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July 28, 2005


Albert Abee

The 'heart' of the planning rule reflects the FS mission... sustainability of social, economic, and environmental systems. LMPs are but tactical tools designed to deliver the mission. Here sustainability is considered to be a journey of incremental decisions made over time in response to emerging needs. Call these responses adaptive management. Desired conditions are the 'guiding star' for and reference point for gauging progress towards 'sustainability'. I like the way you characterized the ‘scales of learning’. I think we have good procedures in place for # 1&2 – and I would argue that the bulk of LMP monitoring should be here, but your # 3&4 are where the greatest challenge is and most potential for improving efficacies. Important is the operative language of the rule: ‘contribution’ - what is the contribution of the planning area to social, economic, and ecological sustainability.... A presupposition of the word ‘contribution’ is that we know or understand the context of our planning area and related activities. This speaks to the importance of using a criteria indicator language, reflecting key indices of sustainability, which is broadly used and accepted across multiple disciplines. Your proposed distinction of ‘environmental indicators’ – indicators reaching beyond the nfs planning area, fits well here. The questions are how do NFS lands contribute to a problem or its resolution? Ie, forest health, invasive species, T&E recovery strategies, etc. For example, a national strategy the Chief is accountable for is forest health via HFRA, etc. At the LMP level, the question is how does the planning area ‘contribute’ to redeeming the FS commitments reflected in the Chiefs/FS Strategic Plan… moving the nations forest to a healthier, less fire prone condition? Given the contributions via project level work of all the forests contributing to the address of forest health, what is the aggregated outcome for NFS in general and respective planning areas in particular? This speaks to the value of and need for national C&I that establish context for respective planning areas, and related measures at regional and lower scales. Much progress has been made here.

The cumulative effects question is key – especially so since the bulk of NEPA impact analysis will be done at the project level. I’m not at all uncomfortable with this. However, we need a ‘safety net’ in place to ensure we track the aggregated outcomes of local activities to see if national and related regional strategies to improve forest health for example, are having the desired effect. One might speculate a ‘reasonable foreseeable future’ given a set of circumstances, but the proof is to be found in subsequent analysis. In this respect, I would not invest too much in models. I’m not suggesting they are not important to help inform decision making, but trend analysis of key measures linked to social values is better. In this respect, NFS (aggregated LMPs) contribution to a sustainable America cannot be easily determined on a piece meal basis. Assessment and evaluation of individual planning areas do not determine sustainability of landscapes. For example, forest certification systems enable managers to see if good management practices are being employed, they do not determine if forests are managed sustainably. The national C&I reflect more the sustainability of American forest as trends captured in the C&I reflect the aggregated outcomes of both certified and uncertified forest activities. National based systems incorporate both sustainability principles and C&I as templates to monitor long term progress. Certification is a localized, performance based system, relying on general standards that are independently set and use specific measures to monitor on-the-ground performance that conform to sustainability principles. This is why I think the bulk of LMP monitoring should be in your #1&2. In this respect, there is value added to partnering with other FS processes such as the RPA assessment. RPA assessments are done every 10 years with 5 year updates. The indicators embedded in the planning rule are a sub-set of the national indicators used to guide analysis in RPA assessments and Forest Health technical notes. As currently envisioned, each LMP will do a 5 year evaluation report. However, for those issues or desired conditions that are common across NFS and or the broader landscape, we should be looking to FIA RPA assessments to address shared cumulative effects/outcome questions, and to tease out “my” planning area contributions. Such measures, as you suggested, could be migrated into related EMS components. Susan is on a team that is looking at this very question - sustainability reporting on nfs lands, relationships between reporting processes, etc.

Related to the wonderful world of indicators, measures, and scales of adaptive management, Susan want a more unified approach in what and how we measure, in our reporting, and in how we tell our stories. EMC is making this a priority for 2006. I look forward to working with you on various aspects of this.

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