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Implementing Climate Change Adaptation in Forested Regions of the Western United States



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USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014. 229
Jessica E. Halofsky
Research Ecologist, University
of Washington, College of
the Environment, School of
Environmental and Forest
David L. Peterson
Research Biological Scientist,
USDA Forest Service, Pacific
Northwest Research Station,
Pacific Wildland Science Fire
Linda A. Joyce
Research Ecologist, Human
Dimensions Research Program,
USDA Forest Service, Rocky
Mountain Research Station
Constance I. Millar
Research Paleoecologist, USDA
Forest Service, Pacific Southwest
Research Station
Janine M. Rice
Research Associate, University
of Colorado, Western Water
Assessment and the USDA
Forest Service, Rocky Mountain
Research Station
Christopher W. Swanston
Director, Northern Institute of
Applied Climate Science, USDA
Forest Service, Northern Research
Abstract: Natural resource managers need concrete ways to
adapt to the effects of climate change. Science-management
partnerships have proven to be an effective means of facili-
tating climate change adaptation for natural resource man-
agement agencies. Here we describe the process and results
of several science-management partnerships in different for-
ested regions of the United States (U.S.), including the Pacic
Northwest, interior West, Pacic Southwest, and Upper Mid-
west and Northeast. Led by U.S. Forest Service scientists, these
partnerships were developed to adapt resource management in
National Forests, national parks, and land managed by other
federal and state agencies to climate change and typically
involved vulnerability assessments and science-management
workshops to develop adaptation strategies and tactics. We
discuss commonalities among these efforts, specic outcomes,
and applicability to other regions and adaptation efforts.
Federal land management agencies in the United States
are beginning to incorporate climate change into their
management planning and operations. Department-
and agency-level strategic plans and directives are
increasingly recognizing the importance of incorporat-
ing climate change in agency activities. For example,
Secretary of the Interior Order 3289, signed in 2009 and
amended in 2010, suggests that potential climate change
impacts necessitate changes in how the U.S. Department
of the Interior (USDOI) manages natural resources and
requires its agencies to incorporate climate change in
planning, prioritization, and decision-making (USDOI
2009). Similarly, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) strategic plan for scal years 2010–2015
(USDA 2010), one of four strategic goals is to ensure
that National Forests and private working lands are
conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate
change, and a 2011 Departmental Regulation (DR-1070-
001) (USDA 2011), required the USDA and each agency
within to prepare a climate change adaptation plan. More
Implementing Climate Change
Adaptation in Forested Regions of the
United States
230 USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014.
recently at the executive level, President Obama issued Executive Order 13653, “Preparing
the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change” (Obama 2013). The Executive Order re-
quires the heads of the Departments of Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture, the Environmental
Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of
Engineers, and other agencies to work with the Chair of CEQ and the Director of the Ofce of
Management and Budget to, “complete an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed
changes to their land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make
the Nation’s watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies
that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate.” The assessments are re-
quired to include a timeline and plan for making changes to policies, programs, and regulations.
Agency directives have spurred a urry of climate change-related activity in federal land man-
agement agencies over the last few years. From that activity, science-management partnerships
have emerged as effective catalysts for development of vulnerability assessments and land man-
agement adaptation plans at both the strategic and tactical level (Cross and others 2013; Gaines
and others 2012; Littell and others 2012; McCarthy 2012; Peterson and others 2011; Swanston
and Janowiak 2012). Science-management partnerships typically involve iterative sharing of
climate and climate effects information by scientists, and of local climate, ecological, and man-
agement information by managers. This iterative information exchange aids identication of
vulnerabilities to climate change at the local scale and sets the stage for development of adapta-
tion strategies and tactics, often developed through facilitated workshops.
The U.S. Forest Service (USDA FS) administers 78 million ha (193 million acres) of land in 155
National Forests and 20 national grasslands. The USDA FS is responsible for restoring, sustain-
ing, and enhancing forests and grasslands while providing and sustaining benets to the American
people. Forest Service scientists and land managers are tasked with reducing the effects of cli-
mate change on ecosystem function and services (USDA FS 2008, 2011a). Partnerships among
scientists in the Forest Service Research and Development branch, managers in the National
Forest System, and other agencies and universities have played a major role in advancing cli-
mate change adaptation in the agency. Development of science-management partnerships is
a performance measure in the USDA FS Climate Change Performance Scorecard (USDA FS
2011b), which rates National Forests on how well they are responding to climate change. Here,
we describe the process and outcome of several recent science-management partnerships led by
the USDA FS, identify key elements, and discuss future application to other regions.
