This chapter synthesizes literature about the relation between federal forest management and low-income and minority populations, as defined by Executive Order (E.O.) 12898 (February 16, 1994)—“Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations” (Clinton 1994). The order requires federal land managers to identify and address any disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects of agency programs, policies, and actions on minority and low-income populations. In this chapter, we use the term “environmental justice populations” to refer to populations protected by E.O. 12898 in matters of environmental justice (defined below). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) primarily address environmental justice in their land and resource management planning processes. For example, the Forest Service 2012 planning rule2 requires responsible officials to “encourage participation by youth, low-income, and minority populations” (p. 21167) throughout all stages of the planning process, and, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, preparation of an environmental impact statement that includes impacts on low-income and minority populations.
In this chapter, we review scientific information regarding the conservation and restoration of forest ecosystems on public lands within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) area that harbor special value for American Indian tribes and individuals. We highlight advances in understanding how changes in climate, fire, hydrology, vegetation, and resource management regimes have affected tribal ecocultural resources and how land management can promote ecocultural resources in the future. In particular, we examine how distinctive strategies for engaging tribes in restoring ecocultural resources can uphold both tribal rights and federal responsibilities, while supporting other federal land management goals.
In this chapter, we examine the scientific basis of the assumptions, management strategies, and goals of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) relative to the ecology of old-growth forests, forest successional dynamics, and disturbance processes. Our emphasis is on “coarse-filter” approaches to conservation (i.e., those that are concerned with entire ecosystems, their species and habitats, and the processes that support them) (Hunter 1990, Noss 1990). The recently published 2012 planning rule has increased emphasis on land management rooted in ecological integrity and ecosystem processes, using coarse-filter approaches to conserve biological diversity (Schultz et al. 2013). Fine-filter approaches (e.g., species centric), which are also included in the 2012 planning rule, are discussed in other chapters. We synthesize new findings, characterize scientific disagreements, identify emerging issues (e.g., early-successional habitat and fire suppression effects) and discuss uncertainties and research needs. We also discuss the relevance of our findings for management. Climate change effects on vegetation and disturbance and possible responses (adaptation and mitigation) are addressed mainly in chapter 2 of this report. Although, our effort is primarily based on published literature, we bring in other sources where peer-reviewed literature is lacking, and we conduct some limited analyses using existing data. We are guided by the NWFP monitoring questions, those from federal managers and our reading of the past three decades of science.
This chapter focuses mostly on terrestrial conditions of species and biodiversity associated with late-successional and old-growth forests in the area of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). We do not address the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) or marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)—those species and their habitat needs are covered in chapters 4 and 5, respectively. Also, the NWFP’s Aquatic and Riparian Conservation Strategy and associated fish species are addressed in chapter 7, and early-successional vegetation and other conditions are covered more in chapters 3 and 12.
The Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) is a regional strategy applied to aquatic and riparian ecosystems across the area covered by the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan), encompassing broad landscapes of public lands administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (USDA and USDI 1994a). The ACS was developed during the analysis (FEMAT 1993) that led to the NWFP, but its foundation was a refinement of earlier strategies: the Scientific Panel on Late-Successional Forest Ecosystems (“The Gang of Four”) (Johnson et al. 1991), PacFish (USDA and USDI 1994b), and the Scientific Analysis Team (Thomas et al. 1993).
Long-term monitoring programs and research related to Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) goals, strategies, and outcomes provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine how the scientific basis and socioecological context of the Plan may have changed during the 23 years since its implementation. We also have a prime opportunity to reassess how well the goals and strategies of the Plan are positioned to address new issues.
The 1994 Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) was developed to resolve debates over old-growth forests, endangered species, and timber production on federal forests in the range of the northern spotted owl. This three-volume science synthesis, which consists of 12 chapters that address various ecological and social concerns, is intended to inform forest plan revision and forest management within the NWFP area. Land managers with the U.S. Forest Service provided questions that helped guide preparation of the synthesis, which builds on the 10-, 15-, and 20-year NWFP monitoring reports and synthesizes the vast body of relevant scientific literature that has accumulated in the 24 years since the NWFP was initiated. It identifies scientific findings, lessons learned, and uncertainties and also evaluates competing science and provides considerations for management. This synthesis finds that the NWFP has protected dense old-growth forests and maintained habitat for northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, aquatic organisms, and other species despite losses from wildfire and low levels of timber harvest on federal lands. Even with reductions in the loss of older forests, northern spotted owl populations continue to decline. Moreover, a number of other goals have not been met, including producing a sustainable supply of timber, decommissioning roads, biodiversity monitoring, significant levels of restoration of riparian and dry forests, and adaptation and learning through adaptive management. New conservation concerns have arisen, including a major threat to spotted owl populations from expanding populations of the nonnative barred owl, effects of fire suppression on forest succession, fire behavior in dry forests, and lack of development of diverse early-seral vegetation as a result of fire suppression in drier parts of moist forests. Climate change and invasive species have emerged as threats to native biodiversity, and expansion of the wildland-urban interface has limited the ability of managers to restore fire to fire-dependent ecosystems. The policy, social, and ecological contexts for the NWFP have changed since it was implemented. The contribution of federal lands continues to be essential to the conservation and recovery of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act and northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet populations. Conservation on federal lands alone, however, is likely insufficient to reach the goals of the NWFP or the newer goals of the 2012 planning rule, which emphasizes managing for ecosystem goals (e.g. ecological resilience) and a few species of concern, rather than the population viability of hundreds of individual species.
We live in an era of information. Although this brings many benefits to society, it creates challenges for those responsible for understanding and applying new and older information to their day-to-day work. How does one keep up with the volume of relevant information that is published daily?