SYMP 8-3 - Integrating ecosystem services into U.S. Forest Service policy and management

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 2:30 PM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Nikola M. Smith, Pacific Northwest Region, USDA Forest Service, Portland, OR

The United States Forest Service is identifying needs and opportunities to incorporate an ecosystem services approach into its programs and activities. To fulfill its mission, the agency is well served by understanding relationships between the conditions of forested landscapes, their capacity to provide products and services which people value, and the effects of Forest Service actions on that capacity. In recognition of the alignment between ecosystem services and the agency’s mission to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations”, the USFS Associate Deputy Chiefs established the National Ecosystem Services Strategy Team (NESST) in 2013. The long term goal of NESST is to (1) identify how integration of ecosystem services concepts and tools into Forest Service programs can serve agency goals and (2) to make recommendations for moving forward through collaborative strategy and policy. Since its establishment, NESST has involved scientists and managers from across the nation to gather information about current implementation of ecosystem services in agency operations and policy as well as potential for further development.


An ecosystem services approach can serve the USFS mission in the following areas: planning (decision-making and priority setting), performance (quantifying activities in terms of benefits to people in measurement and reporting), and partnerships (connecting providers and beneficiaries of ecosystem services through partnership investments). Incorporating the full range of ecosystem services into resource planning better informs decision-makers about landscape values and management tradeoffs, as well as environmental justice issues. Case studies at the national forest and district levels demonstrate how ecological information is used to indicate ecosystem service delivery and management needs. USFS ecologists and economists are also collaborating to express agency goals and activities in terms of ecosystem services provided. Ecosystem services-based performance measures illuminate connections between ecological conditions, landscape functions, and public benefits. Finally, identifying relationships between ecological processes and beneficiaries has facilitated restoration investments by non-federal entities with a stake in ecosystem services provided by forest lands across jurisdictions. To further realize the potential of the above opportunities, NESST recommends designing effective ecosystem services communication tools, aligning agency data in terms of ecosystem services, and tracking ecosystem service assessment methodologies that are applicable to public land management.