Sustainable Utilization of Forest Resources

Institutions of the Evolving West

Watershed Center StorageA number of institutions are involved in The Evolving West. A few stand out for their keen focus on developing tools to help analyze and understand the dynamics in the west- the economic, environmental and social forces at play in shaping this spectacular place.

Case Study: The Sierra Business Council

The Sierra Business Council has undertaken the task of tracking the health and well being of our region. The following is an excerpt from their 2005-2006 Wealth Index that help to illuminate the dynamic of the amenities-driven economy:

In the last decade, rapid improvements in communications and transportation, and the explosive growth of knowledge-based industries, have transformed the fundamental relationship between customer, product, producer, and place in our economy. The Internet, Federal Express, UPS, and fax machines have freed many businesses from the need to locate adjacent to suppliers and customers, giving business owners greater flexibility when selecting locations for their operations. And today’s business owners are taking full advantage of their new found flexibility. Every year hundreds of individuals move their businesses, their financial resources, and their families to the Sierra Nevada to enjoy our superb quality of life. At the same time, local business owners who once might have been forced to leave the region to expand their operations are finding it possible to grow their businesses from within the Sierra.

Sierra Nevada’s exceptionally high natural and social capital are the magnets that hold and attract financial capital to our region. Our outstanding environmental quality, attractive towns, and good schools are no longer simply nice amenities; they are essential elements for business retention and investment. In today’s economy, talented people do not move to, or stay in, communities where their children cannot receive an excellent education or where their air is contaminated with toxic chemicals. In fact, the opposite is true. Business owners and skilled workers move to the communities with the most outstanding schools, the best health care, the most vibrant artistic culture, the lowest levels of crime and poverty, and the very highest environmental quality.

The Sierra Nevada’s natural capital also plays another, even more fundamental rolein our region’s economy: It is the life support system that makes our very existence as a society possible. Healthy natural systems provide, free of charge, a variety of ecosystem services essential to life in this region and worldwide, services such as air purification, soil formation, nitrogen fixation, water filtration and storage, biological pest control, and plant pollination, to name just a few. Researchers recently estimated that the global value of these ecosystem services is at least $33 trillion a year, close to the gross world product. For most of these services, however, there is no known substitute at any price.

Tools of the Evolving West

Collaboration and Stewardship

Stewardship Contracts provide agencies, communities, and businesses with a new way to offer, package, and implement projects on public lands. Stewardship contracting authorities require that, regardless of other mechanisms used, all individual projects are offered using best value criteria.

There are seven special authorities available for use in a stewardship contract, many of which cannot be used in a conventional timber sale or service contract. These include:

  • the award of contracts on the basis of best value to the government,
  • the exchange of goods for services,
  • the retention of project receipts,
  • designation by prescription (end results contracting),
  • designation by description,
  • the use of less-than-full-and-open competition in project solicitations, and
  • the awarding of contracts up to 10 years in duration.

Contracts awarded on a best value basis offer new opportunities for the selection of an overall high quality offer, rather than the low offer on service work, or the high bid on the sale of timber. Best value selection enables the agency and stakeholders to collaboratively shape a particular project and provide contractual structure and incentive mechanisms that promote excellence. It establishes an effective basis for contract administration, and provides the framework for implementation monitoring and quality control. Best value criteria also provide clear benchmarks by which the agency, its critics, and other concerned stakeholders can judge project activities and outcomes.

When combined with structured (preferably multiparty) implementation and effectiveness monitoring, the use of those benchmarks should enable the agency to clearly demonstrate that performance lived up to promise. Coupled with new authorities for Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Categorical Exclusion, and collaboration, it offers great promise for a renaissance in agency, community, and other stakeholder relations and a positive movement towards healthy forests and resilient, sustainable rural communities.

Examples where Stewardship Contracting and Collaboration are succeeding:

Southwest - Apache Sitgreaves NF - White Mountain Stewardship contract: 150,000 acres over 10 years. Currently 90,000 NEPA approved acres, Zero appeals

Northwest - Colville National Forest - 35 million board feet approved, Zero appeals Inter-mountain west- Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which focuses on stewardship and restoration forestry, and includes new Wilderness designation and sustainable timber management. Their vision is for a working forest that sustains not only the economy and livelihood of the region, but also the world class fishing, hunting, and other recreational opportunities of the area. This effort is a significant step forward in moving beyond today’s forest gridlock.

Forest Products Companies of The Evolving West

The Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way. Landowners and companies that sell timber or forest products seek certification as a way to verify to consumers that they have practiced forestry consistent with FSC standards.

Independent, certification organizations are accredited by FSC to carry out assessments of forest management to determine if standards have been met. These certifiers also verify that companies claiming to sell FSC certified products have tracked their supply back to FSC certified sources. This chain of custody certification assures that consumers can trust the FSC label. Trusted environmental organizations including Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund all support and encourage FSC certification.

Consumers wishing to support healthy forests and communities should look and ask for the FSC label when purchasing wood or paper products. FSC-US, based in Washington, DC, is the U.S. “chapter” of FSC International, based in Bonn Germany. For more information about FSC at the International level, please visit

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