Investment for Better Institutional Relationships
An array of federal, state, and local government and private organizations affect the sustainable management of nonfederal forests. These organizations and their associated programs are described in this chapter. Programs have been established to address a wide range of perceived problems, including wildfire and insect and disease protection, timber supplies, soil conservation, water and air quality, and endangered species protection. Each major program area is often the responsibility of a single federal agency, which usually has a counterpart in state government. Some of the programs provide technical and financial assistance while others are regulatory in nature.
Investments in the careful design of federal agency responsibilities and linkages to other units of government is critical to the sustainability of nonfederal forests and their ability to provide a wide variety of goods and services for the American people. At present, that ability is frustrated by at least four major institutional issues: (1) the lack of a clear, well-directed national policy on nonfederal forests; (2) ineffective strategic planning processes for identifying national interests in nonfederal forests; (3) a high number of agencies, bureaus, and divisions in the federal government that are involved wholly or in part in nonfederal-forest programs; and (4) numerous policy and program linkages between the federal government and various public and private organizations at state and regional levels.
National Policy for Nonfederal Forests
The nation's nonfederal forests make up more than 66 percent of the nation's forested land and account for a large number and range of benefits that are
important to the American people (see Chapters 3 and 5). However, a clear and comprehensive national statement of policy concerning nonfederal-forest use, management, and protection does not exist. Segments of policy direction appear in hundreds of congressionally established environmental and natural resource laws, but the overall policy direction lacks clarity and consistency. Much more attention has been devoted to national policy for federally owned resource land, which, in nearly all cases, is guided by congressional policy (for example, by the National Forest Management Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the National Wildlife Refuges, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the National Resource Lands). Clearly, national interest in federal lands deserves of a national policy, and equally important is national interest in nonfederal forests, an interest similarly deserving of a well-articulated statement of federal intent.
The lack of a cohesive national policy on nonfederal forests is a reflection of various conditions. Since the 1930s, attention to these forests has been directed primarily through the forestry community; these forests have not received widespread national attention, which might have led to a comprehensive policy concerning their use and management. Prolonged political battles over the future of National Forests have largely been responsible for displacing nonfederal forests from national policy-making agendas. Also contributing to the lack of national direction on nonfederal forests is the sparse and inconsistent information on nonfederal forests. The information needed to develop and articulate a national policy on nonfederal forests is inadequate. State and regional information exists, but when combined nationally, it results in an unclear picture of the nonfederal forest landscape.
A further deterrent to articulating a national policy on nonfederal forests has been the inability of existing strategic-planning processes to promote national interests in nonfederal forests. The planning process that offers the greatest potential for identifying nonfederal forests nationally is the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA). Yet, nonfederal forests barely appear on the RPA program's agenda. The portion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service's total costs for state and private expenditures (a major avenue for federal investment in nonfederal forests) is only 7.1 percent (1993) and is expected to increase to only 9.0 percent by 2045 (USDA) Forest Service 1995). These expenditures are not considered commensurate with the importance of the nonfederal forests.
Also detracting from the establishment of a national policy for nonfederal forests has been the lack of well articulated principles that might be part of a policy. Principles have been suggested, in several different forms and formats. The Seventh American Forest Congress sought to deal with the dilemma, suggesting a variety of principles that might be part of a comprehensive policy for the nation's forests (including nonfederal forests). The principles included: the area covered by forests should be maintained and, as appropriate, expanded; the
range of values and uses provided by forests should be broad and well-balanced; forests should contribute to social, economic, and community well-being; use and management of forests should have beneficial global consequences; decisions about public forests should involve affected persons and organizations; multiple owners of forest ecosystems should be encouraged to cooperate; decisions about forests should be based on sound scientific evidence; and investments in forests should be sustained and commensurate with the values and benefits provided (Bentley and Langbein 1996, Ellefson and MacKay 1996).
The lack of a comprehensive national direction on forests in general and nonfederal forests in particular has a multitude of implications, not the least of which is the federal government's inability to focus (financially and otherwise) on owners of nonfederal forests throughout the nation. In addition, the lack of such direction has resulted in numerous agencies, bureaus, and programs within the federal government that might not be addressing the national interest in forests in general, and most assuredly are not addressing the nation's interest in nonfederal forests. The void in national direction might be deterring clear and effective linkages between the federal government and the many public and private interests that exist at the state, regional and local level. As complex as these issues might be, they must be addressed if nonfederal forests are to contribute fully to the nation's economic, social, and environmental condition.
