Environmental Management

, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 954–967 | Cite as

Managing United States Public Lands in Response to Climate Change: A View From the Ground Up

  • Mikaela S. Ellenwood
  • Lisa Dilling
  • Jana B. Milford


Federal land managers are faced with the task of balancing multiple uses and goals when making decisions about land use and the activities that occur on public lands. Though climate change is now well recognized by federal agencies and their local land and resource managers, it is not yet clear how issues related to climate change will be incorporated into on-the-ground decision making within the framework of multiple use objectives. We conducted a case study of a federal land management agency field office, the San Juan Public Lands Center in Durango, CO, U.S.A., to understand from their perspective how decisions are currently made, and how climate change and carbon management are being factored into decision making. We evaluated three major management sectors in which climate change or carbon management may intersect other use goals: forests, biofuels, and grazing. While land managers are aware of climate change and eager to understand more about how it might affect land resources, the incorporation of climate change considerations into everyday decision making is currently quite limited. Climate change is therefore on the radar screen, but remains a lower priority than other issues. To assist the office in making decisions that are based on sound scientific information, further research is needed into how management activities influence carbon storage and resilience of the landscape under climate change.


Climate change Carbon management Land use Public lands Federal agencies Forestry Fuels management Decision making 



We thank the many individuals we interviewed for this study who generously gave of their time and without whose assistance we would not have been able to conduct this research. In particular we would like to acknowledge Matt Janowiak and Gretchen Fitzgerald who assisted in setting up the research opportunity. We gratefully acknowledge funding from a University of Colorado Seed Grant to Jason Neff. We also acknowledge support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture award # USDA 2011-29570-30960. We also thank Karen Cozzetto, Daniel Fernandez, Jason Neff and Ami Nacu-Schmidt who provided valuable review comments, editorial and/or graphics assistance. All findings and interpretation are the sole responsibility of the authors.



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List of Interviews

  1. 1.
    Interview with USFS research ecologist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, March 2nd 2010Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Interview with project manager at the National Science and Technology Center, BLM, March 4th 2010Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Interview with BLM manager at the SJPLC, April 15th 2010Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Interview with fire management officer at the SJPLC, April 27th 2010Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Interview with a supervisor in southwest Colorado, April 27th 2010Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Interview with rangeland specialist in southwest Colorado, April 27th 2010Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Interview with BLM manager at Canyons of Ancients National Monument/Anasazi Heritage Center, April 8th 2010Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Interview with supervisor at BLM state office, April 16th 2010Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Interview with BLM manager in southwest Colorado, April 9th 2010Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Interview with USFS program staff at the SJPLC, April 8th 2010Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Interview with BLM specialist at BLM state office, March 4th 2010Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Interview with BLM program staff at BLM state office, March 4th 2010Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Interview with BLM specialist at BLM state office, March 4th 2010Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Interview with USFS specialist at Colorado regional office, March 2nd 2010Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Interview with USFS project planner at Colorado regional office, March 2nd 2010Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikaela S. Ellenwood
    • 1
  • Lisa Dilling
    • 2
  • Jana B. Milford
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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