Ecosystem Services as a Framework for Forest Stewardship: Deschutes National Forest Overview

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The concept of ecosystem services has emerged as a way of framing and describing the comprehensive set of benefits that people receive from nature. These include commonly recognized goods like timber and fresh water, as well as processes like climate regulation and water purification, and aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural benefits. The USDA Forest Service has been exploring use of the framework of ecosystem services as a way to describe goods and services provided by federal lands and attract and build partnerships with stakeholders and nongovernmental organizations. More recently, the agency has sought place-based example applications of the ecosystem service framework to explore its possible use as a tool to guide forest management, and better illustrate the concept for policymakers, managers, and potential national forest partners. Meeting this call, the Forest Service’s Deschutes National Forest and Pacific Northwest Research Station are collaborating to explore how an ecosystem service approach can enhance forest stewardship in central Oregon. This effort includes (1) describing the ecosystem services provided by the forest, (2) investigating how an ecosystem service framework can support an integrated management approach across program areas to sustain ecological functions and processes, including examination of the potential outcomes and tradeoffs among services associated with proposed management activities, (3) assessing the relationship between supply and demand for services and strategies to sustainably manage service flows while conserving resources over time, and (4) attracting and building partnerships with stakeholders who value the services the forest provides. In this report, we (1) characterize the concept of ecosystem services as it could apply to national forests; (2) describe the value of an ecosystem service approach and provide examples of how management actions support the provision of these services; (3) compare the Deschutes National Forest’s current accomplishment reporting system to ecosystem service outcomes that potentially result from management activities; (4) identify partners with potential to collaboratively plan, fund, or implement projects to enhance or conserve ecosystem services; (5) describe current research efforts to support management application of the ecosystem service concept; and (6) identify research needs.

© 2019 by Trista Patterson 

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