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Regional forest landscape restoration priorities: Integrating historical conditions and an uncertain future in the northern Rocky Mountains

Posted date: October 02, 2014
Publication Year: 
Authors: Bollenbacher, Barry L.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Keith M.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Journal of Forestry. 112(5): 474-483.


National law and policy direct the management of the National Forests, with restoring resilient forest conditions being an overarching theme. Climate is a major driver of disturbances that affect ecosystems, especially those with vegetation that show large departures from historical conditions. Drought, fire, insects, and diseases are common forest stressors whose impacts are being exacerbated by climate change. These stressors are threatening the ecosystem services that people value in the forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. The forests of most concern are the dry ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir, moist western white pine mixed with western larch, and cool lodgepole pine mixed with quaking aspen and whitebark pine. Potential reductions in some ecosystem services pose a challenge in terms of not only direct biophysical consequences but also social and economic values that flow from these forests. Values at risk include forest integrity, wildlife habitat, watershed condition, fish habitat, recreation opportunities and investments, community infrastructure, and public safety. This article describes a decision support tool developed by the USDA Forest Service Northern Region in 2010 to support integrated restoration planning. The Northern Region's Integrated Restoration and Protection Strategy (IRPS) is premised on identifying historical conditions through application of the natural range of variability, comparing them with current conditions, and considering a broader range of future issues, including climate change. The IRPS assists managers in the complex task of evaluating factors that influence national forest planning efforts. The assessment and IRPS, by integrating ecological, social, and economic considerations, will help managers of national forests prioritize restoration opportunities using increasingly scarce financial resources. The IRPS will be most beneficial when associated with planning silvicultural practices and fire management directed at restoring the forests of the Northern Region to a more resilient condition.


Bollenbacher, Barry L.; Graham, Russell T.; Reynolds, Keith M. 2014. Regional forest landscape restoration priorities: Integrating historical conditions and an uncertain future in the northern Rocky Mountains. Journal of Forestry. 112(5): 474-483.