Synthesis topics covered:  The synthesis is organized around the conservation, restoration and socio-economic goals and themes of the NWFP. The synthesis addresses topical areas relevant to plan revision such as: 

  • Old growth forest ecosystems
  • Listed species including the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet
  • Other species associated with older forests
  • Aquatic and riparian species and ecosystems
  • Socio-economic well-being, community stability, timber harvest
  • Collaboration
  • Stakeholder attitudes
  • Tribal values and resources
  • Role and effects of disturbance agents
  • Early successional and other developmental vegetation stages
  • Climate change
  • Conservation strategies and effectiveness
  • Restoration strategies and effects
  • Uncertainties and scientific disagreement
  • Geographic variation within the NWFP area
  • Integration and tradeoffs
  • Considerations for management


Science Synthesis TransparencyThe Forest Service is committed to working across agency boundaries with other federal agencies and the public to provide a sound science foundation for consideration by land managers for the plan revision process. The Forest Service has made the process of development of the synthesis as transparent as possible and feasible.  The Forest Service has provided for several opportunities for input to the process from members of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), other interested parties, and the general public.   


We intend to share the following information on this website when available:

One of the key opportunities for public input was through suggesting peer-reviewed papers for the science team to consider in the science synthesis.  At the request of the public, we developed an on-line Science Synthesis Reference Literature Database that contains peer-reviewed literature being considered for inclusion in the synthesis. This interactive database allows interested parties to submit for consideration literature that is peer reviewed. New publications that are published or accepted during 2016 will be fully considered up to the point of the draft in late summer 2016. 


Peer Reviewed Literature for Consideration in Synthesis:  Peer review is the standard procedure within the scientific community for determining which findings meet thresholds of scientific scrutiny. The authors of the science synthesis for the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) applied a standard of using material that has been peer-reviewed and published by a reputable scientific or professional journal or through an agency-sponsored peer review process that meets the general criteria for competent and credible peer review.


In general, the authors did, wherever possible, focus on peer-reviewed research conducted in the NWFP area for forest ecosystems with relevant ecological or socioeconomic conditions. Ecological and social research are always context specific, and few, if any, universal principles apply in either of these disciplines because place, time, and research scope all affect the data collected. Scientific studies are often published with caveats about their implications to other spatial and temporal scales. These caveats make it difficult for managers and even other scientists to integrate and distill the information for particular management situations. To address this challenge, the science synthesis clarifies the extent and limitations of available information, especially by highlighting various research gaps.


Certain subjects may lack available peer-reviewed literature, however, especially regarding social, economic, health, cultural, or highly specialized ecological topics. To address such gaps, authors may have incorporated relevant scientific information from master’s theses and dissertations and potentially other research that has been subject to review. Any references to such literature will clearly indicate the different nature of the source to the readers.  While the science synthesis will focus on summarizing existing peer-reviewed literature, the national forests will consider a host of other sources of information and available data when they begin their plan revision assessments.


Draft Science Synthesis Available, Public Forum and Webinar Held December 6, 2016


The peer review draft Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis from December 2016 was shared with the public for input. Because the science synthesis is a highly influential science assessment, it is receiving an independent peer review under guidelines from the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Department of Agriculture ( Peer review of the synthesis report was managed independently of the U.S. Forest Service by the Ecological Society of America.


The public was provided with two options to provide input on the science content of the synthesis to the group of independent peer reviewers:


  • Provide written input (upload letters or type input directly) on the draft science synthesis through January 20, 2017.
  • Provide oral input at a public forum and webinar held on December 6, 2016


December 6, 2016 Public Forum Agenda


Recording of December 6, 2016 Public Forum Webcast


The forum was broadcast as a webinar, so interested parties outside of the Portland commuting area could participate. The public forum consisted of two short presentations that provided an overview of the science synthesis and the peer review process followed by an opportunity for the public to provide oral input. Mackenzie Marketing, a third-party contractor, compiled all public input and provided it to the peer reviewers for consideration mid February 2017. 


Key Points:  

  • A third party contractor, Mackenzie Marketing, hosted the public forum and webinar to allow for oral and written input on the science content of the synthesis. The input was compiled and provided to the peer reviewers for their consideration. In all more than 130 comments were submitted, totalling over 900 pages. The peer reviewers considered the input while preparing their written review comments for the authors of the synthesis. The peer reviewers directed their comments only to the authors according to standard peer review procedures. Click here for a list of peer reviewers selected by the Ecological Society of America.
  • The science synthesis is intended to provide the science foundation and help inform the revision of land management plans. Multiple future engagement opportunities will be provided by these Forest Service regions when the actual plan revision process begins.

Peer Review Draft Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis chapters.


View recorded December 6, 2016 Public Forum.


The peer review process concluded in April 2017. The science synthesis authors revised their chapters in response to the peer review comments. Authors have also completed a reconciliation for each chapter showing how they considered the peer review comments. In the summer of 2017, the PNW and PSW Stations completed a final policy review of all the chapters.


Science Synthesis Reference Literature Database

This interactive database will allow interested parties to submit for consideration literature that is peer reviewed. The reference database is now available for submission of additional references. 



News Release:


Key Documents: Documents of interest on related topics are included as links below.


Key Website Links:

For questions on content of this webpage contact: Becky Gravenmier, Science Coordinator, PNW Station,; 503-808-2851




US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Wednesday,18July2018 at15:00:12CDT

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