“We do need a strong tie to universities; one role is unbiased monitoring and evaluation. It has more credibility, like the work Romme and Lynch did…it was all credible…and also universities can help in facilitation…Working with universities is a way to rectify conflicting data. Getting the hard numbers together…so the communities aren’t learning the same lessons over and over again. The university helps us sort that stuff out. The national labs fill that role, too. I would have to place the Forest Products Lab in that category also.
“Especially when you are diving into the dark, somebody’s got to have some kind of light that they can shine on certain things that have promise and that are credible and have some sort of discipline behind them, some science behind it, so you are anchored in that. That goes for the ecological work, as well as the economic and various forest products, the technical side. It’s absolutely a strong piece.”
Because of the need for advanced technology and the latest in scientific knowledge, it is obviously helpful to have university researchers as partners in community forestry. For over a decade, the ecological and natural fire regime work of Bill Romme, Wally Covington, Steven Pyne, and others have been utilized to explain the crisis in southwestern ponderosa pine forests (see a recent summary of these perspectives in Friederici, Peter, editor, 2003, Ecological Restoration of Southwestern Ponderosa Pine Forests. Flagstaff: ERI). These research efforts establish the ecological needs for active management of stand densities in much of the ponderosa pine forest of the Four Corners region.
Important work has also been completed by Dr. Dennis Lynch on the economics of forest thinning and product utilization, in particular on the Ponderosa Pine Restoration Partnership sites on the San Juan National Forest in Southwest Colorado (Lynch et al 1998). Dr. Kurt Mackes has continued the work begun by Lynch, looking at harvesting cost comparisons on about a half a dozen sites in Colorado that possess different stand structures, and therefore, different product volumes and harvesting costs. Mackes has also expanded his work, focusing on the wood science applications and testing of various existing and new products, suggesting potential manufacturing and marketability possibilities. In product utilization, for example, the use of woody biomass for animal bedding to reduce mortality, and as a supplement to concrete manufacturing. Recently, he has begun work on biomass utilization in power and heat generation.
Other university-based research is occurring through the Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership (GFFP), utilizing students and professors at the Northern Arizona University School of Forestry and the Ecological Restoration Institute, headed by Dr. Wally Covington. A recent partnership update (January 2004 indicates that over 95 research processes are underway with regard to a variety of treatment prescriptions and their biological and terrestrial effects within the GFFP project boundaries.
Even with these successes, the need for scientific and research assistance is considerable. With basically two university-based forestry research centers in the Four Corners region, located in Fort Collins, Colorado and Flagstaff Arizona, the challenges of covering a large geographic region are enormous. On-going work is needed to address maximizing harvesting techniques, large-scale landscape restoration prescriptions, restoration economics, and community collaboration methods, among others. Alliances and partnerships need to be created with the USFS-Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin and through various
Throughout the FCSFP there is a continuing need to collaboratively establish an on-going applied research agenda that meets the needs of local communities, businesses, harvesters, and land managers. Formal task groups and informal networking need to be increased to ensure that research is being focused on the practical needs of community forest practitioners.
Sub-regional or state-level community forestry partnerships can be very highly effective as integrating and supportive organizations when they focus on an appropriate geographic scale where a critical mass of community, economic, and ecological needs and opportunities are present.
Increased sharing and interaction among the community partnership, business projects and agencies, such as the USDA Forest Service, has proved productive.