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Project ID: 16-3-01-10

Year: 2016

Date Started: 10/01/2016

Ending Date:  09/30/2019

Title: Integrating Social and Ecological Resilience into Forest Management Planning

Project Proposal Abstract: Multiple recent U.S. Forest Service (USFS) policies and mandates identify resilient landscapes as a guiding concept for land and resource management. This emphasis on resilience comes in response to the unprecedented scope, scale, and cost of wildfire and other disturbances experienced on federal forest landscapes in recent years, as well as acknowledgement of the threats posed by climate change. The resilience perspective represents a paradigm shift from prior management ideals of predictability and control and assumptions of linear change. However, it is not clear that the planning process used by the USFS, and policies such as the National Environmental Policy Act around which forest planning is structured, are able to readily accommodate a resilience approach. Indeed, both formal and informal institutions associated with the planning process may pose formidable barriers to successfully managing for resilient outcomes. This research project proposes to help federal land managers identify and overcome the mismatches between planning institutions and the resilience approach in order to more effectively align agency processes with resilient landscape outcomes. The three objectives of this project are to: 1) Identify and analyze the present state of resilience conceptualization and adoption in USFS planning and management; 2) Identify the opportunities and institutional barriers to resilience planning and conduct a needs assessment to inform future practice; and 3) Develop and disseminate resources to help fire, fuels, and forest planners incorporate resilience into planning at multiple scales. These objectives will be achieved via four separate research tasks. First, we will perform an institutional analysis of both current resilience mandates and resilience planning resources to determine their potential intersections with the planning process. This will be complemented by a content analysis of existing resilience planning documents to understand the ecological and procedural implications of resilience-oriented management within the U.S. Forest Service to date. These findings will be used to inform three in-depth case studies of recent Forest Plan revision processes (on the Shoshone, Kaibab, and Francis Marion National Forests) that explicitly addressed resilience in the context of fire and climate change. These case studies will investigate institutional change within the USFS by analyzing how resilience was incorporated into planning and whether outside stakeholder collaboration, scientific input, management, or monitoring changed as a result. Finally, we will conduct a representative survey of fire, fuels, and forest managers to probe their understandings of and experience managing for resilience. This exercise will allow us to identify key institutional, knowledge, or resource barriers to greater adoption. Collectively these research tasks will allow us to not only uncover the most important institutional barriers to resilience management posed by the planning process but also to identify innovations that help managers overcome these challenges. Further, this research will produce insights into the process of institutional adaptation of the USFS in response to new social and ecological challenges. With this information we will produce targeted outreach materials for agency managers, including guidance on best practices for resilience planning, an orientation guide to resilience planning tools, and webinars conveying practical lessons from our three case studies. In addition, we will publish peer-reviewed articles on institutional adaptation within the USFS and deliver presentations at relevant practitioner-oriented conferences. Through these efforts we intend to contribute to organizational learning within the USFS and provide resources of value to managers and planners nationwide.

Principal Investigator: Jesse B. Abrams

Agency/Organization: University of Oregon

Branch or Dept: Institute for a Sustainable Environment

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Joshua T. Kerber

University of Oregon

Office of Research Services & Administration

Budget Contact

Joshua T. Kerber

University of Oregon

Office of Research Services & Administration

Co-Principal Investigator

Alexander M. Evans

Forest Guild

Co-Principal Investigator

Courtney G. Flint

Pennsylvania State University

Earth & Environmental Systems Institute

Co-Principal Investigator

Cassandra Moseley

University of Oregon

Institute for a Sustainable Environment


Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez

Colorado State University

Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northern Rockies










Shoshone National Forest






Kaibab National Forest




Francis Marion National Forests

Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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