National Focus and Strategic Direction
The nation has failed to articulate an overall national strategic plan for addressing nonfederal forests. That failure is due in part to the fragmentation of major programs affecting nonfederal forests among several agencies. It also is due to the serious weaknesses in the design and application of the major planning process available to the federal government, namely, the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA) and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA). Other federal agencies with programs that address forests, including nonfederal forest issues have their own strategic-planning processes. None, however, appears to have formalized its planning process to the same degree as the USDA Forest Service.
The USDA Forest Service is charged in the RPA with preparing a national strategic plan for its programs at 5-year intervals. Its plan, known as the RPA Program, is to be based on an assessment of resource conditions, which is known as the RPA Assessment, and prepared at 10-year intervals and updated every 5 years. The periodic assessments present information on all forests and rangelands, public and private, in the United States. The periodic programs are tied to the periodic assessments to the extent that proposed actions during the 10-year planning period respond, at least in part, to the problem situations identified in the assessment.
The strategic plan presented in the RPA Program poses a number of difficulties
for federal-government action directed at nonfederal forests (Sample and LeMaster 1995). First, while the periodic assessments provide information on all forest and rangeland resources and identify problems generally across all ownerships, the periodic programs deal only with existing and proposed USDA Forest Service responsibilities in addressing at the problems. Second, the RPA Program addresses only USDA Forest Service programs and does not incorporate major programs that have major implications for nonfederal forests from other federal agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. Third, the RPA Program concentrates on federal-forest issues and in doing so, largely neglects those issues that are most relevant to nonfederal forests, including major emerging issues, such as global climatic change and maintaining biodiversity. Fourth, the RPA Program does not provide any clear sense of urgency individually or collectively about the issues identified in the program or assessment. Fifth, the RPA Program does not provide any mechanism for defining actions based on regional differences relevant to nonfederal forests, a role served by forest plans in the case of federal forests.
The planning requirements of the NFMA focus on federal forests, although they have implications for nonfederal forests. During public forums held in conjunction with the current study, interested parties expressed their concern over the lack of effort (or limited effort) to coordinate federal-forest plans with the plans of nonfederal-forest owners who also have an interest in federal forests. A common perception was that NFMA's planning process often excluded the strategic use and management interests of nonfederal-forest owners. As NFMA revises its forest plans, some federal-forests plans appear to be increasingly sensitive to the implications of their activities on owners.
The ability of the federal government to develop agreement on the national direction for nonfederal forests depends on access to the latest planning recommendations (USDA Forest Service 1990, Gray and Ellefson 1987, Sample and LeMaster 1995, Minnesota Forest Resources Council 1996). For example, more interactive planning, more cooperative implementation of plans, greater emphasis on monitoring accomplishments, greater incorporation of science and scientific evidence, and more engagement of nonfederal-forest interest in planning processes are needed. Better structures are also needed for citizen articulation of national interests nonfederal forests, an example being the Seventh American Forest Congress (Bentley and Langbein 1996).
Development of a national strategic plan for nonfederal forest management requires a sound planning process. It will also require a concurrent process at the state level. Research suggests that federal actions to build state capacity to carry out programs is important and beneficial to states and the federal government (Gray and Ellefson 1987). A clearer sense of direction, broader interest-group support, increased awareness of investment opportunities, and more adequate funding of programs are some of the positive outcomes. The federal government has an important and continuing role in maintaining state capacity. In summary,
no overall strategic plan guides federal actions on nonfederal forests. Features of an effective plan for federal involvement in nonfederal-forest issues include the following:
- The scope of the plan is broad enough to help coordinate the major program elements of different federal agencies.
- Application of the plan leads to responsible actions with regard to interest-group desires for governmental action.
- Capacity of nonfederal-forest entities, especially state forestry agencies, to develop strategic plans that are useful to many interests, including the federal government.
- Attention to emerging issues in sufficient time will help federal agencies respond to early indications of problems.
- Mechanisms such as regional planning and programming councils, that can effectively make the bridge between national emphases and regional or state-by-state differences in program needs.
Organization within the Federal Government
The federal government is complex with respect to the number of discrete programs impacting the nonfederal forests. However, as Landau noted (1969), it is important to distinguish between an institutional condition of ''efficient redundancy" and one of "inefficient profusion" (Landau 1969). Consider the following examples.
