Synthesis of science to inform land management within the Northwest Forest Plan area: executive summary

TitleSynthesis of science to inform land management within the Northwest Forest Plan area: executive summary
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsSpies, TA
Series EditorStine, PA
Tertiary AuthorsGravemier, R
Subsidiary AuthorsLong, JW, Reilly, MJ, Mazza, R
Series TitleGeneral Technical Report
Document NumberPNW-GTR-970
Pagination186 p.
InstitutionPacific Northwest Research Station
Keywordsclimate change, environmental justice technical reports and journal articles, management, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, Northwest Forest Plan, restoration, science, socioeconomic

This is the executive summary of a three-volume science synthesis that addresses various ecological and social concerns regarding management of federal forests encompassed by the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). Land managers with the U.S. Forest Service provided questions that helped guide preparation of the synthesis. It builds on the 10-, 15-, and 20-year NWFP monitoring reports and synthesizes the vast body of relevant scientific literature that has accumulated in the 24 years since the NWFP was initiated. Here we summarize scientific findings and considerations for management that were identified in the full science synthesis.
We find that the NWFP has protected dense old-growth forests and has maintained habitat for northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina), marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus), aquatic organisms, and other species despite losses from wildfire and low levels of timber harvest on federal lands. Other goals have not been met, including producing a sustainable supply of timber and the broad use of adaptive management. New concerns include the impact of nonnative barred owls (Strix varia) on northern spotted owl populations, effects of fire suppression on forest succession, fire behavior in dry forests, and the effects of climate change and invasive species on native biodiversity.

A growing body of scientific evidence supports the importance of active management or restoration inside and outside NWFP reserves to promote a full complement of biodiversity and ecological resilience. Active management to promote heterogeneity of vegetation conditions is important to sustaining tribal ecocultural resources. Declines in agency capacity, lack of markets for small-diameter wood, lack of wood processing infrastructure in some areas, and lack of social agreement have limited the amount of active management for restoration on federal lands. All management choices involve social and ecological tradeoffs related to the goals of the NWFP. Collaboration, risk management, adaptive management, and monitoring are considered elemental approaches in dealing with complex social and ecological systems with futures that are difficult to predict and affect through policy and land management actions.