While people have squabbled over the direction of federal forest management, many landscapes have declined. Take southwestern ponderosa pine, for example. Where thick grasses once waved under big orange-barked pines, thickets of spindly trees now threaten natural and human communities alike through outbreaks of insects and disease, followed by devastating fires.
Now people are joining together around common conservation goals to restore landscapes like these. The U.S. Forest Service is working with partners to restore healthy watersheds capable of delivering all the values and benefits that Americans want and need. The goal is to restore landscapes that future generations will describe with the same awe inspired in the first European visitors.
In Arizona, environmentalists, local officials, and others have coalesced behind a Forest Service initiative to furnish small-diameter materials from four overgrown national forests to local mills and bioenergy facilities. “I’m hoping to look back on this day as the official end of the forest wars,” said Todd Schulke of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The time is right for a restoration economy. The Forest Service is tailoring its programs and projects to a new management environment associated with climate change, demographic growth, and other large-scale drivers of landscape changes that are undermining the health of America’s forests and grasslands. Restoration treatments are based on collaboration with stakeholders to achieve mutual goals across entire landscapes, leading to more jobs and a better future for forest-based communities hard hit by recession.
A restoration economy will take time to develop. It will take years to establish confidence and mutual goodwill, overcoming lingering doubts and festering fears and suspicions. In time, however, Americans can unite to achieve their mutual restoration goals through landscape-scale conservation. Joining together, we can link ecological restoration to jobs and economic opportunities for communities across the nation, for the sake of generations to come.