In 1996, the USDA implemented 18 water-quality programs that were administered by five agencies. An additional 55 water-quality assistance programs were administered by 10 agency or bureau-level units within other federal departments or independent agencies. Not all the programs have implications for nonfederal forests; however, a large number do (GAO 1996a). A similar plethora of federal programs focus on rural development. From 1983 through 1992, 109 federally sponsored agricultural and natural-resource programs focused on rural areas where most of the nation's nonfederal forests are located (GAO 1994c).
Some institutional complexity (and possibly duplication and overlap) is inevitable in a federal system that operates within a complex, highly differentiated society. Nevertheless, in an era of constrained budgetary resources, having 16 federal agencies in 7 departments administer over 50 distinct programs that affect the nonfederal forest owner and manager results from the lack of a clear national focus (see Box 4-1 and Appendix B).
National policymakers are cognizant of the complex institutional setting in natural-resources management: "The steady, gradual accretion of federal, state,
regional, tribal, and local environmental laws has resulted "not in a well-designed cabin but in a pile of logs" (Schroeder 1995). Policymakers are cognizant of this trend towards increasing institutional complexity. Efforts have been made to examine and resolve issues concerning the management of landscape-level ecosystems whose boundaries are not consistent with existing property boundaries. These efforts include the following:
- CRS Review. At the request of six congressional committees, the Congressional Research Service convened a 2-day symposium in March 1994 where 18 federal agencies discussed their ecosystem-management activities with legislators (Congressional Research Service 1994). Agency spokespersons were candid in noting where major institutional problems lay (see Box 6-1).
- Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force. In August 1993, the Clinton Administration established the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force to investigate how federal agencies could adapt "a pro-active approach to ensuring a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment through ecosystem management" (Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995). Personnel from 11 departments, plus the EPA, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy made up the task force. Its report, issued in June 1995, included the following suggestions (Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force 1995):
What we need now is a mechanism for coordinating the implementation of the many laws, programs, policies, and regulations that affect natural resources. We also need a mechanism for resolving conflicts that protects our national economy and the resources on which it is based. The ecosystem approach can help …
The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) imposes procedural requirements on federal agencies … and makes it more difficult for agencies to establish partnerships with stakeholders and involve the public in ecosystem activities.
Natural resource management and regulatory agencies should work with the Office of Management and Budget and Congress to revise their budget structures and organizations, where needed, to facilitate the ecosystem approach.
There are several institutional factors that limit the ability of federal agencies to coordinate their budgets. First, agency budget structures … reflect narrow, program-specific perspectives that differ from agency to agency … Second, agency budgets are often linked to the production of tangible outputs or commodities … or to permits and environment requirements, rather than to ecosystems. Third, no single appropriations committee has jurisdiction over the budgets of all federal agencies cooperating in any particular ecosystem …
Several [federal] managers were concerned that integrated ecosystem-based budgets proposed at the local level may not retain their ecosystem identity if the budget requests are combined with other requests at successive review levels of the appropriations process.
"Although the Forest Service can implement ecosystem management under the current budget structure, the present structure does have complexities that make implementation considerably more difficult … The current budget structure evolved in response to highly functional resource management programs which parallel constituent groups. The highly detailed budget structure establishes fiscal controls on the input side of management through numerous budget line items. This structural detail has resulted in extremely functional, costly, and complex accounting and reporting systems that hamper the agency's ability to implement the highly integrated resource approaches needed to support ecosystem management" (USDA Forest Service presentation, Congressional Research Service 1994, p. 19).
"The BIA does not have a working definition of ecosystem management, nor is that appropriate. Indian tribes are leaders in ecosystem management … The principles of ecosystem management [or sustainable development] existed long before the term was accepted and recognized by the scientific community. These principles can be expressed in simple terms. Food, clothing, shelter, water, spirit, culture, seven generations before us, seven generations after us, all things are connected" (Bureau of Indian Affairs presentation, Congressional Research Service 1994, pp. 51-52).
