Evaluating Adaptive Management on Southwestern U.S. Forest Service Grazing Lands
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAdaptive management is a popular management approach in the field of natural resourcesand rangeland management. It is a method of decision-making that aims to reduce uncertainty in the face of environmental complexity to ultimately improve ecological, economic, and social outcomes. Despite the promise of this approach, adaptive management has been difficult for natural resource managers and researchers to define and analyze, making large-scale assessments of its effectiveness challenging. Our research attempts to fill this gap by analyzing a large-scale implementation of adaptive management by the United States Forest Service (USFS). In 2007, the USFS implemented a policy requiring the use of adaptive management for all grazing permits on grazing allotments in Region 3 (Arizona and New Mexico). There is little known about how this policy has been carried out in USFS Region 3 and how it has affected outcomes. We aimed to understand if and how adaptive management has been implemented on grazing allotments and how management has changed as a result by analyzing USFS compliance documents from 1996-2017. Allotment management plans and annual operating instructions (n=2,333) from nearly all Forests and selected districts in USFS Region 3 were coded to create a database including key management metrics that allowed for an analysis at the regional scale. Our data show that certain adaptive management indicators are observed in documents at increasing rates over time, especially after 2007. However, indicators of adaptive management did not necessarily correlate with physical changes in management observed in compliance documents, although some patterns were seen that could be attributed to adaptive management. Nevertheless, results from this study can help us understand both our interpretation of on-the-ground adaptive management, as well as improve future decision-making and policy implementation with the increased knowledge of how and where adaptive management is being carried out on Southwestern USFS rangelands.
Degree ProgramGraduate College