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Guest Post: A Watershed Year for Collaboration

February 3, 2012
The NFF was fortunate to have Emily Biesecker, Presidential Management Fellow at the National Partnership Office in Washington, D.C., with us in our Missoula office for four months. She has now returned to the big city- we’ll miss her!

For the Forest Service and its partners, 2011 was a watershed year for collaboration. There is a mounting recognition that the agency needs a contemporary way of working if it is to tackle contemporary challenges. The only way the Forest Service can accomplish its mission is to work together with partners and collaborators across all lands in pursuit of common goals. The National Forest Foundation has a long history in collaborative approaches to land stewardships; the skills and experience they bring are the reason they have shared so much in the successes of collaboration this year.


Through its Empowering Collaborative Stewardship Project, the Forest Service has launched an effort to build collaborative capacity within the agency and collaborative skill sets among its employees. Married to this effort is the understanding that, to be effective, collaborative skills within the Forest Service must be met by collaborative skills among its many partners. In November 2011, NFF facilitated an online showcase of the first set of tools developed by the Project to guide Forest Service staff, partners, and collaborators through common questions about collaboration. These resources – and many others – are available on the Partnership Resource Center and the NFF Collaboration Resources library.


This year, we saw the development of the new Planning Rule, touted as the most collaborative rulemaking process in the history of the agency. The Rule itself will provide more opportunity for substantial public involvement throughout the planning process, particularly in the early stages. This year, the Rule’s collaborative credo will be tested as it is implemented on National Forests across the country.


All signs point to a 2012 that will continue this trend toward collaboration. In 2011, with NFF serving as a convener and facilitator, a network of Forest Service and partner representatives for each active Collaborative Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project developed and proposed a national framework of indicators to chart their work. Just days ago, on February 3, the Forest Service announced ten new collaborative restoration projects to be funded through CFLRP. These ten projects, along with the ten active projects selected for funding in 2010, will see $40 million applied to their collaboratively designed and implemented restoration solutions.



After sharing nearly four months with the National Forest Foundation in Missoula, I’ve come away with a heightened understanding of the NFF as both an institution and a critical partner. I was given a chance to remove the blinders that even a single year of federal service can erect. I had the opportunity to be re-grounded in the work of non-federal partners, and to recognize the inter-dependence of the Forest Service and partners at all levels of the agency. My greatest pleasure was to get to know the people behind the organization that works so closely and supports so whole-heartedly the mission of the US Forest Service. It is a staff with an inspiring passion for public lands, apparent in all they do.

Forest Service Report: How fuels treatments saved homes from the Wallow Fire

January 24, 2012

This report, released by the Forest Service, touches on a subject very close to home for many collaborative groups in the west: fuel treatments and fire.  With maps, photos, and testimonials from residents, firefighters, and the Forest Service, this report portrays the before, during, and after of the Wallow Fire in Arizona.

[Click here] to read the report.

Volunteers Patrol the Southeast

January 13, 2012

Reposted from the Smoky Mountain News:

Next time you hike a trail, pause a minute and give silent thanks to the legion of trail volunteers who have taken up arms and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the forest, hacking back the undergrowth and clearing obstructive logs.

Volunteer trail crews devoted 28,000 hours of labor in North Carolina’s national forests last year. It often seems like an uphill battle, with the earth constantly trying to reclaim the zigzag of footpaths cut through mountains, but so far crews are holding their own.

“The trails, I think, are really in good shape,” said Mary Gollwitzer, a hiker in Haywood County.

Before Gollwitzer leads a hike for her club — known as the Leisure Hikers — she makes a practice of scouting the trail ahead of time.

“I don’t like to all of a sudden lead a hike and never have gone on it myself. I stay away from that because I don’t know what to expect,” Gollwitzer said.

She might revise the hike plan if the trail is too steep or has large boulders to scramble over, but she’s never ruled out a hike for the club because of maintenance issues.

Volunteer trail crews make sure the cumulative mass of fallen limbs and downed trees don’t eventually overwhelm trails. They build back washed out bridges, repair eroding trail beds, fix soggy sections by diverting water from the trail, and cart out lots and lots of trash.

There are more than two dozen volunteer groups in the mountains that lend their sweat and muscle to take care of trails. The biggest is Carolina Mountain Club, which runs six volunteer trail crews that comb the mountains several times a week fixing problem spots on the trail.

