The Forest Service 2012 Planning rule requires the use of the best available science to inform decisions. As federal land managers inwestern Washington, western Oregon, and northern California prepare to revise their forest plans, they wanted to know how federal forest management affects socioeconomic well-being in rural communities; trends in low income and minority populations, and how these populations interact with federal forests. These questions were addressed in the 2018 Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis.Written by scientists from the Forest Service, other federal agencies, universities, and tribes, the synthesis is a comprehensive review of the social and biological science that has emerged since the Northwest Forest Plan was enacted in 1994; it will help to provide a science foundation for forest plan revisions for 17 national forests within the 24 million acres covered by Northwest Forest Plan.
The research shows that federal forest management affects forest communities differently because communities vary and change over time, and their economies are based to different degrees on forest products and natural amenities. Better understanding the economic development trajectories of different communities will help identify forest management activities that best contribute to their well-being.
Low income and minority populations are growing throughout the Plan area, particularly Hispanics. These populations are particularly active in the contracting forestry workforce, but often experience poor working conditions. They are also active in commercial nontimber forest products gathering, although they are under-represented in decision-making about these products. They have low rates of recreation participation. Understanding relations between people and federal forests locally will help managers make decisions that best contribute to socioeconomic well-being, and enable people to contribute to federal forest management. Forest managers in Washington, Oregon, and California can use this research to better understand how forest management actions and policies affect people and communities; to identify ways of addressing their concerns; and to make management decisions that contribute to community socioeconomic well-being while conserving and restoring federal forestlands.