Leadership Corner

Science Supports Shared Stewardship

July 31st, 2019 at 12:39PM
John Phipps, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry
John Phipps, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry

When I was Station Director of Rocky Mountain Research Station, I reflected on what Shared Stewardship meant to us as a science enterprise. How can Forest Service Research and Development help the agency and our partners move toward these meaningful outcomes? In the April 10 Leadership Corner, Glenn Casamassa, Regional Forester, Pacific Northwest Region, shared an interactive Shared Stewardship forum with partners, and like the evolution he described, the role of science in the agency is also evolving. There has never been a better time for science to interconnect with the work of the Forest Service and specifically support Shared Stewardship. In my new role as Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry, I look forward to moving Shared Stewardship along aided by our world-class science.

As land managers work with partners to juggle social, economic and ecological values to yield meaningful conservation outcomes, science has a key role to play. Science helps describe the effects of trade-offs and provides understanding about the long-term implications of our management across landscapes. Science is the tool we use to help objectively determine how we can do the right work, in the right places, at the right scale to address land and resource management challenges.

RMRS recently assembled stories of how RMRS science is supporting shared stewardship. I humbly offer a few examples here of how RMRS is currently enacting this Forest Service value of interdependence. These types of examples are available from across the R&D enterprise. Let us use these stories as a platform to better understand how Forest Service science supports the agency mission and our goal of moving toward meaningful conservation and restoration outcomes at scale.

Science Supporting Shared Stewardship at Rocky Mountain Research Station cover
Science Supporting Shared Stewardship at Rocky Mountain Research Station (PDF)
  1. In Colorado’s Front Range Forests there was a need for local science to support the Front Range Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. RMRS-GTR-373: Principles and Practices for the Restoration of Ponderosa Pine and Dry Mixed-Conifer Forests of the Colorado Front Rangesynthesizes the best available science to support the design of restoration projects with natural variation in mind, and to help them determine where and how to conduct restoration at a meaningful scale. Because this framework was co-produced by scientists and partners from so many disciplines and stakeholder groups, the restoration principles and practices accommodate multiple objectives and meaningful landscape-scale outcomes.
  2. We are now asking, “Where can we best target our limited resources to benefit conservation and restoration of these ecosystems?” This approach requires cross-boundary collaboration. The Sagebrush Science Framework (RMRS-GTR-360 and RMRS-GTR-389) identifies priority areas for conservation and restoration in the sagebrush biome. RMRS researchers with the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and other state and federal partners created the two-part framework to provide the credible science basis for decision making, as well as management implications of those decisions.
  3. Scientists at RMRS have worked over the last decade to develop a Scenario Investment Planning Platform, or SIPP, that provides scientific guidance to identify and evaluate forest and fire management priorities, trade-offs, and outcomes. Faced with multiple and often conflicting objectives, land managers across agencies and ownerships can use this tool to explore the consequences of the trade-offs they make and forecast the potential outcomes of projects that then roll up to seeing how they support objectives at the larger scale of an entire forest or region. This information allows for cross-boundary planning at the landscape scale for work toward meaningful outcomes.

Forest Service R&D produces independent, credible science that informs today’s decisions and asks tomorrow’s questions. We are ready to propel these efforts forward with our National Forest System and State and Private partners by co-producing knowledge and solutions at the scale of the problem with and for our land management partners. We stand ready to work with states and regions to provide the best available science in support of shared stewardship.

John Phipps, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry