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April 02, 2005


Sustainability in the FS
Tony Erba

I'll be writing a commentary on sustainability within the Forest Service. Keep in mind that sustainability can be looked at from three perspectives: ecologic, social, and economic. I like to hear your thoughts on the following questions:

· Where is the Forest Service headed on the pathway to sustainability?

· What should the agency now do to root sustainability in the Forest Service?

· What can the agency do to make sustainability truly part and parcel of the Forest Service?

Posted by Tony Erba on April 2, 2005 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

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Posted by: Dave Iverson

We might begin by trying to better understand it.

Sustainability is one of those words defined as much by its absence as by its presence. Similarly for freedom, peace, wisdom, truth, justice, morality, courage, and so on. Each of these words can only be adequately discussed in appropriate social and environmental context. And each must be discussed in the context of its opposite: sustainability vs. unsustainability, freedom vs. tyranny, peace vs. war, wisdom vs. foolishness, truth vs. falsehood, justice vs. injustice, morality vs. immorality, life vs. death.

All must be discussed not in terms of “either or” but rather in terms of gradients and context. How sustainable? How much freedom? In political and social reality none of these words can be discussed absent others, along with even more concepts. This brings us beyond “either/or” framing to “both/and” framing for reasoning.

Finally, as we grapple with contextual grounding, we must begin to get a bit more specific. Adapting my usual questions about efficiency, performance, etc. we might begin to ask ourselves:

Sustanability of what?
Sustainable for whom?
Sustainable by what standard(s)?
Sustainable for how long?

After the “Sustainable for how long?” question we need to ask a follow-up: And then what? The “And then what?” question is asked repeatedly, hoping to avoid falling into a “shortsightedness decision trap”

Since this topic is not easily dealt with, we ought to be sharing books that help us get a better glimpse of what we are talking about. Here are a few books to think about as we begin framing discussions on Sustainability.

Books to Help in Understanding Sustainability
(More books: http://forestpolicy.typepad.com/books/iverson96.html )

Forests: The Shadow of Civilization. Robert Pogue Harrison. 1992. University of Chicago Press.

Sustainable Community Development: Principles and Concepts. Chris Maser. 1997. St. Lucie Press.

The Politics of Ecosystem Management. Hanna J. Cortner and Margaret A. Moote. 1999. Island Press.

Making Collaboration Work: Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resource Management. Julia M. Wondolleck and Stephen L. Yaffee. 2000. Island Press.

Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Public Lands. Richard W. Behan. 2001. Island Press.

Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Edited by Lance. H. Gunderson and C.S. Holling. 2002. Island Press.

Supply-Side Sustainability. T.F.H. Allen, Joseph A. Tainter, and Thomas W. Hoekstra. 2002. Columbia University Press.

Keeping Faith with Nature: Ecosystems, Democracy, and America’s Public Lands. Robert B. Keiter. 2003. Yale University Press.

Reconstructing Conservation: Finding Common Ground. Edited by Ben A. Minteer and Robert E. Manning. 2003. Island Press.

Dave Iverson | Apr 7, 2005 3:33:57 PM


Posted by: Mark Rasmussen

The PNW Station is wrapping up a project on sustainability. You might look there for some interesting ideas. Call Bob Deal

Mark Rasmussen | Apr 11, 2005 3:34:19 PM


Posted by: Craig Patterson

sorry, I belive I hit the delete key as I sent my comments. I will try again.

First in regard to Tom Erba's post. I believe it is essential to apply all three elements of sustaainability simeotaniously, not singularily as we have in the past. Most past decisions were driven by short term economic analysis. Evidence is the massive amounts of clear cutting which represents the greatest good for the fewest number for the shortest time. In contrast to the opposite which was the mission statement of Gifford Pincholt when he founded the Forest Service.

Regarding the questions.

#1 - I would say there is little evidence of any public lands communities that have flourished while integrating all three elements. If there are any, I would love to know as I've been looking for 25 years.

#2 - Apply all elements simeotaniously and follow the mission statement.

3# - Repeat #2

Craig Patterson | Apr 22, 2005 12:03:20 PM


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