From clean water and wildlife habitat to timber and other forest products, recreation, and spiritual and cultural values, healthy natural ecosystems provide a range benefits for people. Increasingly, the value of these “ecosystem services” is being recognized, along with the need to ensure they are available now and into the future. The U.S. Forest Service, with its mission to sustain the nation’s forests and grasslands for present and future generations, is working to incorporate an ecosystem services approach into its programs and activities. So, how might this best be done?
A new report published by the Pacific Northwest Research Station and authored by the National Ecosystem Services Strategy Team (NESST) offers guidance. It highlights opportunities to incorporate an ecosystem services approach in Forest Service planning, performance, and partnerships, and provides current examples of ecosystem services implementation and emerging opportunities. The report can be used by both the Forest Service and its partners.
“We hope our report will be used to support ecosystem services integration across Forest Service deputy areas at different scales, including forest plan revisions,” said Robert Deal, a research forester with the station and lead technical editor of the report. “We also want to highlight the opportunities that an ecosystem services framework provides for the agency and how the concept can improve communication with our stakeholders and collaborators.”
The approach described in the report focuses on three key opportunities: considering a broad suite of ecosystem services in decisionmaking and priority setting, quantifying and communicating in terms of ecosystem services benefits to people in measurement and reporting, and connecting providers and beneficiaries of ecosystem services through partnership and investments.
The report grew from a grassroots effort in 2012 by Forest Service practitioners from the National Forest System, Research and Development, and State and Private Forestry interested in exploring and integrating ecosystem services approaches into agency operations. This effort led to the formation of NESST with a powerful charter to collaboratively develop national strategy and policy around ecosystem services and integrate them into Forest Service policy and operations.
“The Forest Service, as steward of a geographically extensive and ecologically diverse suite of forests and grasslands, is poised to be a leader in the integration of ecosystem services concepts in lands management,” Deal said. “Our report demonstrates the breadth of opportunity available to the agency.”