National forest law enforcement officers regularly encounter “nonrecreational” campers whose tenure exceeds established stay limits (generally 2 weeks). Some long-term occupants are homeless and seek use of the forest as a temporary or long-term residence. Long-term nonrecreational campers present myriad concerns for forest officials, who seek to balance public access and resource conservation. In addition to biophysical impacts because of waste, disposal of chemicals, soil compaction, and damage to vegetation, nonrecreational campers can alter the social environment being shared with other forest visitors. For this exploratory study, US Forest Service law enforcement officers (n = 290) were surveyed to assess officer perceptions of the frequency of encounters, trends, and types of nonrecreational campers. We provide a descriptive summary of major findings and point out regional variations and trends. Officers perceive regional variations in the frequency of encounters with nonrecreational or homeless campers as well as types of campers encountered.
In 1994, a large-tree harvest standard known as the “21-inch rule” was applied to land and resource management plans of national forests in eastern Oregon and Washington (hereafter, the “east side”) to halt the loss of large, old, live, and dead trees and old forest patches. These trees and forest patches have distinct ecological, economic, and social values, as reflected in widespread fish and wildlife use, public support for protecting them, and commercial interest in harvesting them, thus they have been the topic of much discussion and debate. At the request of regional Forest Service managers, we review the scientific knowledge accrued since implementation of the 21-inch rule and discuss the rule’s role and relevance to forest planning today. Critical to our review are new findings from the social sciences and their integration with new biophysical and ecological science to form a more holistic understanding of forest ecosystems and the values they provide. We examine how human values associated with old trees and old forests are nuanced and evolving and discuss important social and economic changes relevant to large, old trees and old forests that have occurred across the Pacific Northwest in the past three decades. Major advances also have been realized in landscape and fire ecology, climate and carbon science, and wildlife, fishery, and silviculture sciences related to the role and importance of large and old trees in east-side forests. Key findings show that trees of early-seral species that are older than 150 years contribute important ecological values not present in younger large trees. Other findings come from climate change research, landscape assessments, and fire history studies, which have contributed knowledge about the historical and likely future variability in fire frequency and severity in various forest types, landscape dynamics, and how landscape resilience works. Many forests are now homogenized, with conditions no longer resembling those that existed prior to Euro-American settlement. Disturbance regimes have become more severe in many places, causing widespread ripple effects. The area burned by wildfire will continue to increase under climate change, and disturbance regimes will change further, leading to even broader changes in forest structure and species composition. Moderate or severe fires or fuel treatments, coupled with maintenance burning, may be needed to remove local seed sources and competition from undesirable shade-tolerant trees and help some patches of forest better adapt to fire and climate change. Proactive management can help facilitate some transitions, leading to better outcomes for people, forests, and native species.
Beavers have become a source of inspiration for public and private land managers over the past decade. Beaver dams can help control flooding, raise groundwater levels, and improve surface water flows. Some land managers are now designing stream restoration projects that mimic the way beaver dams shape river ecosystems. Beaver-related restoration may even help the recovery of endangered species that depend on healthy aquatic and riparian areas.
The approach also holds promise for ranchers who graze livestock on rangelands in the Western United States where drier conditions are expected in the coming years. Those already experimenting with beaver-related restoration are discovering that it can increase water and forage availability for their livestock.
Until recently, the social factors that influence the success or failure of these projects on rangelands were not well understood. To assess the social and regulatory environment associated with this new approach, Susan Charnley, a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, and her colleagues conducted five case studies in California, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon. Interviews with more than 100 ranchers, nongovernmental organizations, and regulatory agencies shed light on their attitudes and motivations, as well as the regulatory landscape that influences successful implementation. The findings are important for successfully implementing beaver-related restoration projects in other areas.
We contribute to addressing two gaps that reduce the utility of ecosystem sciences for decision-making: lack of standard methods for using stakeholders’ knowledge to co-design ecosystem services science research, and absence of commensurable social valuation metrics that allow effective value comparisons. In two phases, we used co-designed instruments to conduct social valuation of biodiversity, and provisioning, cultural and regulating services. First, we conducted eight participatory fora, where experts and non-experts identified ecosystem aspects to which they ascribe value. We combined knowledge from the fora—expert and non-expert—and the literature to identify 45 ecosystem aspects of value—importance—to people. Second, we organized the valued aspects into four psychometric social valuation instruments thatwere reviewed and contributed to by experts and non-experts. We used those instruments in a survey questionnaire completed by 968 residents of Deschutes County, USA. Co-design led to high valuation reliabilities. The omission of either expert or non-expert knowledge would have resulted in suboptimal valuation. Unexpectedly, biodiversity was valued more than any category of ecosystem services, and urban sprawl regulation—a novel non-expert-identified function—was valued more than all aspects of climate regulation. These findings— directly resulting from co-design—illustrate that co-designed commensurable metrics are adaptable to various decision contexts; they can provide issue-specific valuations and comparisons, broader valuations, comparisons between specific and broader ecosystem services, and equity-based parameters for addressing distributional concerns vital to decision-making. Co-designed commensurable metrics lead to social valuations that are better suited for decision-making and for persuasive communication of those decisions to enhance social compliance.
