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    Horizon scanning is a method for detecting and interpreting the implications of emerging issues and other signals of change, both within and outside of an organization or field. Anticipating possible changes that may affect an organization is a first step toward strategic thinking, planning, and actions that can help prepare it for an uncertain future. Developing insight into emerging possible futures—or strategic foresight—can help decisionmakers respond proactively to seize opportunities and mitigate potential threats. Decisionmaking in forestry and other natural resource management fields has underutilized formal horizon scanning.

    The USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station's Strategic Foresight Group recently worked with the University of Houston Foresight graduate program to design and implement a formal horizon scanning system for the agency, with the goal of increasing strategic foresight. The nine papers in this report summarize the early phases of this process and lessons learned. Among the topics are the development of a method to identify useful scanning sources pertinent to forest futures, ways to analyze scanning hits, and distinguishing between current and emerging issues for the Forest Service. Also discussed is the range of communication products generated to date by the project. The report contains the complete guide written for those volunteering to do the scanning. This collection will acquaint forest planners, managers, and policymakers with horizon scanning as an integral step in anticipating the consequences of potential change and making better decisions in a rapidly changing environment.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
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    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Hines, Andy; Bengston, David N.; Dockry, Michael J., comps. 2019. The Forest Futures Horizon Scanning project. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-187. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 81 p.


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    horizon scanning, strategic foresight, futures, emerging issue

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