Visions of Restoration in Fire-Adapted Forest Landscapes: Lessons from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program


Collaborative approaches to natural resource management are becoming increasingly common on public lands. Negotiating a shared vision for desired conditions is a fundamental task of collaboration and serves as a foundation for developing management objectives and monitoring strategies. We explore the complex socio-ecological processes involved in developing a shared vision for collaborative restoration of fire-adapted forest landscapes. To understand participant perspectives and experiences, we analyzed interviews with 86 respondents from six collaboratives in the western U.S., part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program established to encourage collaborative, science-based restoration on U.S. Forest Service lands. Although forest landscapes and group characteristics vary considerably, collaboratives faced common challenges to developing a shared vision for desired conditions. Three broad categories of challenges emerged: meeting multiple objectives, collaborative capacity and trust, and integrating ecological science and social values in decision-making. Collaborative groups also used common strategies to address these challenges, including some that addressed multiple challenges. These included use of issue-based recommendations, field visits, and landscape-level analysis; obtaining support from local agency leadership, engaging facilitators, and working in smaller groups (sub-groups); and science engagement. Increased understanding of the challenges to, and strategies for, developing a shared vision of desired conditions is critical if other collaboratives are to learn from these efforts.

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We thank the participants in this study for sharing their time and insights. We also thank Phil Chang for his feedback during project development and James Freund, Russel Kramer, Linda Winter, and two anonymous referees for helpful reviews of the manuscript. This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McIntire Stennis project under accession number 233019.

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Correspondence to Lauren S. Urgenson.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Urgenson, L.S., Ryan, C.M., Halpern, C.B. et al. Visions of Restoration in Fire-Adapted Forest Landscapes: Lessons from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. Environmental Management 59, 338–353 (2017).

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  • Collaboration
  • Ecological restoration
  • Desired conditions
  • Fire-prone forests
  • Public lands management