Many socioeconomic constraints exist for biomass removals from federal lands in the western U.S. We examine several issues of importance, including biomass supply chains and harvesting costs, innovative new uses for bioenergy products, and the policy framework in place to provide incentives for biomass use. Western states vary greatly in the extent and utilization of forest resources, the proportion of land under federal ownership, and community and stakeholder structure and dynamics. Our research—which focused on the socioeconomic factors associated with biomass removal, production, and use—identified several important trends. Long-term stewardship projects could play a role in influencing project economics while being conducive to private investment. State policies are likely to help guide the growth of biomass utilization for energy products. New markets and technologies, such as biofuels, for use in the aviation industry, torrefied wood, mobile pyrolysis, and wood coal cofiring could greatly change the landscape of biomass use. Social needs of residents in wildland urban interfaces will play an important role, especially in an era of megafires. All of these trends—including significant unknowns, like the volatile prices of fossil energy—are likely to affect the economics of biomass removal and use in western forests.
A recent expansion in wood energy use at schools in Alaska has resulted in more than a dozen wood energy systems in operation. However, few have been evaluated for fuel efficiency and pollution impacts, both of which can be examined via combustion gas analysis. In this research, we monitored the wood energy system at a public school during winter heating conditions. Wood energy parameters were sampled on three occasions during early, mid, and late winter in northern Alaska. Combustion gas was sampled for a range of parameters that indicated boiler performance, including gas emmissions of oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), excess air, combustion efficiency, and stack temperature, which were monitored over 6 days. We observed differences in combustion gas composition between seasons as well as the response of combustion efficiency to gas concentrations. Combustion efficiency most strongly correlated with excess air (R2 = 0.693), but poorly correlated with stack temperature (R2 = 0.005). The primary combustion gases (O2, CO2, and CO) were moderately correlated with combustion efficiency (with R2 values of 0.40, 0.56, and 0.55, respectively). Seasonal differences were found between early, mid, and late winter, with generally less variation in combustion gas contents occurring during late winter. Mean combustion gas concentrations also varied with heating season. In all cases, mid-winter means were significantly different than early and late winter values. This research found that more efficient combustion of wood fuels should lead to cost savings, especially during early and late heating seasons. The findings should also be relevant to those of other wood-energy-using schools (in Alaska and elsewhere) that experience severe mid-winter conditions coupled with milder shoulder seasons.
From 2007 through 2017, Oregon implemented an incentive program for biomass collection and production. This research evaluates renewable biomass production and deliveries during a 3-year period (2012 to 2014) in which this tax credit was in place. We evaluated total delivered tons, average payments per load, delivered location, and average transportation distance of woody biomass. We found that total delivered tons of biomass decreased each year between 2012 and 2014, as did the number of users participating in the tax credit program. The average delivered tons, by participant, was more than double in 2014 its level in earlier years, suggesting that fewer, larger entities were participating. We also evaluated differences in biomass delivery, based on receipts, transportation distances, and tons delivered, for each land ownership class. There were statistically significant differences between private and public land ownership for 2012 and 2013 but not for 2014, which included fewer applicants. Our study showed that effective biomass utilization policies need to provide sufficient economic incentives to encourage adoption by both participants and biomass energy producers, and, to be effective, to consider the complete supply chain and type of energy produced. Future economic conditions in Oregon will most likely include rapid changes in renewable energy technologies and fluctuations in fossil fuel prices, and any truly effective renewable energy policies must be sufficiently nimble to account for these and other uncertainties.
This Special Issue addresses the intersections of outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism, and sustainability. Outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism provide essential benefits to individuals, communities, and society and thereby contribute to sustainability. Equitable provision of opportunities, cultural variations in desired experiences, barriers to outdoor recreation, and diverse perceptions of both nature and recreation add to the complexity in outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism service delivery. Outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism occur within a socioecological system with feedback loops to changing social, economic, technological, and ecological conditions. On a global scale, climate change and other disturbance factors are impacting ecosystems and opportunities, increasing the importance of adaptation strategies for longer-term planning. Population growth and regional shifts in demographics and distribution (e.g., urbanization), as well as socioeconomic trends, affect who engages in outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism, opportunities sought, nature access, and governance of outdoor services. Overall the complexity of sustainable outdoor recreation and tourism may suggest a need for different approaches to service delivery, culture change among service providers and managers of natural spaces, and novel approaches to inclusive governance and shared stewardship. Given the clear importance of outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism to society, we invite you to consider this initial introduction to our assembled collection, which is meant to advance our understanding of the intersections of outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism, and sustainability.