Ecological restoration is a value-laden endeavor; Nature has no intrinsic concept of “healthy” ecosystems. Managers, researchers, and the public must define the goals of restoration projects, prioritize values at risk, and determine relevant temporal and spatial scales. Defining desired (or undesirable) future conditions for ecosystems raises ethical and social questions—desired by who and for who?—making it necessary that natural resource managers appreciate the human side of restoration.
To assist with the application of social science to ecological restoration, the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University, and National Forest Foundation hosted the Human-side of Restoration Webinar Series. The series consisted of seven interactive webinars focusing on the interface between ecological restoration and human communities.
Natural resource managers often have to make decisions about how to allocate scarce resources to achieve the best outcomes from management activities. When doing this it’s critical to consider the effect restoration activities have on human well-being. In the kick-off for the Human-side of Restoration Webinar Series, Cindy Swanson and Michael S. Hand (USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station) explained ways to (and reasons for) incorporating socio-economic data into management decisions to prioritize what, where, how much, and how to restore.
Introduction (Cindy Swanson)
Michael Hand is a Research Economist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station out of Missoula, MT. His research is primarily in two areas: (1) risk-based approaches to wildland fire planning and mitigation and (2) the valuation of ecosystem services. He is currently working on a project to assess the vulnerability of ecosystem services to climate change in the Pacific Northwest. Michael graduated with his PhD in Economics from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org; (406) 329-3375.
Cindy Swanson is the Program Manager for the Human-Dimensions Research Area at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. She has held a variety of positions with the Forest Service, including Research Wildlife Biologist; Regional Director of the Watershed, Wildlife, Fisheries and Rare Plants; and Natural Resource Economist. Cindy holds a Ph.D. in agriculture economics from The Ohio State University. Contact Cindy at email@example.com; (406) 329-3388.
As a public agency, the Forest Service manages its land within legal boundaries set out in legislation and case law, while also considering the interests and concerns of stakeholders. By their very nature, forests, rangelands, and riparian areas are ever changing, complex, connected systems. So are the values and perceptions of the human communities that live, work, and recreate on public land.
In this webinar, presenters Courtney Schultz (Colorado State University) and David Seesholtz (USFS Pacific Northwest Region) covered the legal landscape of cumulative effects analysis and adaptive management—two approaches to better understand the effects of restoration and other management activities on complex systems and incorporate this information into resource management activities.
David Seesholtz is a research liaison for the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the Forest Service. David leads a research effort titled NEPA for the 21st Century that examines various aspects related to accomplishing NEPA responsibilities. NEPA for the 21st Century aims to provide a creditable science basis for policy development and management activities associated with environmental planning. Previously David has served in numerous capacities (positions) for the “management side” of the agency including planning staff officer, regional social scientist, and district ranger.
Courtney Schultz is an assistant professor of forest policy at CSU. Her research looks at the intersection of science and planning, particularly around cumulative impacts analysis, monitoring and adaptive management, and use of best available science in implementation of the planning rule. She worked for a year with the U.S. Forest Service as the assistant team leader of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative and subsequently has conducted research on the implementation of the CFLRP program, looking at planning and adaptive management for large scale restoration. She is also currently, at the request of the Washington Office, leading up the third-party evaluation of the Integrated Resource Restoration budget pilot.
The Forest Service has increasingly incorporated collaboration, the act of engaging a diverse set of stakeholders with a range of perspectives, interests, and knowledge, into project planning, implementation, and monitoring activities. The benefits of collaboration include the opportunity to engage a range of perspectives, work through polarizing issues outside of court, build understanding of and support for agency actions, and create more durable outcomes.
This webinar focused on collaborative implementation of restoration projects. Presenters Dr. William Butler (Florida State University), Annie Schmidt (Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition), and Allen Rowley (Fishlake National Forest) discussed research findings and practical experience engaging in collaboration.
William Butler is an assistant professor of environmental and collaborative planning in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. His research examines collaborative process, design, structures, and interactions in natural resources and environmental management context, with a focus on practitioner and policy-level learning and change. His most recent work includes a four-year study of the U.S. Fire Learning Network and a five-year study of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.
Annie Schmidt is the director of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition and the owner of Grindstone Environmental Services. The Chumstick Coalition is one of eight “fire adapted communities” pilot projects in the nation. Over the past 15 years, Annie has worked for both the Forest Service and collaborative groups, with a focus on public involvement, natural resource planning, capacity building, and non-profic management. She is the lead author of “A Roadmap for Collaboration, Before, After and During the NEPA Process.”
Allen Rowley is the Forest Supervisor serving the Fish Lake National Forest and the Manti-La Salle National Forest in south-central Utah. He has experience working with collaborative groups around timber sales, motorized travel management planning, and sustainable livestock grazing in Montana and Utah. He was very active in the Utah Forest Restoration Working Group to develop guidelines for aspen restoration on national forests in Utah.
For public land managers, understanding stakeholder values and perceptions can be an integral part of an effective restoration strategy. It can help set the context for restoration projects and inform important decisions like what kinds of work should be done where and when. Insight into public values and perceptions can also reveal where there’s common understanding and agreement around restoration activities, and where opportunities for discussion and continued conversation and learning exist.
This webinar included an introduction by Jessica Clement (University of Wyoming) about methods for garnering public feedback and incorporating it into decisions. The webinar included two one case-studies, one presented by Jarod Blades (University of Wisconsin) about public perceptions of smoke management, and another shared by Matt Alldredge (Colorado Parks & Wildlife) about values and perceptions of wildlife-human interactions.
