Shared visions, future challenges: a case study of three Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program locations
Emily H Walpole, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University
Eric Toman, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University
Robyn S Wilson, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University
Melanie Stidham, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University
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The USDA Forest Service is encouraging the restoration of select forest ecosystems through its Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). Collaboration is often necessary to implement landscape-scale management projects such as these, and a substantial body of research has examined the benefits and limitations of using collaboration as a tool for improving relationships, trust, and other outcomes among stakeholder groups. However, limited research has investigated the use of collaboration to achieve large-scale ecological restoration goals. Restoration poses some unique conditions for a collaborative approach, including reaching agreement on which historic conditions to use as a reference point, the degree of departure from these reference conditions that warrants management intervention, and how to balance historic conditions with expected future conditions and current human uses of the landscape. Using a mental-models approach, semistructured interviews were conducted with a total of 25 participants at three CFLRP sites. Results indicate that collaboration contributed to improved relationships and trust among participants, even among stakeholder groups with a history of disagreement over management goals. In addition, a shared focus on improving ecosystem resilience helped groups to address controversial management topics such as forest thinning in some areas. However, there was also evidence that CFLRP partnerships in our study locations have primarily focused on areas of high agreement among their stakeholders to date, and have not yet addressed other contentious topics. Previous studies suggest that first conducting management in areas with high consensus among participating stakeholders can build relationships and advance long-term goals. Nonetheless, our results indicate that achieving compromise in less obviously departed systems will require more explicit value-based discussions among stakeholders.
CFLRP; collaboration; ecological restoration; forest management
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