"The principles of ecosystem management require Federal agencies to integrate management actions at various scales including landscape and watershed perspectives. The boundaries of the Forest Service forests and BLM districts, however, were not drawn to facilitate the accomplishment of ecological objectives. The agencies have developed coordinating mechanisms to initiate interagency efforts such as PACFISH and rangeland reform. Yet, implementation of these efforts are often confounded by the two agencies' differing missions. The BLM and the Forest Service are attempting to integrate administrative processes and planning regulations to streamline interagency coordination. In addition, the agencies are working to employ comparable data standards and resource classification systems to simplify the exchange of information. The current budget structure is inflexible and does not facilitate an integrated or coordinated approach to resolving resource issues. The present budget process is also complex and costly to administer; not responsive enough to meet rapidly changing demands; has too many individual sources of funding; and focuses too much on individual programs" (Bureau of Land Management presentation, Congressional Research Service 1994, pp. 62–63).
The report diagnosed the problem but stopped short of recommending major institutional reform. The task force assumed that ecosystems management can be achieved without significant federal reorganization. That is not likely to be the case, if only because of the significant budgetary constraints at the federal level.
- Watershed Planning Conference. Representatives from 13 federal agencies and numerous stakeholders convened in June 1996 for a 4-day conference to
- discuss watershed planning. The 1,165-page report of this conference is titled Proceedings: Watershed'96. Moving Ahead Together (EPA 1996). Topics addressed included the following: Citizen Involvement in Watershed Management, Partnership Approaches to Watershed Management, Analytical Techniques Applied to Watershed Management, Funding Approaches to Watershed Programs and a variety of case study experiences.
- GAO Review. The 1996 GAO report, Federal Land Management: Stream-lining and Reorganization Issues, noted, "Reconciling differences among laws and regulations is further complicated by the dispersal of authority for these laws among several federal agencies and state and local agencies. Disagreements among the agencies on whether or how these requirements can best be met sometimes delay projects and activities" (GAO 1996b).
Although the reports, and others like them, have been vital in disseminating information on how to focus natural-resources policy, federal-agency officials appear to be spending increasing amounts of time on agency coordination rather than on service delivery to the public.
The national interest in nonfederal forests is most clearly articulated by the state and private forestry unit of the USDA Forest Service. The unit's programs and magnitude of investments are modest ($137 million in 1996) and are supposedly commensurate with the national interest in nonfederal forests and the benefits that such forests are capable of providing to the nation. The State and Private Forestry unit's current position and financing does not make it capable of providing the federal leadership for sustainability of nonfederal forests. Its position within the federal forestry and natural-resource agencies is negligible; its programs within the USDA Forest Service are overwhelmed by federal-forest programs; its mission is increasingly unclear (increasing the capacity of states to protect forests is no longer a key mission); and because of its many program responsibilities and associated interest groups, the unit has been unable to be the nation's principal organization for federal activity involving nonfederal forests. Potential solutions to federal leadership problems in nonfederal forestry do exist. One solution would be to make the USDA Forest Service more responsible for programs affecting nonfederal forests.
Improving Federal Organization
Federal agencies and programs that have implications for the use, management, and protection of nonfederal forests can be overwhelming. The federal government's 1979 proposal for federal natural-resource reorganization stated
(Convery et al. 1979) that "the present federal organization for managing our natural resources is scattered, cumbersome and wasteful … [is] no longer suited to the complex role of government in the wise development of natural resources [and] fails to take account of the extensive physical interactions among our natural resources."
Over the years, more single agencies, bureaus, and departments have been established for special purposes involving forest and natural resources or for broader purposes (e.g., economic development) that have implications for forestry. Program and agency expansion began with the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969. Subsequent legislation, such as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 and its amendments, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Clean Air Acts of 1977 and 1990, the National Forest Management Act of 1976, the Federal Lands Policy Management Act of 1976, the Farm and Agriculture Acts of 1985 and 1990, and others, has contributed to an enlarged federal bureaucracy engaged in some aspect of natural resource management. Today, the state forester and the private forest landowner no longer interact principally with a federal forester employed by the USDA Forest Service. A wide network of federal agencies, bureaus, and departments, each administering its own programs, now affects nonfederal-forest owners and managers.
The large number of programs and agencies devoted wholly or in part to private-forest issues suggests some need for reorganization. Arguments for doing so are generally in three categories, namely, improved efficiency (e.g., eliminating duplication and establishing clearer lines of authority), improved management (e.g., clearer focus and ability to resolve conflicts), and change in policy direction (e.g., elimination of programs and severance of interest-group ties) (Mann and Anagoson 1979). From a natural-resources perspective, many solutions have been suggested or carried out to accomplish those goals. One solution is to establish a federal department of natural resources and merge environmental regulatory programs and ultimately the EPA. Solutions not involving reorganization have entailed changing the agency or bureau names (e.g., from USDA Soil Conservation Service to USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service) or engaging in a variety of coordinating (e.g., memoranda of agreement between agencies) and administrative efforts (e.g., formation of boards and commissions) (Kilgore and Ellefson 1992).
