This spring, the Institute of Forest Resources (IFR) awarded funding to six new research projects in Washington, ranging from the feasibility of a wolf economy, to restoring fire-prone forest ecosystems.
Led by Dean Emeritus Bruce Bare of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), IFR’s mission is to explore research covering forestry and other emerging issues related to forest and environmental sciences. The institute’s primary scope involves issues affecting Washington State’s rural and urban forest ecosystems, and how to sustain the multiple products and services derived from these resources.
Housed within SEFS, and borrowing from the wealth of internal expertise and connections at affiliated institutions, IFR promotes a uniquely interdisciplinary perspective. None of its research is carried out in isolation or on strictly theoretical grounds. These projects rely on the natural laboratory of people interacting with their physical environment—wildlife and agriculture, climate change and forest management, forest policy and economic markets, watersheds and water quality. The goal is to deliver practical solutions and policies that promote a sustainable balance between ecological and economic interests.
Funding has been finalized for four of the six proposals, and is pending final approval from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for the remaining two. The six projects for 2013-14 include:
1. “Defining Desired Future Conditions for Restoration of Fire-Prone Forest Ecosystems: Lessons from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.” (Charles B. Halpern, Lauren S. Urgenson, Clare M. Ryan, Ernesto Alvarado and Jonathan D. Bakker).
Restoration of frequent- and mixed-fire regime forest ecosystems is a pressing natural resource issue in Washington State, as in much of the West. In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) to facilitate forest restoration at a landscape scale. The program engages stakeholders from diverse groups—with differing goals and perspectives—in the design and implementation of large-scale forest restoration projects. This project has two overarching goals: first, to understand how CFLRP collaboratives in the inland Northwest (and beyond) achieve consensus in defining desired future conditions; and second, to distill this understanding as a set of “best practices” that can assist forest managers and collaborative-group members in this process.
2. “Assessing the Impact of Trade Policies on the Competitiveness of Wood Exports from Washington State.” (Ivan Eastin and Indroneil Ganguly).
Recently, a large number of new laws, regulations, policies and programs have been adopted around the Pacific Rim that could significantly affect the specification, use and trade of wood products from Washington State. This study will implement a program of research and extension activities designed to assist small and medium-sized wood products companies and Native American tribal enterprises to understand and adapt to these changing market conditions.
3. “Finding Common Ground Toward the Resolution of a Forest Management Dispute.” (Stanley T. Asah and E. David Ford).
Management of the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF) is important to a range of interested parties. This project will implement a research program to better understand and inform the resolution of the dispute about how the OESF is currently managed, and to outline key areas of consensus and disagreement about how the forest should be managed in the future. In light of the Olympic Natural Resources Center’s role as a neutral forum for addressing management challenges, the aim of this study is to facilitate the management of the OESF in ways that are not only ecologically sound but are also culturally, politically and socio‐economically acceptable across the key stakeholder groups.
4. “Climate Change and Washington State Biofuels Industry: Impacts and Critical Technical Innovations.” (Renata Bura, Richard Gustafson, Susan Bolton, Josh Lawler and Luke Rogers.)
Hardwood plantations are being established in the Pacific Northwest to provide feedstock for the production of fuels and chemicals. However, water demand and water availability for the production of biofuels may be substantial, and water issues need to be investigated further before a commercial system is built out and formalized. The study will use an interdisciplinary approach to develop new technologies, and perform impact assessments for attaining sustainable biofuel production.
5. “Feasibility of a Wolf Economy for Washington.” (John Marzluff, Stanley Asah and Aaron Wirsing).
This project will engage stakeholders in the recovery of wolf numbers in Washington State to determine the feasibility, both social and economic, of developing a market that values a sustainable wolf population. Researchers will build on existing examples and citizen input to test two major components of a viable wolf economy: protecting rancher investments, and developing new markets that reward and compensate ranchers who coexist with wolves.
6. “Assessing the Status of Washington’s Hardwood Resource.” (B. Bruce Bare, John Perez-Garcia and Luke Rogers).
This study aims to calculate how much hardwood growing stock currently exists in Washington State; the age (or size) class structure and location of the inventory; the ownerships currently managing the growing stock; and the volume under riparian management regulations.
During a two-year period, total funding for the six projects is roughly $1.5 million, including federal funds provided by the McIntire-Stennis cooperative research program, and matching funds provided by project collaborators.
As these projects take shape, IFR will work to communicate research findings to the public through meetings, workshops, websites and social media—and in clear, accessible language that resonates widely. So stay tuned!
For more information about IFR and its research, contact Bruce Bare.
Photos © Institute of Forest Resources.