Interior West
As a part of the WestWide Climate Initiative (Peterson and others 2011), a science-manage-
ment partnership was initiated among a research scientist from the USDA FS Rocky Mountain
Research Station ofce in Fort Collins, Colorado; the regional ecologist from the USDA National
Forest System, Rocky Mountain Region’s ofce in Lakewood, Colorado; and the resource staff
ofcer from the Shoshone National Forest supervisor’s ofce in Cody, Wyoming. The partner-
ship was initiated to determine the potential effects of climate change on Shoshone National
USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014. 231
Forest and develop tools to help national forest land managers adapt their management to climate
change. Over time, involvement from the regional ofce and Shoshone National Forest expand-
ed to include experts in wildlife, water, ecology, and planning. The scientists at Western Water
Assessment at Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the University
of Colorado became important partners. In addition, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS) and several universities participated in partnership activities. Periodic briengs were
held at the Shoshone National Forest and in the regional ofce to keep interested staff updated
on activities.
Initial discussions identied the need to synthesize the literature on climate change specic to
the Shoshone National Forest and surrounding area. A report, “Climate Change on the Shoshone
National Forest, Wyoming: A Synthesis of Past Climate, Climate Projections, and Ecosystem
Implications” was jointly written by Rocky Mountain Research Station and National Forest
staff to synthesize current scientic information about prehistoric, recent, and future climate and
how future warming may affect natural resources on Shoshone National Forest (Rice and others
2012). A focused review of the potential impacts of climate change on quaking aspen (Populus
tremuloides Michx.) was also conducted in cooperation with other scientists in the WestWide
Climate Initiative, because aspen is a high priority for management across the western United
States (Morelli and Carr 2011).
Staff on the Shoshone National Forest expressed a desire to interact with scientists on specic
topics and to have sufcient time for discussion of each topic. Thus, the Natural Resource and
Climate Change Workshop was held in Cody, Wyoming in 2011. The workshop was attended by
over 50 participants from Shoshone National Forest, other federal and state agencies, and private
sector organizations. Topics covered in the workshop, selected by Shoshone National Forest
staff, included climate change, snow pack, and vegetation models. Seven local experts in the
elds of climate and climate change effects, water resources, snow and glaciers, ecosystem mod-
eling, Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri), and recreation and tourism
offered information about climate and potential effects in the Shoshone area (USDA FS 2011c).
Both during the workshop and afterwards, discussions among scientists, and regional and
Shoshone National Forest staff led to the identication of key resources for further consider-
ation. These high-priority resources included water availability, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and
quaking aspen, and partnership scientists and managers conducted a vulnerability assessment
for each resource. The vulnerability assessment for water availability was developed to provide
information about the effects of climate change on water resources in the Shoshone National
Forest region, an important source of water for human uses. For the Yellowstone cutthroat trout,
a customized vulnerability assessment tool was developed using indicators for climate change
exposure as well as inherent landscape, anthropogenic, and ecological factors of sensitivity and
adaptive capacity (Rice and others, in review). This tool provides information to guide adaptation
strategy development and conservation and monitoring planning (Rice and others, in review).
Aspen in Shoshone National Forest currently occupies a fraction of its potential habitat based on
climate, topography, and soils, which suggest that its distribution is constrained by other factors.
The question of where aspen may exist in the future could not be completely addressed in the
assessment, although the assessment pointed to the potential for an expansion of aspen because
of projected changes in climate (Rice and others, in preparation). The effects of other factors,
232 USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014.
such as conifer competition, re regime, insects and pathogens, and wildlife browsing likely
cause spatial and temporal variability of aspen distribution and abundance that may continue to
be dynamic under climate change.
The results of the vulnerability assessments conducted through the partnership have informed
conservation project planning for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, helped to inform the selection of
hydrologic monitoring locations, and provide vulnerability information for the future manage-
ment of water availability in grazing allotments. Rice and others (2012) was extensively used in
the recent Shoshone National Forest planning process.
Pacic Northwest
In the rst formal project to address climate change in a national forest, a science-management
partnership was initiated by the USDA FS Pacic Northwest Research Station, Olympic National
Forest, and Olympic National Park (Halofsky and others 2011b). Building on a long history of
cooperation between a national forest and national park located on the Olympic Peninsula, this
project engaged scientists and resource managers in a sequence of educational workshops, de-
velopment of a vulnerability assessment, and compilation of adaptation options.