Most reorganization proposals involving federal natural-resource agencies have rarely dealt with programs and agencies that involve nonfederal forests specifically. New institutional arrangements that clearly define the federal role in promoting sustainability of nonfederal forests might well be needed. Given the widespread interest in new forest-management directions (e.g., ecosystems management and sustainable management) (Clarke and McCool 1996), the time might be right to change the current federal-agency organization. The following possibilities are offered on this important topic.
- Consolidate Programs Within Agencies. The number of programs and line items within the USDA Forest Service's state and private forestry unit could be reduced from seven to three. Programs that could be combined into one bloc grant are Rural Forestry Assistance, Forest Stewardship, Stewardship Incentives, Forest Legacy, and Forest Health Protection; that would allow for greater flexibility for state foresters and private landowners. The Urban Forestry and the Cooperative Fire programs could remain separate. The USDA Forest Service is already moving in this direction. It has sought congressional approval to reduce its main appropriations from 13 to 8 and its line items from 72 to 42 (Congressional Research Service 1994).
- A new state, private, and tribal forestry bureau could be created that would be responsible for all current functions of the USDA Forest Service's State and Private Forestry unit. The new bureau within the USDA could have equal status with the USDA Forest Service and other bureaus within the USDA. Directors of nonfederal-forest programs in the federal agencies would be assigned to the new forestry bureau.
- Consolidate Programs Within Departments. Currently, at least three agencies within the USDA administer programs affecting the nonfederal-forest owner. They are the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the USDA Forest Service, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Efforts could be made to consolidate these programs within one of the three existing agencies. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) offers additional opportunities for program consolidation. Currently, six agencies or units, each with one or more programs, affect the nonfederal-forest owner. They are the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Clarke and McCool (1996) advocate merging the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Fish and Wildlife Service into a single federal agency (Clarke and McCool 1996).
- Consolidate Programs Across Departments and Independent Agencies . One or two primary agencies could be designated to provide incentives (e.g., services, grants, and information dissemination) and regulations (e.g., wetlands preservation, pollution control, and endangered species protection) to nonfederal-forest owners and managers to achieve sustainability within a more highly targeted federal investment strategy. Most of the other existing agencies' programs could be merged gradually into these programs. Another possibility is that the USDA Forest Service could focus on wetlands regulations and nonpoint-source water pollution, which are now a major responsibility of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the USDA Forest Service has no regulatory role with respect to nonfederal forests, its involvement in other matters affecting these lands, and its expertise about forest
- resources, provide a rationale for giving it greater responsibility for coordinating the efforts of the other two agencies or for assuming their responsibilities.
The above initiatives (consolidation within agencies and departments and across departments and independent agencies) are examples of actions that could be undertaken to better focus federal concern with nonfederal forests. Reorganization activities are always difficult and can lead to substantial disruption. Furthermore, past efforts to reorganize federal natural resource agencies have met with limited success. Yet, the need for sustainability of nonfederal forests, and the federal government's role in accomplishing that, suggests that government should be organized to efficiently carry out the programs for which it is responsible. Accomplishing sustainability of nonfederal forests requires consideration of new organizational designs.
In summary, numerous federal agencies and programs are involved in the use, management, and protection of nonfederal forests. At the very least, the features of effective federal involvement in nonfederal-forest issues are the following (GAO 1993, GAO 1996b):
- Promote efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of federal programs for nonfederal forestry by consolidating similar programs and organizations or initiating effective coordinating mechanisms. Any plan for reorganization, however, should seek to achieve specific, identifiable goals.
- Promote an organizational landscape that is capable of carrying out an agreed to federal policy concerning nonfederal forests.
- Promote an organizational landscape that can clearly link with nonfederal-forest interests at the state and regional level.
- Promote greater visibility of federal agencies and bureaus that are given major responsibility for dealing with issues involving nonfederal forests. For example, the USDA Forest Service's State and Private Forestry unit could be given special attention.
