A Land Systems Science Approach to Assessing Forest Governance and Characterizing the Emergence of Social Forestry in the Western Cascades of Oregon

Authors: Hannah Gosnell*, Oregon State University, Jesse Abrams, University of Georgia, David Bell, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Matthew Gregory, Oregon State University, Tyler Harris, Oregon State University, Heidi Huber-Stearns, University of Oregon, Robert Kennedy, Oregon State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Natural Resources
Keywords: US Forest Service, remote sensing, social forestry, public engagement, environmental governance, Northwest Forest Plan, forest collaboratives
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


National Forests in the United States have undergone a spatially and temporally uneven governance transition in response to Congressional policies, agency mandates, and socioeconomic pressures, with many moving from a wholly state-led “dominant federal” model to a more collaborative networked governance model which we refer to as “social forestry”. While the broad contours of this transition have been observed and studied previously, there have been few attempts to characterize it using quantitative, qualitative, or geospatial methods. Here, we combine a novel remote sensing-based method with qualitative social science research to understand the emergence of social forestry and its implications for land use/land cover change associated with implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) in the Western Cascades of Oregon. We linked time-series satellite data with forest inventory data to track patterns of timber harvest at scales commensurate with timber management decision-making. We then compared these patterns to hypothetical expectations. We found a significant disconnect between NWFP policy and actual timber harvest patterns. ‘Outlier’ harvests – i.e. those that counter general patterns or are otherwise distinct – served as points of reference for further investigation of the role of governance in timber harvest patterns. Qualitative research including semi-structured interviews with federal agency personnel and local stakeholders shed light on the causal mechanisms driving spatial patterns of timber harvesting, which we discuss in terms of the emergence of social forestry involving complex, place-based negotiations between the federal government and local veto actors. Findings have implications for US Forest Service public engagement strategies.

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