SW Community Forestry Caucus


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One of the primary themes of community forestry is its basis in some form of locally governed partnership viewed as a formal or semi-formal organization. The organizational nature of these partnerships is quite variable, often reflecting the character and available resources of the community or the history of natural resource utilization and related events in the area. For instance, if the community is quite small and isolated, the members might be individuals who simply have an interest in the community's future or well being, who represent its heritage and traditions, and whose interests might lean towards traditional or indigenous uses of wood products. An example of this type of partnership might be Las Humanas, which is rooted in the Hispanic Land Grants in Manzano Mountains of central New Mexico . Here, the ambition in communities is to renew historical land use ties through partnership with the US Forest Service and local state parks as they work to create new jobs through a thinning and restoration business development and educate the residents and young people about the future possibilities.

Another example is the Catron County Citizens Group (CCCG) in west-central New Mexico . Its roots go back to the significant conflicts between county government and the Gila National Forest over who would control the uses of the federal forest lands. When the conflict began to affect the social balance and health of the community, a partnership was energized by a local doctor and a church minister. In time county officials, USFS, and business representatives joined the partnership. But even to this day, the CCCG operates through open, public, monthly meetings, maintains an interest in youth development through operating a Youth Conservation Corps, and stresses local employment and training of wood workers over seeking high levels of timber volumes.

In northern Arizona , the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership was initiated in part as a result of wildfires in the wildland-urban interface. Because primary leadership came initially from the Grand Canyon Trust, a land conservation organization, and the Forestry School of the University of Northern Arizona , much of the work of the partnership is oriented towards demonstrating and testing a wide variety of restoration prescriptions. A recent update from the GFFP in part reads: "The Partnership is committed to researching and monitoring the key ecological, economic, and social impacts and issues associated with landscape-scale restoration. The Partnership's first 10,000-acre project at Fort Valley includes a $500,000 ecosystem research budget and over 20 on-going studies."

This strong of a commitment to restoration demonstration and monitoring can best occur in an environment where those scientific and research resources are available.

Other coalitions and partnerships, such as ones in Ruidoso and Silver City , New Mexico , Torrey , Utah , or eastern Arizona , reflect interests and capabilities in wildfire mitigation, or wood products manufacturing, or using advanced technology in forest thinning and restoration. The primary orientation of each community or partnership can vary considerably, often depending on recent relations with adjacent public lands, whether a sawmill has closed in the past decade, when the last wildfire threatened the region, or the evolution of the community away from an economy linked to forest product utilization. The differences can affect the nature and progress of community forestry to a degree, but what matters most is that there is an organized voice capable of speaking in a trustworthy way about the values and beliefs of the surrounding community.

A trusted community coalition that can speak clearly about the social, economic, and ecological values and visions of a given place or extended landscape offers many important factors: support for forest restoration, advice on an acceptable levels of economic revitalization, advocacy for wildfire mitigation and fuel treatment projects, and a mediating political forum to appropriately balance conservation and resource management goals and methods. It matters less that there is a variety of partnerships or that they differ in composition and structure. They can be made up of agencies and organizations, individual community members, or elected officials non-profits, or small businesses. These differences may merely reflect the nature of the community, its rate of urbanization or social change, or the state of the local ecosystem. What matters most is a long-term commitment to land stewardship and the capacity to actively engage the needed resources in this endeavor.

Lesson Learned
The nature and structure of community-forestry partnerships are very diverse. How they are organized is often a reflection of the immediate community situation and history. What matters most is that they present the authentic values of the community about forest resources and stewardship.


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