- Coordinate reorganization within and between agencies, supported by a solid consensus for change in the Congress and the Administration.
- Sustain oversight by the Congress to ensure effective implementation of agreed to reorganization or coordination activities.
Linkages Between Federal and Nonfederal Entities
The federal government attempts to address the national interest in nonfederal forestry through a variety of public and private organizations. Federal linkages
through state governments are especially notable. For example, federal environmental laws frequently call for state development and implementation of plans to curb various types of pollutants (e.g., Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act). The federal role has been to provide general policy direction, technical assistance, and financial support to state governments. The State and Private Forestry unit of the USDA Forest Service interfaces with states in a similar manner (e.g., forestry cost-share programs). In many respects, however, the appropriateness of existing purposes and resulting linkages between the federal government and other public or private organizations that have an interest in nonfederal forests has become a concern to many in a era of federal reductions. These concerns are expressed in the following examples.
Historically, the federal government helped to build the states' capacity to carry out forestry programs. Federal efforts have been especially notable in enabling states to protect public and private forests from wildfire and to engage in forestry activities that are professionally guided. Those efforts have been remarkably successful. The question now is, "What next—if anything?" If the federal government has accomplished its mission in terms of helping states protect and manage nonfederal forest within state boundaries, what major role should the federal government now assume? The answer to that question is affected by larger political concerns over the role of government generally in a modern society. Recent proposals to transfer some federal forests to states to indicates the nature of the struggles over specifying an appropriate federal government relationship to state governments.
Further concerns over federal linkages to states involve the narrow scope of federal assistance to states (e.g., timber, water, recreation, and water pollutants), a narrowness that seems inconsistent with the more holistic ecosystem approach to forestry that is currently being advocated by the USDA Forest Service and other federal resource agencies. Perceptions of federal management and allocations are also of concern to many. This management is inconsistent with the trend toward grass-roots, locally generated initiatives. Inflexible allocations of technical and financial assistance to states also contradict that trend. Uncertainty over federal and state linkages is reflected, in part, by the way the federal government has organized regional offices to interface with states. Many regional offices of the federal government are remarkably different (e.g., EPA regions and U.S. Fish and Wildlife regions). Even the USDA Forest Service's state and private forestry programs are delivered inconsistently (one via a specific area office, others in affiliation with regional offices of the National Forest system).
Forestry-program linkages between the federal government and the entities that have an interest in nonfederal forests (especially states) are complex, confusing, and destined to become more uncertain as debates occur over the federal role in society. Within that context, the federal government's link to states and other entities that have an interest in nonfederal forests will be determined. Determining when the federal government has completed its mission in building state-forestry
capacity and determining what, if any, its new role should be will increase the confusion.
State governments, as well as the federal government, have a variety of programs and agencies that focus on forests, including nonfederal forests issues. The manner in which states structure their agencies and programs is important since states are often the primary vehicle through which the federal government attempts to secure the national interest in nonfederal forests.
States typically have four government agencies administering forestry programs within their state boundaries. The range includes 4 states that have a primary forestry agency responsible for forestry programs and one state that has 10 public agencies engaged in forestry programs. Specifically, 19 states have 1 to 3 agencies involved in forestry programs, another 19 states have 4 to 6 agencies involved, and 7 states have 7 to 10 agencies involved. In addition, two-thirds of the primary forestry agencies within states are responsible for programs not traditionally viewed as forestry in nature (e.g., economic development) (Kilgore and Ellefson 1992). In summary, when the large number of federal programs is matched with an equally diverse set of state agencies and programs, the organizational picture becomes extremely complex.
Improving Federal Linkages to Nonfederal Interests
The ability of the federal government to work effectively with nonfederal public or private organizations is critical to accomplishing federal interests in nonfederal forests. In initiating and implementing programs, the federal government has the advantage of a national perspective and an ability to generate funding and other resources. At the same time it is limited by its need to address a wide variety of national issues, its inability to be knowledgeable about the great diversity of regional and local concerns and issues, and its fragmented approach to ecosystem issues due to a multiplicity of departments, bureaus, and agencies. The diversity of the nation's nonfederal forests, their owners, and their uses requires a national policy that is sensitive and supportive of these differences.
