Trained volunteers with Trailkeepers of Oregon work to restore a trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that was damaged by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Photo courtesy of Trailkeepers of Oregon.
A national survey of Forest Service officials illuminates challenges and opportunities for partnering that differed based on setting.
Partnerships are increasingly commonplace in public land management agencies as a way to achieve mission-critical results in an era of capacity constraints and to expand civic involvement in resource management. National forests have invested in partnership coordinators and bolstered efforts to reach out to volunteers, citizen groups, foundations, and stakeholders to expand capacity and enhance community connections. A forest’s sociopolitical setting may affect its opportunities for working with partners. Understanding how best to partner and where to invest efforts in partnering can enhance agency efficiency.
Forests near urban areas have an advantage
A recent study explored the extent to which forest setting affects access to partners and volunteers, the types of partners available, and the nature of work performed. Using data from a survey of U.S. Forest Service officials, the scientists explore the extent to which capacities, opportunities, and functions differ by forest setting. They found that forests near urban area and that are amenity-destination forests have an inherent advantage over rural counterparts in the availability of partners and volunteers, as well as their array of skills. Interest from diverse organizations and individual volunteers in partnering with a forest appears to be higher in these forests than in rural forest settings.
In high demand settings, enlisting external organizations (i.e., “umbrella organizations”) for initial contact and coordination of new partners and volunteers appears to be a common strategy. Investing in dedicated partnership coordinators may be most advantageous in metro and amenity forest settings.
Partners in rural forest settings engage in very specific types of functions that depend on strong social relations and historical knowledge. In rural forest settings, investment in a coordinator could help the agency accomplish specific projects and tasks by identifying groups with untapped skill sets and strong interests in forest management.