Citizens Call for Ecological Forest Restoration:
Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria Forests are among the most precious and beloved places on our continent, providing pure air, clean water, climate control and other ecosystem services that are vital to our quality of life and the survival of fish and wildlife. Regrettably, centuries of resource extraction and development have fundamentally altered most of America s forests, resulting in loss of habitat, water quality and old-growth forests, as well as economic and social harm to communities and workers.
Ecological forest restoration can help reverse these declines, but only if it is based on science and recognizes that ecosystems are complex and our understanding is limited. Preserving wild forests and investing in degraded landscapes through thoughtful, science-based restoration will foster a just, conservation-based economy that can create and sustain family wage jobs within the capacity of healthy forest ecosystems.
The Citizen s Call for Ecological Forest Restoration is a national policy statement to guide sound ecological restoration. It clearly defines principles and criteria to serve as a yardstick for evaluating proposed forest restoration policies and projects. By including social and economic criteria, it also helps bridge the gap between what s good for the land and what s good for communities and workers. The Restoration Principles were developed by a diverse group of forest activists and ecologists, with input from forest practitioners and community forestry groups since 2001.
Successful ecosystem restoration must address ecological, economic and social needs including community development and the well-being of the restoration workforce. While emphasizing that the primary goal of restoration is to enhance ecological integrity, the document encompasses two additional core principles that address the value of natural capital and socio-economic issues that set the context and criteria for restoration.
Core Restoration Principles:
Ecological Forest Restoration. The primary goal of forest restoration is to enhance ecological integrity by restoring natural processes and resiliency. Effective forest restoration should reestablish fully functioning ecosystems. Ecological integrity can be thought of as the ability of an ecosystem to support and maintain a balanced, adaptive community of organisms having a species composition, diversity and functional organization comparable to that of natural habitats within a region (Karr and Dudley 1981). A restoration approach based on ecological integrity incorporates the advantages of historical models while recognizing that ecosystems are dynamic and change over time.
Ecological sub-principles and criteria indicate that restoration planning should be based on restoration assessments at multiple scales, and that projects need clear goals and benchmarks for use in monitoring and evaluation, leading to a process of adaptive management. Restoration budgets should include adequate funding for planning, monitoring and adaptive management. Restoration must uphold all local, state and federal laws and regulations.
In the interest of cost-efficiency and effectiveness, restoration programs should place priority on the least intrusive and intensive methods needed to enhance ecological integrity, including protection of high integrity areas ( core refugia ) and passive restoration (i.e. ceasing harmful activities). Active restoration – such as road removal and prescribed burning – may be necessary in cases of clear need, and where there is broad stakeholder and scientific support. The Principles also distinguish between protecting the Community Protection Zone (a small areaimmediately surrounding homes in the forest), and the broader goal of landscape restoration. The principles define the CPZ to help shape fire policy now being considered in Congress.
Ecological Economics. Intact forest ecosystems provide essential ecological services, including clean air and water, upon which all life and all human economies depend. Restoration of these natural systems is an investment in natural capital diminished by decades of logging, road building, mining, grazing, fire suppression, and invasion by exotic species. An economic and institutional framework that fully accounts
for non-market ecological services should be established to recognize the value of intact ecological systems and to guide restoration efforts.
Ecological Economics sub-principles and criteria stress the need to develop positive incentives to encourage ecological restoration, and to eliminate commercial and other incentives that drive activities, that harm ecosystems, communities and workers. For example, the current timber sale program is not appropriate for restoring forests. Rather, government should appropriate multi-year funding for all aspects of restoration, and reform contracting mechanisms to award contracts on the basis of best value criteria rather than lowest-bid. This includes preference for contracting with local crews, small rural businesses, underserved communities and multicultural mobile workers. Market values should be seen as a secondary by-product of restoration for ecological integrity.
Communities and Workforce. Restoration must foster a sustainable human relationship to the land that promotes ecological integrity, social and economic justice for workers and communities, and a culture of preservation and restoration. In turn, effective restoration depends upon strong, healthy and diverse communities and a skilled committed workforce.
Communities and Workforce sub-principles and criteria emphasize the need for collaborative efforts to build community and worker capacity to perform ecological restoration and create quality jobs. This should emphasize a high-road approach that provides family wages and benefits, professional training and career development, equal access to work and training, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Furthermore, restoration and sustainable community development should involve an open, inclusive and transparent democratic process that eliminates undue influence by any group on public-land management decision-making.
Sound forest restoration requires an integrated multi-disciplinary approach rooted in conservation biology and principles that include preserving and protecting intact landscapes, allowing the land to heal itself, and where necessary, helping it to do so through active restoration. Through thoughtful strategies employed over time, we can reestablish sustainable human connections to the land creating quality restoration jobs and encouraging conservation-based economies.
During a period of significant change in forest policies at the federal, state and local level, the Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria establish a vision for restoring natural ecosystems and a sustainable human relationship with the land. They reject the false claims of regulatory streamlining and healthy forests initiatives that use pseudo-science and failed economic theories, and purport to serve the public interest. The Principles and Criteria provide an essential tool for stakeholders and decision-makers at all levels to evaluate, critique, improve, support or reject a proposed project or policy. All interested parties are invited to endorse and utilize this document.