As is appropriate in a federal system of government, states have a major role in reflecting this diversity. The growing sense of regionalism in the nation reflects citizens' desires to be recognized as being different economically, politically, and culturally. An interest is also being expressed in ensuring the integrity of large- (landscape-level) scale ecosystems, an interest made especially challenging by the many owners that typically own parts of large ecosystems. Further, citizens are interested in designing actions that will affect them, namely, they are interested in discursive democracy where decisions are made by "equally competent individuals under conditions free from domination … [The] process
proceeds in nonhierarchical fashion, and so no cognitive burden is imposed on any decision center" (Dryzek 1990). Common procedures used in discursive design decision making are roundtables, environmental mediation, regulatory negotiation, and alternative dispute resolution (McAllister and Zimet 1994).
Within the above context, a new type of federal-program delivery system for nonfederal forests is needed that extends beyond political boundaries, that is the product of a so-called "ground-up" designation system, and that affords regions access to information and education on their natural resources. In many areas of the country, organizations have been or are being created to manage natural resources in their areas in a more holistic, less fragmented manner. For example, in the Northeast, the Northern Forest Lands Council was organized to conduct an extensive study of the region's forested areas (Northern Forest Lands Council 1994). In the Northwest, after years of gridlock over timber harvesting versus critical-habitat preservation, a variety of new institutions have been created, including the 144-million acre Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, the Upper Columbia Basin Project (USDA Forest Service 1996), the Montana Bitteroot Regional Agreement on the reintroduction of the grizzly bear, the Flathead Common Ground Project, and the Swan Valley Conservation Agreement. In the Southeast, Trees Atlanta and the Urban Resources Partnership were created.
Many institutional structures could improve the federal government's ability to interface with owners of nonfederal forests as shown above. Some additional examples are the following:
- Private Forest Regions. Establishment of private forest regions as a functional program delivery system for landowners and others within the designated region could be initiated. Regions would be designated by the USDA Forest Service's State and Private Forestry unit after sufficient requests have been made, and evaluations of the ecological importance of the proposed regions are documented. Once designated, the region would qualify for federal funding for GIS supported planning services to identify wildlife habitat, forest-cover types, productivity of soils, diversity of plant species, recreational opportunities and demands, and timber supply and demands. Participation would be voluntary. Incentive programs could be designed specifically for a region. For example, if regional analysis identifies a requirement for a specific extended-rotation forest area in the region to support a desired range of wildlife species, the region could design a cost-share program to promote that use among private forest landowners until the target figure was reached. The cost-share program could then be phased out.
- Forest Development Centers. Regionally established forest development centers (as currently proposed in Finland) are another structure by which the federal government might interface with the owners of nonfederal forests. A region would be multistate and would have boundaries consistent with the cultural,
- political, and ecosystem characteristics of the area. Regional centers would be responsible for the sustainable management and use of regional forests. A management board would provide direction. Appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, the board would be composed of representatives of state and federal government, private landowners, organizations, and other interests that are especially important to a region. The board would be responsible for the development of a regional plan that would guide the preparation and presentation of budget requests to the federal government (to one or more agencies). The requests would be consistent with regional interests but would accommodate national concerns as well. The federal government would implement its policy for nonfederal forests through the regional centers. A board would be supported by modest staff (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry 1996).
- Landscape Coordination Councils. Other names for this example are ecosystem coordination councils and habitat coordination councils. In various parts of the country, organizations have developed that attempt to address problems that exist at the landscape ecosystem level (Lee and Black 1993). These attempts to address landscape-level issues face considerable barriers and these organizations have little recognition within either federal or state governmental structures (Williams and Ellefson 1996). Landscape coordination councils are a potential way for the federal government to work more effectively with these and other formally organized public and private organizations. Designating a council might involve a two-step process; namely, interested groups determining whether they meet a series of threshold tests that would qualify them as a council; and having met those qualifications, becoming eligible for federal support.
- Private Cooperatives. Cooperatives composed of owners and patrons also represent a potential structure for nonfederal-forest owners to interface with the federal government. Forestry cooperatives are widely used in European countries, often being the principal means by which the national government channels cost-share and technical assistance to nonindustrial private-forest owners (Grayson 1993). Interested parties could organize a voluntary forest cooperative (or association of woodland owners) that would provide services to members, including technical and financial assistance to encourage coordination of land use and management practices among owners of forest property that is part of a larger forested landscape. As in European countries, the federal government could channel financial and technical support to nonfederal-forest owners via cooperatives. By participating in a cooperative, landowners would be able to gain access to services that are not available to them individually (Demspey and Markeson 1969).