Early discussions among scientists and natural resource managers identied the need to in-
crease awareness of climate change among federal natural resources managers on the Olympic
Peninsula and assess the vulnerability of natural resources at Olympic National Forest and
Olympic National Park. Four separate workshops were convened on the topics of hydrology
and roads, sheries, vegetation, and wildlife, with participants from different federal and state
agencies, tribes, and other groups attending each workshop. At each workshop, scientists from
the Forest Service and University of Washington provided state-of-science summaries on the
effects of climate change on natural resources, and scientists and managers worked together to
identify the most important impacts on the Olympic Peninsula. Smaller workshops were then
convened with a core group of scientists and managers to review the vulnerability assessment
and develop adaptation strategies and tactics for each of the four resource areas. All information
was subsequently peer reviewed and published as documentation for management and decision
making (Halofsky and others 2011b).
Building on knowledge gained from working with Olympic National Forest and Olympic
National Park, the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership (NCAP) was subsequently initiated
in north-central Washington in 2011. The partnership covers 2.4 million ha (59 million acres)
across the west and east sides of the Cascade Range and includes Mount Baker-Snoqualmie
National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, North Cascades National Park Complex,
and Mount Rainier National Park (Raymond and others 2013; Raymond and others, in press).
This diverse, mountainous region contains temperate rainforest, subalpine and alpine ecosys-
tems, extensive dry forests subject to frequent re, and shrub-steppe ecosystems. It also contains
17 000 km of roads and is adjacent to densely populated areas of western Washington.
The NCAP project started with one-day educational workshops at each of the four management
units, which included resource managers, line ofcers, administrative personnel, and various
stakeholders. Then, four two-day workshops were convened for all management units combined,
with one workshop focused on each of the following topics: hydrology and access, sheries,
USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014. 233
vegetation and ecological disturbance, and wildlife. The rst day of each workshop focused
on developing summaries of resource sensitivities as components of the vulnerability assess-
ment, with scientists leading the discussion and managers contributing data and information on
specic locations. The second day of the workshop focused on adaptation to sensitivities iden-
tied for each of the four resource areas, with managers providing both adaptation strategies
useful for planning and adaptation tactics useful for on-the-ground applications. Information
discussed and written at workshops was compiled in peer-reviewed documentation that will
be used by the National Forests and national parks (Raymond and others 2013; Raymond and
others, in press).
The NCAP project was premised on an “all lands” approach that considered public, private,
and tribal lands other than Forest Service and National Park Service lands. Individuals from
about 40 different federal and state agencies, tribes, and conservation groups participated in the
workshops and assisted with identication of resource issues and adaptation options. The NCAP
catalyzed an ongoing dialogue on climate change in the North Cascades region that has persisted
beyond the formal phase of the project. For example, additional workshops have been convened
on how climate change will affect extreme ood events that have the potential to damage roads
on the west side of the Cascades. Workshops have also been convened to focus on how climate
change will affect sheries and estuarine systems in the Skagit River basin, a major watershed
in the NCAP project area.
Pacic Southwest
In 2009, as a part of the WestWide Climate Initiative (Peterson and others 2011), a science-
management partnership was established between research scientists at the USDA FS Pacic
Southwest Research Station and managers at Inyo National Forest and Devils Postpile National
Monument in the Sierra Nevada, California. This effort aimed to develop tools and information
to help forest and park managers adapt their management and planning to climate change. At the
start of the project, Inyo National Forest was beginning revision of its land management plan,
and Devils Postpile National Monument was beginning development of a general management
plan to identify long-term desired conditions for the monument and guide park managers as
they decide how to best protect monument resources and manage visitation. After initial meet-
ings to determine the direction of the partnership, the team determined that facilitated sharing
of knowledge about climate change and its effects through targeted workshops and assessment
reports (developed by scientists) would help managers integrate climate change into planning
and management.
Inyo National Forest staff had several specic requests of scientists in the partnership: (1) com-
pile a summary of climate trends and adaptation options relevant to the eastern Sierra Nevada,
(2) develop a regional bibliography of information on climate change, (3) establish a technical
advisory board that includes climate scientists conversant in eastern Sierra Nevada regional
issues, (4) prepare a report and eld survey for a potentially novel climate threat to quaking
aspen in the eastern Sierra Nevada, (5) participate in the public engagement process before the
land management plan revision process, and (6) conduct facilitated climate applications work-
shops. A desired outcome of the partnership was for Inyo National Forest to implement resource
treatments developed by partnership discussions and products, and to incorporate climate con-
siderations in the land management plan revision.
