Like EMS, forest planning is a system. Both are subsystems in adaptive management (AM), with EMS fitting more into AM monitoring and evaluation. Remember that the last "Committee of Scientists" informed us that a forest plan was, paraphrasing, a loose-leaf compendium of all decisions great and small that affect the management of the forest. The Committee of Scientists' language is all-encompassing, rendering the forest plan an interrelated information system. In what follows I'll try to be more specific as to components and interrelationships, so we can figure out how, in particular, the forest plan revision might link up with EMS.
Forest plan revisions receive much Forest Service attention these days. But it is just one event in a ring of events in the plan creation set of AM subsystems. We also have a set of plan implementation subsystems, a set of plan monitoring and evaluation subsystems, etc. Each of these subsystems has its own 'plan, do, check, adapt' learning loop, and all are interrelated one with another.
I use subsystems language because we have a set of plans that logically tier to the forest plan (or are a part of the forest plan family, if we use the Committee of Scientists language): fire management plan, vegetation management plan, hydrologic systems plan, travel management plan, etc. And often these plans have sub plans tiered below them.
Our challenge with EMS (and with forest planning) is to make sense of these systems, and figure out who plays what roles in administering, monitoring, and updating them, as well as to figure out how they interrelate with all else that we do in realms like law, policy, professional practice, and so on.
Forest Plan Revisions are designed to be aspirational, identifying desired conditions, wide-ranging objectives, perhaps a few guidelines, identifying general suitability of areas for differing types of uses, etc. Most of the details are left to sub plans. I see two potential ways EMS might be linked to forest plan revisions.
Two Paths to Link EMS and Forest Plan Revisions
One path we might follow to link an EMS and a forest plan revision might be called "the path of least initial EMS commitment." In this path, we would keep the forest plan revision quite ethereal, identifying desired conditions very broadly, and working our objectives up fuzzily as to how to bridge the gap between existing and desired conditions. This would be in keeping with a philosophy more aligned with scenario planning, where the intent of planning is to "rehash the past, and rehearse the future." Following this path we would commit ourselves to little or nothing in the plan revision, leaving that task to sub-plans, and other activities. Following this path I see no direct links to EMS in the forest plan revision, leaving such to fleshed out in sub plans, program development, and other activities. Am I wrong?
Another path might be called "the path of greater initial EMS commitment." (Anybody have better names? Different paths?) Following this path our forest plan revision objectives would be more tightly defined, not quite getting to activity schedules, but rather committing ourselves to "aspirational" rates of implementation for various general courses of action to attempt to move, say, vegetation from current conditions to desired conditions.
Following this path I see definite linkages from the revision documents to an EMS. I see EMS-related activities (that have environmental aspects and impacts) being identified in the forest plan revision as well as the EMS with "operational controls" being related to various processes at work in the forest and "objectives, targets, and programs" identified that will attempt to move the forest toward desired conditions. Such would provide a beginning to both an EMS and to at least the implementation side of forest plan monitoring and evaluation.
Following the first path, there is a greater chance that NEPA compliance for forest plan revision decisions will be relatively easily effected. The big challenges for NEPA compliance would then rest with the sub plans, and any plans or policies that may be developed programmatically above those sub plans that direct or influence programs or activities.
Following the second path, there is a greater chance that NEPA compliance for the forest plan revision will be a more complicated task, and may well indeed require an EIS, unless the plan is specifically "categorically excluded" from such. Interesting political games!
A national fire plan with an associated EIS, for example, may not directly interrelate with a forest plan revision decision, but might more directly relate to a subsequent fire management plan for the forest.. Similarly for a national OHV rule, and so on. I suspect that I would consider the NW forest plan to be more closely interrelated with a forest plan revision than I would a national fire plan. But all is the stuff of complex systems, complex and wicked problems, etc.
We have to remember that both EMS and forest plans are the stuff of systems and subsystems and complexes of actors, arenas, decisions, actions, feedback, and if we are lucky some organizational learning.
Open… Let's hear from others…….