U.S. federal government agencies play an important role in mitigating some risks posed to communities by natural hazard events, especially communities with high proportions of low-income or minority residents. Ongoing efforts of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reduce the buildup of forest fuels on national forests, particularly in dry mixed-conifer forests of the U.S. West, are an example. Federal land management agencies must comply with the Executive Order on Environmental Justice (EJ Order, 59 Fed. Reg 7629, 1994), but there is scant documentation of whether these agencies have substantively complied with the EJ Order in implementing land management activities. There is also little quantitative environmental justice (EJ) research on dispersed rural populations, such as those often found adjacent to national forests. Our research addresses these gaps. We apply a novel mixed-methods approach, including quantitative pattern analysis and interviews with forest managers, to examine whether the benefits of wildfire risk reduction created on twelve national forests in four western U.S. states were equitably distributed among nearby populations. We found that EJ impacts might have occurred on all twelve forests, but they tended to be localized and context specific. We also learned from interviewees that EJ was not considered in decisions about where and how to conduct wildfire hazard reduction and that EJ populations rarely engaged in collaborative project planning apart from the formal tribal consultation process. Our research expands the range of quantitative geographical analysis of EJ issues and our methods could be adopted by land management agencies to achieve more equitable distribution of costs and benefits from their management activities.
National forests and grasslands in the United States are governed by land and resource management plans that should be updated every 15 years to reflect changing social, economic, and environmental conditions and to address new priorities. A new forest planning rule finalized in 2012 introduces new planning approaches and requirements, and several forests have completed the forest assessment phase of their planning process. Using document analysis and interview data, we analyzed four completed forest assessments to gain insights into early forest planning efforts under the 2012 rule. We found that forest assessments address the required topics, although the organization and depth of treatment varies across cases; government sources and academic publishers are relied on most often as sources of scientific information; and approaches to best available scientific information rely on peer-reviewed information, agency technical reports and syntheses, and personal expertise and judgement.
We examine the influence of wildfire institutions on management and forest resilience over time, drawing on research from a multiownership, frequent-fire, coupled human and natural system (CHANS) in the eastern Cascades of Oregon, USA. We constructed social-ecological histories of the study area’s three main landowner groups (national forest, private corporate, and tribal) using a historical framework (1905–2010). Our findings highlight two infrequently recognized linkages of multiownership, frequentfire CHANS: (1) informal institutions (e.g., cultural norms, knowledge system and fire paradigm) and institutional history often influence wildfire management adaptation (changes in forest fuel treatment, harvest fuel treatment, and wildfire incident response) through interactions with formal institutions (e.g., policy, law) and consequent effects on managers’ decision-making flexibility; (2) institutional interactions over time can influence forest resilience, thereby contributing to forest structural variation in multiownership landscapes. Consequently, the factors that contribute to maladaptive wildfire management are heterogeneously distributed across ownerships and the landscape. The timing of institutional dynamics also matters: manager flexibility to respond adaptively to wildfire hazard change seems to depend on synchronicity in evolution between informal and formal institutions, whereas asynchronous evolution (e.g., policy change, coupled with delayed shift in cultural norms or fire paradigms) may generate a time lag between unanticipated ecological feedbacks and management response. Thus, interventions that promote informal institutional evolution in tandem with developments in policy and law may shorten time lags, accelerating adaptation. A historical perspective can facilitate broad-scale, adaptive responses to wildfire-related ecological feedbacks in several ways: by providing insight into how informal institutions and institutional history interact with formal institutions to influence wildfire management behavior; by providing a historical baseline and system stages that contextualize current management behavior, ecological conditions, and policy options; and by illuminating historical sources of variation among ownerships and how they might be addressed.
This article uses research about non-timber forest products (NTFP) gathering in Seattle, Washington, USA to examine how people gain access to natural resources in urban environments. Our analysis focuses on gathering in three spaces: parks, yards, and public rights of way. We present a framework for conceptualizing access, and highlight cognitive mechanisms of access associated with foragers’ internal moral judgments about harvesting. Key findings are: (1) internal moral calculations about whether it is right or wrong to harvest a particular NTFP in a particular place are an important but previously unacknowledged mechanism governing resource access; and (2) these calculations may help prevent over-harvesting of NTFPs, which are common pool resources, in urban environments where social and environmental conditions lend themselves to a de facto situation of open access. Our findings suggest that voluntary codes of conduct may be the best way to manage NTFP access in cities.
The nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon represent the descendants of dozens of bands and communities that had knowledge about, and relationships with, every dimension of the state’s lands, waters, flora, and fauna. While some tribes and their reservations were formed by treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate, other tribes negotiated treaties with the U.S. that either were never ratified or were ignored. This legal and political complexity is characteristic of federal-tribal relations across what was once the Oregon Country (modern day Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming). In this article, we discuss our research regarding one context in which these longstanding relationships occur today, namely, when tribal people seek to harvest plants from ancestral lands now held by the U.S. Forest Service. Underlying the research is our premise is that knowledge of historical relationships among American Indians, land, and natural resource harvests is vital to uphold the federal trust responsibility to tribes.
We conducted an economic analysis of two case study stewardship contracts on the Mount Hood National Forest in western Oregon. Stewardship contracting has been embraced by some federal managers to achieve restoration goals while providing economic benefits to local communities. Little is known about economic contributions from stewardship contracts, including how they compare against Secure Rural Schools funding or the century-old payments to counties revenue sharing system. Using expenditure data from sale purchasers, contractors, and fiscal agents, we developed methodology to track spending and used IMPLAN software to estimate economic contributions and multipliers. Results showed that (1) commercial thinning, service work, and retained receipts projects all contributed to local economic activity; (2) expenditures accounted for $4 million in output and generated 36 jobs, with output and job multipliers of 1.42 and 1.82, respectively; and (3) benefits were distributed across a wider variety of economic sectors than timber harvesting alone.