skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 10:00 PM ET on Friday, December 8 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 9 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Diverse stakeholders and their interests matter to the U.S. Forest Service: a network of action situations analysis of how stakeholders affect forest plan outcomes.
Since the 1980s, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has transformed from an agency predominantly focused on timber production to one focused on recreation and ecosystem management. This shift is particularly remarkable because it occurred without major substantive national forest policy changes. During this period, many national forests changed their forest planning processes in ways that provided greater opportunity for public input into forest plans, and in 2012 the USFS issued new planning rules that institutionalized these practices. In this study, we ask: how has the planning process changed over time, and how have these changes shaped forest plan outcomes? To answer these questions, we conduct a comparative case study of two national forests—the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Inyo National Forest—that produced forest plans in the 1980s and again in the 2010s. We use the Network of Action Situations (NAS) approach to compare planning processes over time and across forests. We find that in addition to the changes mandated by the 2012 rules, both forests developed a series of forums to engage the public in plan development and review, and that increased stakeholder engagement has helped shape forest priorities. These findings suggest that greater involvement by regional stakeholders could pressure the USFS to adopt more regional approaches for addressing challenges like climate change and wildfire risk.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Sustainability science
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The United States Forest Service promulgated new planning regulations under the National Forest Management Act in 2012 (i.e., the Planning Rule). These new regulations include the first requirements in U.S. public land management history for National Forests to evaluate, protect, and/or restore ecological connectivity as they revise their land management plans. Data and resource limitations make single‐species, functional connectivity analyses for the myriad species that occur within the 78 million ha the Forest Service manages implausible. We describe an approach that relies on freely available data and generic species, virtual species whose profile consists of ecological requirements designed to reflect the needs of a group of real species, to address the new Planning Rule requirements. We present high‐resolution connectivity estimates for 10 different generic species across a 379,000 ha study area centered on the Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF) in Montana and South Dakota under two different movement models. We identify locations important for connectivity for multiple species and characterize the role of the CGNF for regional connectivity. Our results informed the Plan Revision process on the CGNF and could be readily exported to other National Forests currently or planning to revise their land management plans under the new Planning Rule.

    more » « less
  2. Climate models for the northeastern United States (U.S.) over the next century predict an increase in air temperature between 2.8 and 4.3 °C and a decrease in the average number of days per year when a snowpack will cover the forest floor (Hayhoe et al. 2007, 2008; Campbell et al. 2010). Studies of forest dynamics in seasonally snow-covered ecosystems have been primarily conducted during the growing season, when most biological activity occurs. However, in recent years considerable progress has been made in our understanding of how winter climate change influences dynamics in these forests. The snowpack insulates soil from below-freezing air temperatures, which facilitates a significant amount of microbial activity. However, a smaller snowpack and increased depth and duration of soil frost amplify losses of dissolved organic C and NO3- in leachate, as well as N2O released into the atmosphere. The increase in nutrient loss following increased soil frost cannot be explained by changes in microbial activity alone. More likely, it is caused by a decrease in plant nutrient uptake following increases in soil frost. We conducted a snow-removal experiment at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest to determine the effects of a smaller winter snowpack and greater depth and duration of soil frost on trees, soil microbes, and arthropods. A number of publications have been based on these data: Comerford et al. 2013, Reinmann et al. 2019, Templer 2012, and Templer et al. 2012. These data were gathered as part of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study (HBES). The HBES is a collaborative effort at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, which is operated and maintained by the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station. Campbell JL, Ollinger SV, Flerchinger GN, Wicklein H, Hayhoe K, Bailey AS. Past and projected future changes in snowpack and soil frost at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, USA. Hydrological Processes. 