USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics Ecosystem Processes

Sierra Nevada Ecosystems

Institutional and Policy Processes

Current institutional capacities to articulate problems, participate in strategic planning and investment, and influence public land and resources decision-making varies considerably across jurisdictions and geography. The U.S. Forest Service is only one among many public agencies whose institutional processes are adapting to changes in public values and choices. There is a need to better understand institutional constraints and opportunities, and how interests interact with resource management institutions, in the context of public land decision-making. Research is needed on a broad range of social, economic and institutional factors that affect landscapes and land use decisions in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere.

blue arrrowLife Cycle Assessment of the Use of Wildland Biomass for Electrical Power Generation

Subproblem 1: Develop appropriate research methodologies to understand institutional processes by which resource values are established as public goods.

photo of a mapping workshopThe mission of the US Forest Service is to conserve, protect and provide a broad range of public uses and benefits. However, the definition of "beneficial use" changes with different social, political and historical contexts. The agency increasingly finds itself in a position to mediate policy and political processes through which values for public resources are established, and against which trade-offs among costs and benefits can be measured. These processes are poorly understood, both in the immediate context of Forest Service decision-making, and in the larger context of how the values of public goods are defined, established, conserved and traded.

Subproblem 2: Barriers to Investment in Private Sector Biobased Products and Energy Infrastructure.

photo of Mt. Lassen Power signMuch is made of the need to find new markets for the utilization of a new suite of forest resources issuing from forest health restoration treatments. However, very little actual data have been gathered on the broad range of activities involved. Solid research work is being conducted by other Forest Service Research Stations on fuels treatment techniques, methods and costs. Further work through FIA and PNW has led to useful and effective models that help to calculate the costs involved in moving lower value materials to markets. What requires much better focus is the policy context within which incentives are provided and barriers to market development are lifted. There is a need to analyze comprehensively the economic and social impacts of policies that affect our ability to envision, design, and implement appropriate land management decisions.

SNRC is making key contributions to policy development efforts by investigating the effects of new policy at the strategic and tactical levels.

blue arrrowWestern Utilization and Marketing Project

Subproblem 3: Adaptive Management and Community-Scale Collaborative Planning

photo of a meetingA broad range of public interest groups and individuals increasingly see their prerogative to participate in shaping the very questions and assumptions made in land management decisions. A growing body of research has focused on the community and social aspects of collaborative decision-making. However, a much smaller body of research exists on the political processes and power negotiation strategies inherent in all collaborative decision-making.

There are two key lineages of these processes that bear on USFS management and decision-making. First, is the oft-declared, but poorly delivered, commitment to Adaptive Management. The approach of this research program assumes that the difficulties in implementing Adaptive Management stem in large part from poorly negotiated power sharing agreements and loosely institutionalized process triggers in the system. The second key process is community-scale collaborative management. Success stories abound, but the perception of institutional failure appears to increase with time. Research is needed on the causes and predictors of successful collaborative adaptive management processes. Moreover, better planning and visualization tools are needed to help facilitate these key processes.

Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 10:57:40 AM