|This page in the original is blank.|
Investing in Sustainability of Nonfederal Forests
The nation's forests are commonly considered to be either public (government-owned) or private. This study makes the unique distinction between federal and nonfederal forests. Nonfederal forests include forests owned by state and local governments, Native Americans, private industry, and individual citizens. In reality, attention should be directed to the vigor and contributions of all forests regardless of ownership because the forest ecosystems seldom coincide with human-imposed ownership and political boundaries. For purposes of study and analysis, however, the federal-nonfederal distinction is a useful one.
Sustainable management of the nation's nonfederal forests is important because these forests are an important part of the nation's economic, community, and environmental landscape. Nonfederal forests have served the nation well throughout history by providing a variety of goods and services in the amounts and of the qualities demanded by the nation's citizenry. They can continue to serve the nation well, provided that their condition and productivity are maintained into the future.
In this chapter, the report's purpose and organization are presented, and underlying major problems with nonfederal forests are introduced. A discussion of sustainability, the committee's view of sustainability, and potential federal roles in contributing to sustainable management of nonfederal forests are also described.
Citizens and governments are becoming increasingly aware of the unique properties, problems, and value of nonfederal forestlands. Scientific understanding
of nonfederal forests has expanded, appreciation of their biological contributions has intensified, and the vital role they play in the functioning of national and global social and economic structures has increased. Expectations of the potential human and ecological benefits provided by these forests are growing. If these expectations are to be met in a sustainable manner, the general public, forest industry, and government face important challenges, the most critical of which is the need for greater financial and human investments in these nationally important forests.
Why are sufficient investments lacking, how does this deficiency affect national interests, and by what means can greater levels of investment in nonfederal forests can be achieved? This report provides the background necessary to consider these questions (Part Two, Chapters 1–4) and provides a number of recommendations, based on analysis of key issues, to address important problem areas (Part Three, Chapters 5–11).
Sustainability as a Focus
Sustainability of natural resources has become a focal point for public and private actions. Policy and management actions on sustainability are often vigorously advocated and promptly adopted. Although a socially and politically powerful concept, sustainability is often not well defined. Therefore, clarification of sustainability as applied to nonfederal forests and assessment of the federal role in fostering conditions associated with sustainability are important tasks.
The World Commission on Environment and Development was one of the first to suggest a definition of sustainable development, namely, ''sustainable development is development to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (1987) (Box 1-1).
Acknowledging that sustainability must have a focus or goals to be operational, the President's Council on Sustainable Development (1996) recently suggested that notions of sustainability are genuinely worthwhile only in the context of attaining certain goals. Those goals include benefits accruing to all people from a healthy environment, an economy that affords opportunities for a high quality of life; equity of opportunity for achieving well-being, environmentally sound (protected) natural resources for future generations, stewardship of environmental and natural resources, teamwork to create healthy communities, opportunities for citizens to influence decisions that affect them, a stabilized U.S. population, worldwide application of sustainable development policies, and greater citizen understanding (through education) of sustainable development. Principles of sustainable forestry that incorporate many of these goals have been suggested.
"The greatest good for the greatest number in the long run" (Pinchot 1947).
"If sustainability means anything more than a vague emotional commitment, it must require that something be conserved for the very long run. It is very important to understand what that something is: I think it has to be a generalized capacity to produce economic well-being" (Solow 1993).
"The use of resources today in such a way to allow for a full range of options for utilization by future generations" (Northern Forest Lands Council 1994).
"Forest management practices for which the outcome will be sustained yield" (Northern Forest Lands Council 1994).
"Although defined differently by different people, sustainability [nevertheless] represents a growing concern about the adequacy of mineral resources to meet future demands and do so without unacceptable environmental degradation" (National Research Council 1996).
"Since sustainable forest management is only possible within the ultimate constraints and limits imposed by the ecosystem, sustainability should be viewed as the degree of overlap between ecological possibilities and socially desired benefits of forests" (Noss 1993).
"Sustainable development is development to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987).
"Sustainable forestry means managing our forests to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by practicing a land stewardship ethic which integrates the growing, nurturing, and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air, and water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, and aesthetics" (American Forest and Paper Association 1995a).
Concepts of sustainability encourage strategic thinking about the long-term effects of decisions and guide the design of policies and programs that will result in the better use and management of nonfederal forests (Box 1-2). Sustainable management of America's nonfederal forests means caring for these forests in a manner that will allow them to continue contributing to the future well-being of the nation to the extent consistent with their ability to provide benefits at acceptable
costs. Just as they have in the past, the components of what the nation understands as "well-being" will change with time. For much of the last 100 years, forests have been said to be sustainable if the periodic growth of commercially useable timber at least equaled timber harvests or removals. In recent decades, this idea has been expanded to include other uses of the forest such as recreation or other services without a significant decline in quantity or quality. In the past decade, sustainability has come to include maintainance of well-functioning ecological processes, a broader definition that could be viewed as incorporating a range of ecosystem services.
