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Community-based stewardship: a paradigm shift in the United States
The former chief of the US Forest Service, Dale Bosworth, and a forest policy analyst, Hutch Brown, have just published an article in the Journal of Forestry signaling a major paradigm shift in the United States. "After the Timber Wars: Community-Based Stewarship" documents the return full circle of the Forest Service to community collaboration and community-based stewardship. Few countries are aware that over the last two decades, the United States has turned away from a model of people-free protected areas ("land lock-up) and public timberland management and endorsed the active engagement of local people in stewardship agreements for long-term integrated management goals. Far from the model of exclusionary conservation areas and public control of timber harvesting for revenue and employment, which was exported to many other countries as the ideal policy tool, these community contracts include collaboration on trail maintenance and improvements, small-dimension timber for wood and energy use, watershed, waterway, and post-fire restoration, and habitat and wildlife management.
Prior to World War II, large areas were put under public management for conservation or national forest management, involving active negotiation with local people and building a concensus around protecting natural resources and promoting conservative use. Post-war, timber harvesting shot up from 3 billion board feet to 10-12 billion from 1959 to 1980, peaking to 12.7 billion in 1987, and then dropping to pre-war levels or below in response to environmental and conservationist concerns and the demanding legislative and public consultation and assessment processes that resulted. Sixty per cent of US forests are under private ownership and generate most of the timber produced. The increasing productivity of private plantations has contributed to the plunge in timber harvests on public land, and shift in public management concerns to dealing with fires, recreational impacts, and invasive species. And the Forest Service is increasingly interested in the well-being of communities and their support.
What a change in paradigm and language: "National forest management is most effective when local communities are actively engaged. People who live on or near national forest land are intimately familiar with local conditions. Their knowledge and participation can spell the difference between project success and failure. Moreover, those who live on the land and use it inevitably affect it through their behavior. Management activities are truly sustainable only with active support from local communities."
by Augusta Molnar
Posted By Anne-Sophie Samjee at 3:13pm on September 12, 2007
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