“Our primary mission is to promote hiking in Western North Carolina, and of course, that means we need trails to hike on,” said Marcia Bromberg, president of Carolina Mountain Club.

Carolina Mountain Club logged 17,344 volunteer hours for trail maintenance in 2011, covering about 400 miles of trail.

Carolina Mountain Club is a stickler for detail when it comes to their trail work, approaching their maintenance reports with a level of notation and specificity you would expect from a NASA shuttle launch.

Some trail volunteers pack their handheld GPS unit, able to catalog the exact trouble spot.

“I observed a dead fall at E 36404, N 3946090 whose removal will require a later trip,” crew leader Wayne Steinmetz reported on a trail scouting trip.

Or, “I observed that ice covered the trail at E 365491, N 3946623 (WGS 83 horizontal datum).”

Their trail maintenance log from 2011 goes on like this — for 190 pages — detailing the who, what, when and how of more than 1,200 volunteer work outings held last year by their various trail crews.

“Hiked in from Sunburst on FS 97 and 97H. Cleared several simple downs, repaired tread at two wash locations and lopped rodies and beech sprouts along uphill side of trail,” Paul Dickens wrote in his report of a workday in the Middle Prong Wilderness in Haywood County last January.

Most trail reports are highly clinical in nature, but you can always tell when Becky Smucker’s come through. She can’t resist throwing in a line about the weather and her botanical findings of the day.

“We did a spring scout of Shining Creek Trail …We removed downs, lopped some, fixed some drainage, reworked one major tread problem, removed some fire rings and carried out a little trash. It was a gorgeous spring days, and giant Vasey’s trillium was in bloom,” Smucker wrote in one report from a workday near Cold Mountain in Haywood County last May.

Strength in numbers

Several volunteer trail groups have sprung up to take care of trails in a very specific area, such as Friends of Whiteside Mountain in Highlands, or of a particular trail, like the Bartram Trail Society or Benton MacKaye Trail Association.

One of these hyper-local groups is the Friends of Panthertown in the Cashiers area of Jackson County — a group united by their love for the place known as “Yosemite of the East.”

The idea of small-scale, local groups taking care of their own little slice of trails is a model the forest service would like to emulate in its quest to build a larger volunteer base, said Jason Kimenker, the director of Friends of Panthertown. The group, which numbers 350 members dedicated to the protection and preservation of Panthertown, has about three dozen trail volunteers who turn out for regular workdays.

In reality, a relatively minute percentage of hikers actually volunteer to work on trails. But adding more volunteers to the mix isn’t a simple solution, Bromberg said. Orchestrating trail crews is complicated and time consuming.

“There are various skill levels, everything from trained sawyers and people like me who go out with my loppers and that’s about the best that I’m going to be able to do,” Bromberg said.

While hikers constitute the vast majority of volunteers working on trails, mountain bikers have upped their presence considerably in recent years. Several mountain bike chapters hold regular trail workdays. They concentrate their efforts in popular mountain bike destinations, like Tsali, Bent Creek and DuPont State Forest.

Horseback groups have historically been the least represented in trail maintenance circles but have been pitching in more in recent years.

Where the forest service can’t keep up, “friends of various stripes have come in and taken a piece of the burden off them,” Bromberg said.

The Wilderness Society last year launched a trail crew to focus on maintenance specifically in national forest areas designated as “wilderness.” Wilderness areas are a challenge when it comes to trail maintenance because power tools aren’t allowed, which means no chainsaws.

The Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards uses a combination of volunteer and paid trail crews, with the help of a grant from the National Forest Foundation.

“It was birthed to take some of the pressure off the trail clubs, which found they couldn’t support more wilderness designations if they couldn’t take care of their trails,” said Brent Martin with The Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian field office in Sylva.

To view the original article, [click here].

Funding for Capacity Building: Every Day Grants Deadline January 13!

January 6, 2012

Every Day Grants are designed to provide funding to strengthen the effectiveness of community-based friends groups. These grants help fund capacity building projects such as staff and board training, fundraising, technology and website development.

There will be two rounds of Every Day Grants in 2012. Each round will result in 25 grants of up to $5,000 per grant. The deadline for the first round of Every Day Grants is next Friday, January 13, 2012.

Visit the Every Day Grants website for more details and frequently asked questions.