2010; 24:2465–2480. Comerford DP, PG Schaberg, PH Templer, AM Socci, JL Campbell, and KF Wallin. 2013. Influence of experimental snow removal on root and canopy physiology of sugar maple trees in a northern hardwood forest. Oecologia 171:261-269. Hayhoe K, Wake CP, Huntington TG, Luo LF, Schwartz MD, Sheffield J, et al. Past and future changes in climate and hydrological indicators in the US Northeast. Climate Dynamics. 2007; 28:381–407. Hayhoe, K., Wake, C., Anderson, B. et al. Regional climate change projections for the Northeast USA. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 13, 425–436 (2008). Reinmann AB, J Susser, EMC Demaria, PH Templer. 2019. Declines in northern forest tree growth following snowpack decline and soil freezing.  Global Change Biology 25:420-430. Templer PH. 2012. Changes in winter climate: soil frost, root injury, and fungal communities (Invited). Plant and Soil 35: 15-17 Templer PH , AF Schiller, NW Fuller, AM Socci, JL Campbell, JE Drake, and TH Kunz. 2012. Impact of a reduced winter snowpack on litter arthropod abundance and diversity in a northern hardwood forest ecosystem. Biology and Fertility of Soils 48:413-424. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    In this article, we respond to a critique of our earlier work examining the USDA Forest Service’s (USFS’s) planning processes. We appreciate that our critics introduce new data to the discussion of USFS planning. Further data integration is a promising path to developing a deeper understanding of agency activities. Our critics’ analysis largely supports our original claims. Our most important difference is in our conceptualization of the planning process’s relationship to agency goals. Although our critics conceive of the USFS’s legally prescribed planning processes as a barrier to land management activities, we believe that public comment periods, scientific analysis, and land management activities are tools the agency uses to achieve its goals of managing land in the public interest.

    Study Implications: The USDA Forest Service’s current planning process has been critiqued as a barrier to accomplishing land management activities, but it is also an important tool for insuring science-based management and understanding public values and interests that the agency is legally bound to uphold.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract Abstract This paper draws on systematic data from the US Forest Service’s (USFS) Planning, Appeals and Litigation System to analyze how the agency conducts environmental impact assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We find that only 1.9 percent of the 33,976 USFS decisions between 2005 and 2018 were processed as Environmental Impact Statements, the most rigorous and time-consuming level of analysis, whereas 82.3 percent of projects fit categorical exclusions. The median time to complete a NEPA analysis was 131 days. The number of new projects has declined dramatically in this period, with the USFS now initiating less than half as many projects per year as it did prior to 2010. We find substantial variation between USFS units in the number of projects completed and time to completion, with some units completing projects in half the time of others. These findings point toward avenues for improving the agency’s NEPA processes. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    The ecosystem services concept has emerged as a guiding principle in natural resource management over the past two decades, and an ecosystem services approach to management is currently mandated as a core element of United States National Forest planning. However, the concept of ecosystem services has been interpreted and operationalized in a variety of ways, leaving a pronounced knowledge gap regarding how it is understood and implemented in different contexts. To better understand the conceptualization and implementation of the concept within United States National Forests, semi-structured interviews with planners and managers of the Pacific Northwest Region were conducted at the region, forest, and ranger district levels, addressing the following topics: (1) how has the ecosystem services concept been perceived by managers and planners?; (2) what are the perceived key ecosystem services offered by National Forest lands?; (3) how has the concept been applied at multiple spatial scales?; and (4) what are perceived challenges or opportunities related to applying the concept in the National Forest context? Results indicate that although participants had a high level of understanding of the ecosystem services concept, there was not a clear, widely adopted approach to considering ecosystem services in management. Through qualitative analysis, three general perspectives arose: one employed the concept to fulfill regulatory requirements at the National Forest scale, a second engaged with ecosystem services to improve participatory planning at the project scale, and a third, business as usual perspective, considered ecosystem services as new language for describing longstanding National Forest priorities. These results draw attention to the challenges of implementing an ecosystem services-based approach in the United States National Forest context and the continued need for the development of management-relevant methods for describing and quantifying ecosystem services. 
    more » « less