Public Perceptions of Smoke from Wildland and Rx Fires (Jarod Blades)
Values and Perceptions: Bears and Cougars in the Urban Interface (Matt Alldredge)
Dr. Jessica Clement is the director of the Collaborative Program in Natural Resources and Research Science at the University of Wyoming, and she is a research scientist in human dimensions and natural resources at the Ruckelshaus Institute. Jessica earned her PhD in Forest Science from Colorado State University. She was previously the co-director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University. She has created and facilitated collaborative processes related to natural resource issues for more than 15 years in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.
Dr. Jarod Blades is an assistant professor of conservation and natural resource management at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls. He teaches courses in land use planning, public involvement and decisionmaking, and ecological restoration. Jarod is interested in interdisciplinary research exploring the relationships between biophysical and social processes, perceptions of landscape disturbances and restoration, and science communication. Jarod earned his PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho.
Dr. Mat Alldredge holds his a PhD in zoology and mathematics from North Carolina State University. He currently works as a wildlife researcher at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Mat’s research includes projects on large carnivore and human interactions along Colorado's Front Range, evaluating statistical methods to estimate population density and presence, and predator-prey dynamics of cougars in relation to prey availability and human density. He has also conducted research on songbird populations, elk habitat, and point sampling methodology.
Environmental justice involves incorporating the needs and views of minority or lower-income populations in projects that could disproportionately affect them. Federal guidelines and policies require agencies to make environmental justice considerations. Presenters Lis Grinspoon (USFS Pacific Northwest Region), Julie Schaefers (USFS Rocky Mountain Region), and Susan Charnley (USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station) provided a general background on environmental justice in ecological restoration, shared success stories and lessons learned, and provided actual examples from national forests.
Lis Grinspoon is the Regional Social Scientist for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service, a position she’s held since 2004. Her primary responsibilities are forest planning and monitoring. Her previous career focused on international forestry. Lis spent much of the 1990’s living in China where she worked on community forestry projects.
Julie Schaefers has been the Regional Social Scientist for the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service since 2000. She’s involved in forest plan revisions and project-level work throughout the region, as well as coordinating the Colorado Roadless Rule effort. Julie previously served as Social and Economic Specialist for the Alaska Region on both the Chugach and Tongass Forest Plan Revision Teams.
Susan Charnley has been a Research Social Scientist with the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, OR, since 2002. Prior to that, she spent three years as the National Program Leader for Human Dimensions at the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, DC. Susan is an environmental anthropologist, and her research focuses on the social dimensions of natural resource use and management on public and private lands. She also explores how to promote sustainable natural resource-based livelihoods in the western U.S. and East and West Africa.
Managers and collaborative groups across the country are developing projects to restore the composition, structure, and function of degraded ecosystems. The economic feasibility of proposed projects is an important factor influencing the pace of restoration. This webinar included presentations by Angela Farr and Michael Niccolucci (USFS Northern Region), Cass Moseley (University of Oregon), and Kristen Podolak (The Nature Conservancy) to discuss various aspects of the “restoration economy”. They outlined cost-benefit analyses as they relate to ecosystem services and creating local economic opportunities from forest restoration, as well as their experience with The Mokelumne Avoided Cost Study.
Angela Farr is the Regional Biomass Utilization Coordinator for the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service. She holds an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a bachelor’s degree from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Angela has facilitated a dozen woody biomass heating projects in the state of Montana as part of the nationally recognized Fuels for Schools Initiative. She has been interested and engaged in the social and economic aspects of National Forest management throughout her career.
Mike Niccolucci is the Budget Coordinator / Trust Fund Manager / Regional Appraisal Specialist in the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service. He’s held this position since 2007, prior to which he was the Regional Economist for the Northern Region. Mike began his Forest Service career in 1982 with the Intermountain Research Station. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in economics from the University of Montana.
Kristen Podolak is the Watershed Conservation Program Director with The Nature Conservancy. Her work focuses on forest and meadow restoration in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades. She has a Ph.D. in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley.
Cassandra Moseley is the director of the Ecosystem Workforce Program and a senior research associate in the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at University of Oregon. Cass does applied research and policy education, focused on community-based forestry, federal forest management, and sustainable rural development.
Serra Hoagland (USFS Southern Research Station) and Frank Lake (USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station) described traditional ecological knowledge and invaluable contributions that Native wisdom can make to ecological restoration. They discussed case studies where traditional ecological knowledge was incorporated into wildlife management plans, fire and fuel management strategies, and collaborative research efforts.
Serra Hoagland serves as the co-point of contact for Tribal relations for the Southern Research Station (SRS) of the US Forest Service. Serra joined the SRS and the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center in 2011 after finishing her Master’s degree at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. She is Laguna Pueblo from the village of Paguate and remains active in the following Native American organizations: the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society, and the Intertribal Timber Council. Serra is currently a PhD candidate at Northern Arizona University and is working with the Mescalero Apache Indian tribe to investigate the effects of forest treatments on the Mexican spotted owl. Much of her current research focuses on applying traditional ecological knowledge to forest and wildlife management. Serra (Laguna Pueblo) is a recent graduate from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara and was recognized as a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow in 2010. She currently works with the US Forest Service at the Southern Research Station in Asheville, NC. She pioneered a Wildlife Linkages project in Santa Barbara and has hopes of pursuing her PhD in Wildlife Conservation.
Frank Kanawha Lake is a research ecologist with the US Forest Service-Pacific Southwest Research Station, Fire and Fuels Program. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from University of California in Integrated Ecology and Culture with a minor in Native American Studie, and he completed his PhD from Oregon State University, Environmental Sciences Program in 2007. Frank’s research centers on restoration ecology and traditional ecological knowledge related to Tribal management and fire ecology of forest, grassland, and riparian environments of the southern Pacific Northwest and northern California, with an emphasis on the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. Recently he started work on the incorporation of tribal traditional ecological and scientific research to support adaptation and mitigation for climate change strategies.