 The Deadline is a Week Away. Apply Now! 

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Grants focused on youth conservation employment

January 4, 2012

The Forest Service announced on December 23, 2011 a new funding opportunity to support and advance youth conservation engagement work.  Developed with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management, the America’s Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists initiative targets programs that provide youth employment opportunities in conservation.

In 2012, approximately $1 million will be available nationwide for projects on, or directly benefiting, Bureau of Land Management and/or National Forest System lands.  Proposals are due January 27, and in February a second funding opportunity focused on conservation education and outreach will be announced. Click the link below to view the announcement from Chief of the Forest Service Tom Tidwell as well as the Request for Proposals.

Grant Opportunity: Youth Conservation Employment Announcement and RFP

Happy New Year, Resources and Opportunities

January 2, 2012

Happy New Year from Conservation Connect!  2011 was a wonderful and eventful year for our partners and in collaboration, and 2012 is looking to be even better.  We’re planning a Year in Review in Collaboration post in the near future, but in the meantime, some fantastic resources and opportunities:

Carpe Diem West’s Healthy Headwaters Project hosted a web session with Anne Zimmermann, Director of Watersheds, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants, U.S. Forest Service
, entitled “The U.S. Forest Service’s Watershed Condition Framework:
 Guiding On-the-Ground Restoration in the West”.  Click here to view the archived session.

It is tax season once again, and many nonprofits fear being audited.  BlueAvocado offers the story of a nonprofit that survived audit, and lived to give the rest of us some advice. Click here to read.

A Community on Ecosystem Services Linking Science, Practices and Policy: Save the Date for the December 2012 conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Click here for more information.

The APPL Partnership Convention & Trade Show in Las Vegas, NV,  is the place to interact with the public lands community and strengthen your partnership skills. Coming up quickly March 4-8, 2012! Click here for more information.

The Quivira Coalition has posted MP3s and , soon, YouTube videos of the speakers at their 10th Anniversary Conference, “New Agrarians”, which featured Bill McKibben as the keynote speaker. Click here to explore their synopsis of the conference.

Have you visited the Chronicle of Philanthropy lately? Though it is now a little late to benefit from their Year End Giving podcast, they offer a wealth of resources, many of which have been featured on this blog.  Click here to view their community page.

January 31 and Feburary 1: Making Collaborative Forest Restoration Work in Idaho, Workshop and Conference

December 6, 2011

Practical Tools for Collaborative Forest Restoration in Idaho, in Boise, Idaho

The workshop on January 31, 2012 is designed for current members of Idaho collaborative groups, as well as those considering starting such a group.  The sessions will offer practical tools for collaborators to use when working in forests that have evolved with a mixed-severity fire regime, including those dominated by grand fir, western hemlock, western red cedar and subalpine fir.  While these forest types comprise  nearly 3/4 of all National Forests in Idaho, stakeholders struggle to reach consensus on management need and treatment methods.  By contrast, stakeholders on Idaho projects have articulated appropriate treatment methods  for the ponderosa pine and dry Douglas-fir forest types.
Workshop participants will review the current risks facing these forest types in Idaho and opportunities to restore their ecological integrity and resiliency with Dr. Penny Morgan, Professor of Natural Resources, University of Idaho and Dr. Russ Graham, Research Forester, Rocky Mountain Research Station.  Dr. John Freemuth, Political Science Professor, Boise State University,  will facilitate a  discussion.  The discussion objective is  to identify strategies that  expand the “zone of agreement”  to restore ecological function of the mixed-severity fire regime forest types.  Collaborative group members throughout Idaho will share their thoughts and experiences in developing successful forest restoration project proposals that are supported by a wide diversity of interests.
Finally, the workshop will transition toward the focus of the next day’s conference on how to capture the economic value of the wood byproducts from forest restoration projects to help finance other restoration treatments,  including watershed and wildlife habitat improvement.  Here, the workshop will discuss the funding outlook for the Forest Service and an update on Stewardship Contracting re-authorization.

From Forest to Market: The Potential Roles of Biomass Energy and Wood Products in Supporting Forest Restoration

The one day conference  will focus on how to capture the economic value of the wood products produced by forest restoration. The content is up-to-date and includes high quality information from expert speakers on wood utilization markets and conversion technologies that can support forest restoration.

[Click here] for more information and to register.