234 USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014.
Priorities identied by staff at Devils Postpile National Monument, whose lands are sur-
rounded by Inyo National Forest, included a need for high-resolution climate monitoring and
information on the potential role of the monument as a cold-air pool that could serve as a
climate refugium for some species. The latter led to a request for scientists to develop an
analysis of cold-air pooling in the upper watershed of the monument. Partnership activities
at the monument had a strong focus on science, including a combined eld and classroom
workshop, summary of ongoing research, and synopsis of research and monitoring efforts
needed to guide future adaptation efforts. A scientic technical committee was also convened
to consult on general management plan development and advise on implementation of adapta-
tion treatments.
The science-management workshop conducted at Inyo National Forest, “Evaluating Change in
the Eastern Sierra”, was attended by a mix of federal, university, and other scientists, resource
specialists, and concerned citizens. Scientists presented information on climate projections at
the global, regional, and local scale, and discussed effects on other resources, such as vegeta-
tion (Morelli and others 2011). Implications for the Inyo National Forest were then discussed.
For Devils Postpile National Monument, a science-management workshop was held with sci-
entists from the USDA FS and USGS and managers from the National Park Service. The
workshop included presentations on climate and hydrologic projections relevant to Devils
Postpile National Monument as well as physical and ecological vulnerabilities and potential
effects on visitors and infrastructure. Presentations were followed by a general discussion on
implications for managing Devils Postpile National Monument as a refugium in an uncertain
In addition to education and training through facilitated workshops, outcomes of the science-
management partnership in the eastern Sierra Nevada included several reports and tools. For
Inyo National Forest, scientists developed a report reviewing aspen response to climate and
describing an aspen screening tool (Morelli and Carr 2011). The Climate Project Screening
Tool (Morelli and others 2012) was developed to provide a screening process to assess if
climate change would affect resources involved in management projects in line for imple-
mentation. A report summarizing some of the latest data on climate change projections and
effects relevant for eastern California was developed for use by land managers in the Sierra
Nevada (Morelli and others 2011). In anticipation of the potential for Devils Postpile National
Monument to serve as a climate change refugium, owing to its position at the bottom of a can-
yon with cold-air drainage, a network of temperature sensors in multiple-elevation transects
and a climate monitoring station were recently installed to measure temperature patterns.
Upper Midwest and Northeast
The Forest Service in the Upper Midwest and Northeast created a structured approach to ad-
dressing the issue of climate change in forest management, led by the Northern Institute of
Applied Climate Science. This approach, now called the Climate Change Response Framework
(CCRF), needed to be responsive to the particularly diverse nature of the ownership patterns
and forest practices within the region, in which National Forests and other federal lands com-
prise a small minority of all forested lands. The CCRF was designed to be a comprehensive
program to support original science, literature synthesis, vulnerability assessment, education
and outreach, adaptation planning, and adaptation implementation.
USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014. 235
The goal was not to guide specic actions, but to instead foster climate-informed decisions in
meeting a wide variety of management objectives. Meeting the needs of numerous land manage-
ment organizations through an “all lands” approach required that the CCRF be exible enough
to be applied at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and address diverse management goals.
Addressing the information and planning needs of the National Forests was thus a considered
a core component of the CCRF, but providing information, tools, and outreach to the broader
forestry community was equally critical. This was fully in keeping with the mission of the Forest
Service and the explicit commitment of the Forest Service Eastern Region, Northeastern Area
State and Private Forestry, and Northern Research Station to work together to support sound
land stewardship across all lands (
The pilot for the CCRF was formally launched in northern Wisconsin in 2009, and the
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest served as a “living laboratory” for the development of
ideas, processes, and tools. The staff of the Chequamegon-Nicolet was absolutely essential to
the evolution and success of the CCRF, providing valuable time, expertise, and often the hard
voice of reality to the project. Likewise, their professional relationships in the broader forestry
community helped the project grow in scope and experience. From the original pilot in northern
Wisconsin, the CCRF is now being actively pursued in nine states in areas covering nearly 53
million hectares in the Northwoods (Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin), Central Hardwoods
(Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri), and Central Appalachians (Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia).
There are currently over 70 non-prot, private, county, state, tribal, and federal organizations
partnering in the ecoregional CCRF projects.
