Seeing the forest and the trees: Ecologists and land management on the National Forests.
Safford, Hugh*,1, 1 USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, Vallejo, CA
ABSTRACT- In the USDA-Forest Service, National Forest System (NFS) ecologists provide information about the structure, function, and composition of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems to resource specialists and decision-makers, so they can understand, develop, and use ecological principles and perspectives in appropriate ways for sustainable land management planning and conservation. NFS ecologists furnish expert advice to land managers, and produce a diversity of applied products, tools and services – including conservation assessments, species-habitat models, vegetation/ecosystem classifications and maps, inventory & monitoring reports and protocols, and data management services – that are elementary to adaptive, sustainable land-use management. Ecologists provide the broad-scale spatial and temporal perspectives necessary to effectively implement ecosystem approaches to natural resource management on the National Forests. Multidisciplinary and integrative by definition, ecology as a job-series (GS-408) does not fit easily into the relatively rigid organization of disciplines in the Forest Service, and there are consequently relatively few ecologists in the National Forest System. Ecologists in the NFS come principally in three colors: aquatic, wildlife, and vegetation. National programs direct the roles and responsibilities of wildlife and aquatic ecologists in the Agency, but there is no national vegetation or plant ecology program. Although most of the Forest Services nine administrative Regions have lead ecologists in each of the three fields, Regional organizations are idiosyncratic, and coordination within and among Regions varies. The ecological sciences form the technical foundation for ecosystem management in the National Forest System and - organizational and staffing challenges notwithstanding - NFS ecologists play key roles in implementing the Forest Service Strategic Plan.
Key words: ecology, usda-forest service, land management
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