Case in Point:The Jobs and Biodiversity Coalition
Adaptive management can be thought of in social terms, as well as ecological. In Silver City, the story is as much one of people adjusting how they interact as it is adapting forest restoration methods, guided by what they learn from the results of their activities.
The Jobs and Biodiversity Project, a Ford Foundation-funded project, has been at the core of efforts to develop a community-based forest restoration demonstration project at the Millsite on the Gila National Forest 25 miles northwest of Silver City, New Mexico, and integrate a number of components from stump to consumer in order to make it work sustainably.
The “coalition,” as the project’s members call themselves, work at what amounts to be an experiment in communication, partnership, and ecological forest restoration linked to local entrepreneurial development. The core members and organizations are: Todd Schulke—Southwest Center for Biological Diversity; Gordon West—Gila Wood Net and Santa Clara Woodworks; Gerry Engel—Silver City Ranger District of the USDA Forest Service; and Judy Ward—Silver City/Grant County Economic Development Council (SIGRED). The local representative of the Nature Conservancy is peripherally involved.
The coalition is the only entity actively pursuing community-based forestry in the Silver City/Grant County area. Adjacent Catron County has other efforts occurring distinct from Grant County.
Bringing the core members together was a stroke of “lucky coincidence of having the right people in the same place at the same time,” said District Ranger Gerry Engel. They’ve developed a relationship among themselves that makes on-the-ground accomplishments possible. “People of different views can actually get something done on the ground!” he said. “We agreed to leave professional egos at home,” Engel said.
“The collaboration is unique, but difficult to describe. We have gotten along, listened to each other’s point of view and have the same goal to move forward. We all strongly feel we need to do something, to get something done.”
Gordon West, who owns Santa Clara Woodworks and founded Gila WoodNet, said theirs is an approach distinct from other community-based forestry projects.
“We designed the project, and then looked for people to get involved. We didn’t start a collaborative and then look for a project to work on together. We use a ‘zone of agreement’ design. We don’t let outside arguments stop the project.
Involvement and participation are based on the needs of the project.” The coalition operates according to the essential adaptive principle of harvesting in small increments, then integrating new knowledge in the next phase of harvesting to improve on past performance. Each participant contributes a particular vision, knowledge and expertise in carrying out all the aspects of utilization—from planning a prescription, to harvesting, transporting, milling/processing, marketing, administrating, communicating (internal/external), and monitoring.
Now, after a few years of organization, the coalition is geared up to launch a full-scale restoration project at the 1,200-acre Millsite, 800 from which timber will actually be harvested. The coalition has utilized 100 percent of timber moved off the initial 35 acres of the demonstration area, partners say. Another prescription has been written for 68 acres, to be harvested summer of 2004. They then hope to ultimately treat about 200-300 per year for the next few years.
West believes the coalition has a transferable model ready to be shared with others.
“I’ve come to the understanding that what we are trying to do here is create a new culture,” West told me. “We’ve been doing third world forestry in New Mexico and the US. The stewardship idea of community-based forestry is part of that effort to get a culture.”