A pilot forest ecosystem vulnerability assessment (Swanston and others 2011) and Forest
Adaptation Resources book (Swanston and Janowiak, 2012) for northern Wisconsin have been
published, and lessons learned from those efforts are being applied to ve new vulnerability as-
sessments (Brandt and others, in press; Handler and others, in press a/b) and an expansion of the
Forest Adaptation Resources. The vulnerability assessments include chapters on 1) the contem-
porary landscape; 2) climate and climate modeling; 3) historic climate in the analysis area; 4) a
range of projected, downscaled climates for the analysis area; 5) a literature synthesis of potential
climate change impacts on forest ecosystems, and results of vegetation impact models from three
different modeling platforms applied to the analysis area under a range of plausible climates
(“bookends”); 6) an assessment of plausible regional climate shifts and corresponding ecosys-
tem vulnerabilities; and 7) management implications of these shifts and vulnerabilities. A panel
of ecologists, modelers, and land managers from numerous organizations were brought together
through a structured expert elicitation process to produce the core of the actual assessment. They
are led through a series of steps to identify and generate consensus on the vulnerability of key
ecosystems being considered in the assessment, and then proceed to provide feedback on the
subsequent vulnerability assessment chapters. The assessments do not make recommendations,
but the Forest Adaptation Resources strategies menu and adaptation workbook can help manag-
ers choose the adaptation approaches most likely to meet their management goals.
Generating credible information about climate shifts and ecosystem vulnerability will inject
critical information into the already enormous stream of information considered by land man-
agers. However, generating clear examples of the application of that information in a realistic
management context is necessary to operationalize climate-informed decision making. Creating
236 USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014.
these examples on a variety of land ownerships pursuing a wide range of management goals is
thus a major objective of the CCRF. A community website ( serves as
a common link between several sub-regional communities of practice, where these adaptation
demonstrations can be briey presented. Likewise, dozens of workshops, trainings, and confer-
ences related to the CCRF have brought people together to discuss climate changes and forest
and management responses. For those who are not interested in numerour seminars and want
to get something done, the Forest Adaptation Planning and Practices training was designed to
accommodate multiple organizations in a single training where participants bring real-world
forest management projects and develop actionable adaptation steps using the Forest Adaptation
Resources tools. Pre-work helps participants arrive ready to plan, and post-training follow-up
aids organizations in their implementation processes.
The CCRF continues to grow, with new projects being planned in the Northeast and mid-Atlan-
tic. Climate challenges can most effectively be addressed by a community, and the CCRF has
successfully built a large-scale ecoregional network with widely diverse expertise, perspectives,
and resources.
Keys to Successful Adaptaon Partnerships
To date, all adaptation projects in National Forests and adjacent lands have used a number of
common approaches and accomplished similar outcomes despite the fact that they were con-
ducted in different geographic locations with varied natural resources issues and with different
groups of managers (Peterson and others 2011). First, each project was developed on the founda-
tion of a strong and enduring science-management partnership (Littell and others 2012) initiated
by a Forest Service research station. Building these partnerships, which typically included other
agencies (especially the National Park Service) and stakeholders (Table 1), required substantial
time and energy to establish personal relationships and build trust. Having individuals to serve
as liaisons between climate scientists and managers was critical, and the partnerships went well
beyond simply providing climate data on a website or in a database for managers to access. The
partnerships have persisted through time, even beyond the end of the original project, because of
the effort that went into establishing relationships and providing information that can be directly
applied to management.
Second, each project included an educational component in which natural resource personnel,
line ofcers, and in some cases, administrative staff attended sessions in which they learned about
the latest science on climate change and climate change effects, and shared their experiences
with climate-related resource issues (Halofsky and others 2011a). This baseline of knowledge is
critical for identifying key climate change vulnerabilities, developing adaptation plans, enhanc-
ing monitoring efforts, and generally incorporating climate change in planning and management.
Third, each project focused a great deal of effort on producing a peer-reviewed assessment of
the vulnerability of natural resources to climate change (Table 1), in order to identify resources
most at risk. These assessments, typically led by Forest Service scientists in collaboration with
other agencies and universities, were state-of-the-science syntheses that focused on the topics
considered by resource managers to be the most important (e.g., hydrology, sheries, vegeta-
tion). Considerable effort was focused on downscaling and customizing information, often large
scale and general in nature, to specic landscapes and resource management issues.
USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014. 237
Table 1. Units involved, focus topics, and products for five science-management partnerships conducted with Forest Service Research and Development across
the United States.
