Breath of Clarity

Comment on Managing “Multiple Stressors” in a Dynamic and Integrated Forest Management Era

Original Post by Ryan Rebhan:

Key tenants of the multiple use-sustained yield management model of the USFS include “the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high level” of the resources and productivity of the land while supporting the lands for “outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes” (United States Congress, 10-3, 10-4). This style of management is difficult in and of itself when considering how broad the range of uses on the public lands are, how contrasting those uses can be, and how vast the resources to manage are. Balancing timber interests with outdoor recreation or watershed for agriculture with fishing rights is difficult in the best of situations, but the added stressors of an environment in peril further those challenges.

Human-caused global warming is producing a triple threat of “tree-killing insects, wildfires, and heat and drought” on the forests of the United States (Funk, 2014. 1). Bark beetles killed trees in national forests equivalent to an area just smaller than the State of Colorado between 2002-2012 while the forests experienced a 73 percent increase in large fire events from 1984 to 2011 (13-14). Land management plans, which drive the overall direction of management on forest lands, that were designed under the multiple-use sustained-yield model failed to project such a drastic negative impact on the resources from climate change. Most plans require the supervisor to review the conditions every 5 years to determine if a revision is necessary, but consider that within a 10 year period 46 million acres of trees were destroyed by pine beetles, meaning that many plans only went under 1 to 2 revisions during that time while extreme destruction of the forest was occurring.

It’s not as though climate change considerations are not being included into forest land management plans, it’s simply that the rate of destruction from climate change related events far exceeds the plans currently being created. Consider a land management plan designed for the Shoshone National Forest in Cody, Wyoming in 2014. Climate change is directly mentioned 62 times in the document and climate change’s impact is considered on nearly every issue, from water resources, tree resources, vegetation, animal productivity, climate, etc. The climate models used project an increase in temperature and adding May and September to months projected to remain above 32° F by 2040 and 2080 (USFS, 2014. 258). Given that we already know that part of root cause of the bark beetle epidemic is milder winters with fewer days below freezing, we can project that bark beetle infestations will presumably rise around Cody, Wyoming in the coming decades. While the forests may “play an important role in both mitigating and adapting to climate change,” natural mitigation will be stymied by the rate of tree death in the forest (258).

I thought this section on the USFS’s management plan was particularly telling for the inability of the USFS to adapt to climate change, despite spending resources on studying the issue and acknowledging the threats made by climate change:

“Given the 10 to 15 year implementation horizon for the Forest Plan, the need to “manage for change” is not as important since the most dramatic changes are still 30 to 80 years in the future…Then, over the 10- to 15-year life of the Forest Plan, as issues are better understood and appropriate measures are identified, climate change strategies can be adjusted through the adaptive management process” (259).

The USFS, while acknowledging the threat of climate change, is making some small, local level efforts to increase ecosystem resilience but ultimately putting the issues off for future generations to deal with, as the climate change crisis continues to intensify. The USFS directly mentioned that “the need to ‘manage for change’ is not as important” as other management issues, despite the time we’ve spent here studying the desperate need for the USFS to manage for change within public lands to deal with the climate change crisis. The crisis will continue to worsen, though, as the forests’ resilience is depleted through large scare fire events, the bark beetle epidemic, and continual heat and drought.


Funk, Jason et al. 2014. “Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk: Confronting Climate-driven Impacts from Insects, Wildfires, Heat, and Drought.”

United States Congress. 10. MULTIPLE-USE SUSTAINED-YIELD ACT OF 1960 (As amended through December 31, 1996, P.L. 104–333).

United States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Land Management Plan 2014 Revision Shoshone National Forest Shoshone National Forest, Cody, Wyoming.

My Comment:

Hi Ryan,

Excellent articulation in the first paragraph regarding challenges involved in multiple-use sustained-yield management.

Here, I am noting the detrimental impact taking a variety of interesting into account can have on a specific area. A restoration project at Lake Tahoe Basin illustrated the managerial limitations to protecting and conserving species for the long-term. The place’s conditions, resulting from past actions, can present major obstacles in restoration. Numerous activities, such as logging, fire suppression, grazing, and human development have altered wildlife communities within the Basin (USDA n.d.). Logging greatly reduced the proportion of old-growth forest in the Lake Tahoe Basin from approximately 55% to 5% (USDA n.d.). Fire suppression has also altered forest structure and composition, resulting in densely packed trees that are susceptible to insect and disease outbreaks and catastrophic fires as a result of increased fuel loads (USDA n.d.). Unregulated cattle and sheep grazing in the 1860s and 1870s resulted in severe overgrazing in several meadow and lake-level areas throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin (USDA n.d.). Although grazing was limited to allotments in the 1930s, grazing pressure was still heavy at that time and continued to be relatively widespread into the late 20th century, leaving a lasting mark in some areas (USDA n.d.). Development pressures also have decreased the natural diversity and integrity of ecosystems in the Lake Tahoe Basin (USDA n.d.). From 1900 to the present, there has been rapid development and habitat degradation (USDA n.d.). These factors, in part, led to the degradation and reduction of ecologically important ecosystems such as marshes, bogs, fens, aspen groves, meadows, and riparian areas (USDA n.d.).

Further, a crucial component of long-term, quality restoration is incorporating ecological requirements of key animal species (USDA n.d.). While developing and maintaining a functioning ecosystem in the desired condition will provide habitat and niche components for the majority of species, it is unlikely that all key requirements for targeted species can be achieved in this manner given the degraded environments that exist (USDA n.d.). In addition to rehabilitation of vegetative structure and hydrologic functions, additional actions may need to be considered as part of the restoration actions or subsequent management actions to account for the niche components of targeted animal species (USDA n.d.). Further, data collected in the Lake Tahoe Basin since 2004 lends credence to the need for multi-year pre- and post-restoration monitoring. Additionally, delisting is a complex process that can take many generations of population growth (Sparling 2014). The time it takes to monitor along with budgetary constraints and legal mandates in the process make long-term conservation of a species quite the challenge.


Sparling, Donald W. 2014. Natural Resource Administration: Wildlife, Fisheries, Forests and Parks. San Diego: Academic Press.

USDA (n.d.). “Wildlife restoration and monitoring: Concepts and development.”

Comment by Ryan Rebhan:


Great supporting evidence for the range of issues facing a particular location and the difficulty of adapting management plans. We tend to support incremental changes in environmental policy – slow and steady is the acceptable rate, especially since we have to include various stakeholders into the process. However, incremental change tends to extend and oftentimes exacerbate a problem that needs to be solved with quick action. We are now a generation faced with the need for swift action, but, as your post highlights in Lake Tahoe, we are already dealing with altered ecosystems that have already lost key components of their biodiversity, old growth forests, and ecosystem resiliency because action was taken by previous generations.

Comment by Professor Frank Turina:

It’s interesting that you brought up the Lake Tahoe basin, Mary. The area was home to a very successful collaborative management project. The project, Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP), could easily serve as a model program for multi-stakeholder cooperation. I was planning on bringing this up as at some point this term and was planning to publish an announcement for the class. According to the program website ( (Links to an external site.)):

“Launched in 1997, the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) is a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies, private interests, and the Washoe Tribe, created to protect and improve the extraordinary natural and recreational resources of the Lake Tahoe Basin…The Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) is an unparalleled partnership working to achieve the environmental goals of the region. Local, state, and federal government agencies, private entities, scientists, and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California have collaborated for more than 20 years to restore the environmental health of Lake Tahoe.”

The project incorporates a lot of the concepts related to collaborative resource management that we’ve discussed throughout the term.