- Public and Private Landowner Partnerships. Public and private partnerships composed of landowners (federal and nonfederal) are another possible approach for regional interfacing with the federal government. Landowners could coordinate the implementation of environmental and forest resource polices and programs across ownerships. To ensure commitment to a partnership,
- operations would be funded by annual member dues. Many types of government and private organizations could channel financial resources through partnerships for the purpose of insuring the sustainability of forests, including nonfederal forests, at the larger multiowner level (Box 6-2).
- Other Possible Structures. Other kinds of institutions through which the federal government might interface with owners of nonfederal forests are the following: (1) Organizations of forest landowners formed to accumulate capital and invest it efficiently. These organizations would include firms in the forest-products industries. They also could include landowner associations and
Forest Resources Council
Structure: A 13-member governor-appointed council representing a broad range of organizations with interests in the use and management of the state's public and private forests.
Responsibilities: Major responsibility is to secure interest-group engagement in the development of forestry programs and concurrent commitment to their implementation. Specifically responsible for development and application of comprehensive timber harvesting and forest-management guidelines, and the establishment of mechanisms to facilitate coordination and planning across large forested landscapes with diverse ownership patterns. Also responsible for providing oversight to programs involving timber-harvester education, statewide information management, continuing education of natural-resources professionals, broad statewide public-education activities, coordination of priority forest-research efforts, and monitoring of resource conditions and guideline application. Advise governor and various levels of governments on major forest resource issues.
Measure of Success: The state's forests, communities, and economies sustained by effective application of programs developed and implemented by persons and organizations with interests in the sustainability of the state's forest resources.
Forest Resources Partnership
Structure: A 25-member nonprofit private organization representing timber harvesters and major public- and private-forest landowners.
Responsibilities: Help ensure the implementation of Forest Resources Council recommendations in a timely and coordinated manner, by fostering coordination between forest managers and landowners in addressing landscape-level management and operational concerns. Serve as a forum for discussing operational and implementation issues related to forest-resource planning and management. Advises council on forest operational issues.
Measure of Success: Coordinated application of effective forest-resource planning processes and forest-management practices resulting in the sustainability of the state's forests, communities, and economies.
- cooperatives in which ownership remains individual, but capital is pooled and allocated by the organization. (2) Organizations of financial institutions that invest in sustainable forest management. These organizations include institutions that accumulate capital in pension funds and are seeking good long-term investment outlets. They also include institutions such as federal-land banks that provide capital to landowners. (3) Organizations' cooperatives that collect, analyze, and disseminate information relevant to investment in sustainable forest management of nonfederal forests. (4) Organizations such as the federal Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community program, which requires communities to use collaborative planning processes in drafting funding proposals for presentation to the federal government (President's Council on Sustainable Development 1996).
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
There is substantial uncertainty as to how the federal government might better function with various nonfederal interests. Better approaches are necessary, however, to improve communication between the federal government and owners of nonfederal forests. Whatever approach is ultimately used, it should acknowledge the following interests:
- A growing interest in maintaining a sense of regional identity.
- A widespread desire to sustain the integrity of large-scale forest ecosystems.
- A citizens' interest in becoming involved in the design of policies and programs that could affect them.
- A desire for less authoritative role for the federal government in the development and implementation of programs.
The effectiveness of administrative and organizational linkages between federally administered programs focused on nonfederal forests and their public and private counterparts in various regions of the nation could be improved. Federal agencies with programs focused on nonfederal forests including the USDA, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, should increase coordination and organization of programs. These federal programs and support should reflect a national interest in nonfederal forests.
Improve the ability of the federal government to focus on the national interest in nonfederal forests, especially the ability to identify national interests in nonfederal forests and to deliver programs and support that will enable accomplishment of these national interests.
This need points to the following specific recommendations:
- A national policy for nonfederal forests that is grounded in a comprehensive policy for the nation's forests should be established.
- Federal strategic-planning processes should identify national interests in nonfederal forests and subsequently set forth a strategic plan for federal action.
- Organization and coordination among federal agencies and programs focused on nonfederal forests should be improved and administrative and organizational links among federal programs focused on nonfederal, public, and private forests should be simplified to be more effective.
- Institutional partnerships that foster the coordinated use, management, and protection of large forested landscapes involving public and private forest landowners should be promoted.