Partnership name Geographic region Primary partnering units Focus topics Published tools and reports
Inyo Naonal Forest and Devils Postpile Pacic Southwest U.S. Forest Service Pacic Quaking aspen, cold air Morelli and Carr 2011; Morelli
Naonal Monument Case Study Southwest Research Staon, pooling and others 2011, 2012
Inyo Naonal Forest, and
Devils Postpile Naonal
North Cascadia Adaptaon Partnership Pacic Northwest Forest Service Pacic North- Hydrology and access, Raymond and others 2013;
west Research Staon, sheries, vegetaon and Raymond and others, in press
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie ecological disturbance,
Naonal Forest, Okanogan- and wildlife
Wenatchee Naonal Forest,
North Cascades Naonal
Park Complex, and Mount
Rainier Naonal Park
Northwoods Climate Change Response Lake States Forest Service Northern Forest ecosystems, carbon Swanston and others 2011;
Framework Project Instute of Applied Climate stocks Swanston and Janowiak 2012
Science, Chequamegon-
Nicolet Naonal Forest
Olympic Naonal Forest Case Study Pacic Northwest Forest Service Pacic Hydrology and roads, Halofsky and others 2011b
Northwest Research Staon, sheries, vegetaon,
Olympic Naonal Forest, wildlife
Olympic Naonal Park,
University of Washington
Climate Impacts Group
Shoshone Naonal Forest Case Study Interior West Forest Service Rocky
Mountain Research Staon, Water availability, Morelli and Carr 2011; Rice and
Shoshone Naonal Forest, Yellowstone cuhroat others 2012; Rice and others in
Naonal Forest System trout, and quaking aspen review
Rocky Mountain Region
238 USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014.
Fourth, each project based the development of adaptation options directly on the vulnerability
assessment and known principles of climate change adaptation (Joyce and others 2008, 2009;
Peterson and others 2011). Scientists provided information on resource sensitivity to climate
change for different scenarios, and resource managers responded with solutions for mitigating
resource risk (Table 2). These responses typically included both an overarching adaptation strat-
egy (conceptual, general) and a subset of adaptation tactics (specic, on the ground) for each
strategy (Peterson and others 2011; Raymond and others 2013; Swanston and Janowiak 2012).
Commitment to regular, clear communication was a key to the success of all projects. Scientists
spent many days on the ground in national forest landscapes and in ofces where resource man-
agers work. These conversations and experiences were critical for getting iterative feedback on
the vulnerability assessment, management issues, and potential applications of climate change
information. There is no substitute for scientists (typically with more discretionary time) work-
ing directly with resource managers (typically with minimal discretionary time) to ensure that the
vulnerability assessment and adaptation options are relevant to local planning and management.
Picking up the Pace: A Challenge for the Future
Resource managers and leadership in National Forests and other lands where projects were
conducted consistently cite the value of the projects in providing a new context for resource
management and in enhancing “climate smart” thinking. However, implementation of infor-
mation derived from climate change vulnerability assessments in national forest and national
park resource assessments and monitoring is uncommon. Inclusion of climate change adaptation
strategies and tactics in resource planning and project plans is just starting, even though current
practices are often highly compatible with deliberate actions that enhance the ability of forests
to adapt to climate change. More time may be needed for the climate change context of resource
management to be incorporated as a standard component of agency operations.
At the national level, the federal agencies have a strong focus on advancing climate change is-
sues. At the local scale, many management units would like to develop vulnerability assessments
and adaptation plans. However, in the absence of a mandate to do so, the process of develop-
ing projects similar to those described above will continue to be slow. The USDA FS Climate
Change Performance Scorecard requires development of climate change vulnerability assess-
ments and adaptation plans, but the mandate is largely unfunded. Efforts to accelerate climate
change implementation in National Forests come during a period of steep budget decreases,
making it difcult to implement planned projects and initiate new projects. At the present time,
relatively few National Forests have undertaken signicant steps towards completing vulner-
ability assessments and adaptation plans, and the status of adaptation planning in other agency
units is similar (Bierbaum and others 2013).
The slow pace of federal agencies in emulating the processes and applications described above
(Peterson and others 2011) can be increased by mainstreaming (or operationalizing) climate
change as a part of standard operations in the National Forest System and other federal lands.
This transition has been enabled by various strategic documents in the Forest Service and other
agencies. Concepts such as ecosystem-based management and ecological restoration that were
originally plagued by skepticism and uncertainty evolved into operational paradigms. So too must
climate change become incorporated in thought, actions, and management guidance; climate
USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014. 239
Table 2. Examples of climate change sensitivities and related adaptation strategies and tactics. In
science-management partnerships, sensitivities are typically communicated by scientists, and
adaptation strategies and tactics are developed by land managers based on sensitivities.