Each of these definitions, appropriate in its own context and time, is unlikely to stand the test of time. As knowledge of forest processes and uses expands, conceptions of sustainability and the components of national well-being also will change. For the present, however, sustainability as strategically applied to nonfederal forests involves the formulation and implementation of manageable governmental programs and policies that (1) promote a long-term investment in the nation's nonfederal forestlands, (2) recognize and respect a mixed public-private system of ownership, (3) encourage multiple forest uses consistent with the long-term integrity of forest ecosystem functions and processes, (4) promote citizen participation in determining the care and management of forest resources, and (5) maintain the productivity of forest ecosystems for a full range of values, functions, and services.
Nonfederal forests are a major contributor to the quality of life experienced by Americans. This contribution is dependent on the nation's ability and willingness to ensure biologically and socially the sustainability of nonfederal forests. Sustainability of nonfederal forests can only be accomplished by investment in human capital, biological capital, biological integrity, financial soundness, and institutional strength. The federal government, an important participant in ensuring investments in sustainability, has the role of carefully fabricating leadership capabilities and investment opportunities within other units of government and the private sector.
Investments that further the contribution of sustainable nonfederal forests to the social fabric of America will require broad-based social and political support, and will be made only if fundamental issues are acknowledged and addressed. These issues, addressed in Part Three of this report, include the condition of nonfederal-forest resources (Chapter 5); institutions and organizations available to guide the use, management, and protection of nonfederal forests (Chapter 6); type and implementation of programs for nonfederal forests (Chapter 7); sources and levels of investments available for nonfederal forests (Chapter 8); research and information management on nonfederal forests (Chapter 9); rights and responsibilities of those owning nonfederal forests (Chapter 10); and international and global circumstances that influence the sustainability of nonfederal forests and investments in them (Chapter 11).
More assertive action to enhance the contribution of America's nonfederal forests is needed. Additional investments, including those in human resources, providing access to information on maximizing the value of forests to landowners and the public alike, and assisting landowners with skills and knowledge to effectively understand and utilize this information are necessary if America is to realize the potential of nonfederal forest resources. These investments will require contributions by all segments of the nation's public and private forestry community, including the federal government.
Federal Role In Sustainability
The federal role in sustaining nonfederal forests has taken various forms over the years and has been aimed at various perceived problems during specific time periods. In the early days, attention focused mainly on protection of timber supplies from wildfire, insects, and disease. Subsequently, federal interest turned to water quality, wetlands, air quality, and endangered species. Now these concerns have expanded to include biodiversity. The federal role has been mainly to prompt the states to take action to meet goals defined by federal law (e.g., Clean Water Act) or to address identified problems such as wildfires and insects. The prompting has often been in the form of technical and financial assistance to states. But the federal government also has provided more direct assistance to forestland owners in the form of financial incentives, including special income tax treatment. In the past 25 years, the relationship between federal and state government has changed substantially, with more responsibility for program development and implementation shifting to the states and federal agencies increasingly serving as facilitators or catalysts. Thus, the federal government's role has changed dramatically and in some instances, the implementation of federal policies on private lands has substantially eroded the relationship between private landowners and the federal government.
Today, the federal role in ensuring the sustainability of the economies, communities, and environments that rely on the nation's nonfederal forests is as diverse as the nonfederal forests themselves. The many federal programs and agencies that currently target nonfederal forests reflect this diversity. Some major federal roles that can foster sustainability of the nonfederal forests are:
- Building institutional and managerial capacity within state and local forest-resource organizations;
- Promoting the integration of environmental and economic policies at all levels of decision making;
- Developing a coherent set of national principles of sustainability, while encouraging, facilitating, monitoring, and ensuring the effectiveness of clearly defined, responsible roles for implementation of these principles by public and private interests at state and local levels;
- Fostering strategies that focus on regional integration of a broad spectrum of environmental, economic, and social interests and jurisdictions, instead of on a few special interests, agencies, or political jurisdictions;
- Promoting a blend of economic and information incentives, including regional and local planning for sustainability; and
- Encouraging decision-making processes at national, regional, and local levels that involve multiple stakeholder approaches operating within the context of sustainability.
Three current federal activities could facilitate the initial implementation of the federal roles described above. Key federal activities addressed in this report include forest inventory and analysis, education and technical assistance, and the potential for the federal government to be a catalyst for innovation and initial source of financial investment and incentives to accomplish sustainability goals. Federal agencies are capable of providing thorough, comprehensive, and up-to-date data on forest inventory and analysis, which is critical for informed assessment and decision making at all levels. Similarly, federal agencies could provide leadership in education and technical assistance to landowners. Finally, federal agencies could be catalysts for innovation and could facilitate and encourage nonfederal landowners in developing the infrastructure required to achieve objectives consistent with sustainability.
Summary of Findings
Sustainable management of the nation's nonfederal forests is important because nonfederal forests are an important part of the nation's economic, community and environmental landscape. Expectations for the human and ecological benefits these forests are capable of providing are growing. If these expectations are to be met in a sustainable manner, greater financial and human investments in these nationally important forests must be made. The federal role in ensuring the sustainability of nonfederal forests and high levels of investments in them is critical. This role should include building institutional and managerial capacity within regional, state, and local organizations; promoting the integration of environmental and economic policies and programs; developing a coherent set of national principles of sustainability; fostering strategies that lead to regional integration of forestry interests; promoting a blend of economic and information incentives; and encouraging multiple stakeholder decision-making processes at all decision levels.
|This page in the original is blank.|