Sensivity Adaptaon strategy or tacc
Increased opportunity for Implement early detecon/rapid
invasive species establish- response for exoc species
ment treatment
Potenal for mortality Develop a gene conservaon plan
events and regeneraon for ex situ collecons for long-term
failures, parcularly aer storage
large disturbances
Idenfy areas important for in
situ gene conservaon
Maintain a tree seed inventory with-
high quality seed for a range of
Increase producon of nave plant
materials for post-ood and posire
Increased forest drought Increase thinning acvies
stress and decreased forest Use prescribed burns and wildland
producvity at lower re to reduce stand densies and
elevaons drought stress
Increased winter and spring Implement more conservave
ooding design elements (more intensive
treatments such as larger diameter
culverts, closer spacing between
ditch relief culverts and waterbars)
Increase maintenance frequency of
drainage features
240 USDA Forest Service RMRS-P-71. 2014.
change needs to become a standard component in strategic planning, project planning, monitor-
ing, and implementation. This will likely come with increased awareness of climate change,
understanding of the potential effects of climate change, and the development and awareness of
effective responses to decrease resource vulnerabilities.
Scientic knowledge about the effects of climatic variability and change on natural resources
is for the most part not a limiting factor in moving forward with climate change activities in
National Forests and other federal lands. However, effective transfer of climate-related knowl-
edge from the scientic to the management community is lacking, and thus so is the application
of the information in natural resource management. Future efforts can therefore focus on the
synthesis of relevant scientic information for specic landscapes (vulnerability assessment),
effective transfer of that information to the management community, and then development of
responses that reduce negative effects on resources (adaptation planning). This can be expedited
in agencies like the Forest Service and National Park Service by institutionalizing science-man-
agement partnerships to facilitate climate change adaptation and associated processes. An ideal
partnership in the Forest Service includes scientists from research stations, resource managers in
National Forests, and subject matter experts from regional ofces, along with scientists and man-
agers from other agencies, universities and organizations. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program scientists were
involved in the adaptation partnership developed with Olympic National Forest and Olympic
National Park (Halofsky and others 2011b), in the NCAP effort (Raymond and others 2013;
Raymond and others, in press), and in the Shoshone National Forest effort, and scientists from
RISA centers and USDOI Climate Science Centers could be key partners in future efforts. If
participants in these partnerships work on multiple projects, they will accrue knowledge that
will make each subsequent project more effective and efcient. In addition, vulnerability assess-
ments and adaptation plans can be developed for clusters of National Forests and Parks (and,
potentially, adjacent federal, tribal, and other lands) with similar biogeographic characteristics
and management objectives, resulting in time and budgetary efciencies. Different clusters of
management units may be appropriate for different resources.
We are optimistic that climate change can be mainstreamed in the policies and management of
the Forest Service and other federal agencies by the end of this decade. This can be expedited
by considering climate change as one of many risks to which natural resources are subjected
(Iverson and others 2012), and by considering adaptation as a form of risk management. This
approach has been recently described for water resources, re, carbon, forest vegetation, and
wildlife (Peterson and others, in press; Vose and others 2012), and will be fully incorporated in
future U.S. National Climate Assessments and assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (Yohe and Leichenko 2010). We anticipate that evaluating climate change risks
concurrently with other risks to resources will become standard practice over time.
Bierbaum, R.; Smith, J.B.; Lee, A. [and others]. 2013. A comprehensive review of climate adaptation in
the United States: more than before, but less than needed. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for
Global Change. 18. 361-406.
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Brandt, L.; He, H.; Iverson, L. [and others]. 2014. Central hardwoods ecosystem vulnerability
assessment and synthesis: a report from the Central Hardwoods Climate Change Response
Framework. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-124. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 254 p.
Cross, M.S.; McCarthy, P.D.; Garn, G. [and others]. 2013. Accelerating adaptation of natural resource
management to address climate change. Conservation Biology. 27: 4-13.
Gaines, W.L.; Peterson, D.W.; Thomas, C.A.; Harrod, R.J. 2012. Adaptations to climate change: Colville
and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-862. Portland, OR: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacic Northwest Research Station. 34 p.
Halofsky, J.E.; Peterson, D.L.; Furniss, M.J. [and others]. 2011a. A workshop approach to the
development of climate change adaptation strategies and actions for natural resource management
agencies in the U.S. Journal of Forestry. 109: 219-225.
Halofsky, J.E.; Peterson, D.L.; O’Halloran, K.; Hoffman, H.C. 2011b. Adapting to climate change at
Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-844. Portland,
Oregon: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacic Northwest Research Station. 130 p.
Handler, S.; Duveneck, M.J.; Iverson, L. [and others]. 2014. Minnesota forest ecosystem vulnerability
assessment and synthesis: a report from the Northwoods Climate Change Response Framework.
Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-129. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Northern Research Station. 229 p.
Handler, S.; Duveneck, M.J.; Iverson, L. [and others]. 2014. Michigan forest ecosystem vulnerability
assessment and synthesis: a report from the Northwoods Climate Change Response Framework.
Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-133. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Northern Research Station. 228 p.
Iverson, L.R.; Matthews, S.N.; Prasad, A.N. [and others]. 2012. Development of risk matrices for
evaluating climatic change responses of forested habitats. Climatic Change. 114: 231-243.
Joyce, L.A.; Blate, G.M.; Littell, J.S. [and others]. 2008. National forests. Preliminary review of
adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and resources. In: Julius, S.H.; West, J.M.,
editors, and Baron, J.S.; Grifth, B.; Grifth, B. and others, authors. A report by the U.S. Climate
Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. Washington, DC: U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency: 3-1 to 3-127.
Joyce, L.A.; Blate, G.M.; Littell, J.S. [and others]. 2009. Managing for multiple resources under climate
change. Environmental Management. 44: 1022-1032.
Littell, J.S.; Peterson, D.L.; Millar, C.I.; and O’Halloran, K. 2012. U.S. national forests adapt to climate
change through science-management partnerships. Climatic Change. 110: 269-296.
McCarthy, P.D. 2012. Climate change adaptation for people and nature: a case study from the U.S.
southwest. Advances in Climate Change Research. 3: 22-37.
Morelli, T.L.; Carr, S.C. 2011. A review of the potential effects of climate change on quaking aspen
(Populus tremuloides) in the western United States and a new tool for surveying sudden aspen
decline. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-235. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest
Service, Pacic Southwest Research Station. 31 p.
Morelli, T.L.; McGlinchy, M.C.; Neilson, R.P. 2011. A climate change primer for land managers:
an example from the Sierra Nevada. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-262. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacic Southwest Research Station. 44 p.
Morelli, T.L.; Yeh, S.; Smith, N. [and others]. 2012. Climate project screening tool: an aid for climate
change adaptation. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-263. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest
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forests: a guidebook for developing adaptation options. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-855. Portland,
OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacic Northwest Research Station. 109 p.
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science-management collaboration for responding to climate change. Sustainability. 5: 136-159.
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This paper received peer technical review. The content of the paper reects the views of the authors,
who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the informaon herein.
... However, development of local to regional-scale vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans in western North America has been slow and uneven [4,5]. Progress in development of finer-scale assessments has largely been made through science-management partnerships [6][7][8][9][10][11]. Through iterative exchange of information, these partnerships help to identify key climate change vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies and tactics based on those vulnerabilities [11]. ...
... However, development of local to regional-scale vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans in western North America has been slow and uneven [4,5]. Progress in development of finer-scale assessments has largely been made through science-management partnerships [6][7][8][9][10][11]. Through iterative exchange of information, these partnerships help to identify key climate change vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies and tactics based on those vulnerabilities [11]. these partnerships help to identify key climate change vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies and tactics based on those vulnerabilities [11]. ...
... Progress in development of finer-scale assessments has largely been made through science-management partnerships [6][7][8][9][10][11]. Through iterative exchange of information, these partnerships help to identify key climate change vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies and tactics based on those vulnerabilities [11]. these partnerships help to identify key climate change vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies and tactics based on those vulnerabilities [11]. ...
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... Understanding the carbon balance of forest ecosystems is vigorous to minimize the impact of climate change, offer adaptation needs and strategies, and explore mitigation options (Moss et al. 2010;Gairola et al. 2011;Halofsky et al. 2014;Mensah et al. 2016a). Currently, the conservation and sustainable management of forests for carbon stocks enhancement is one of the most important agenda in climate negotiations. ...
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U The Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the principle of multiple use management of the Nation’s forest resources for sustained yields of wood, water, forage, wildlife, and recreation. Through forestry research, cooperation with the States and private forest owners, and management of the National Forests and National Grasslands, it strives—as directed by Congress—to provide increasingly greater service to a growing Nation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice
Forest ecosystems across the Northwoods will face direct and indirect impacts from a changing climate over the 21st century. This assessment evaluates the vulnerability of forest ecosystems in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province of northern Wisconsin and western Upper Michigan under a range of future climates. Information on current forest conditions, observed climate trends, projected climate changes, and impacts to forest ecosystems was considered in order to assess vulnerability to climate change. Upland spruce-fir, lowland conifers, aspen-birch, lowland-riparian hardwoods, and red pine forests were determined to be the most vulnerable ecosystems. White pine and oak forests were perceived as less vulnerable to projected changes in climate. These projected changes in climate and the associated impacts and vulnerabilities will have important implications for economically valuable timber species, forest-dependent wildlife and plants, recreation, and long-term natural resource planning.
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