Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Release: May 21, 2003

Restoration Vision for Nation’s Forests Unveiled by Conservation Groups and Restoration Practitioners

Restoration Principles, two years in the making, stand in marked contrast to Bush administration’s “healthy forest” proposal

Todd Schulke, Center for Biological Diversity: (505) 574.5962
More Information: Restoration Principles, Executive Summary, the Center's Restoration Program

Today, 120 local and national organizations, unveiled the “Citizen’s Call for Ecological Restoration: Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria.” The Restoration Principles are the result of a 2-year bridge building effort between conservation groups, community forestry advocates and restoration practitioners to develop agreement on a common sense, scientifically-based framework for restoring our nation’s forests.

The Restoration Principles serve as a national policy statement to guide sound ecological restoration. They clearly define principles and criteria in order to evaluate proposed forest restoration policies and projects. By including social and economic criteria, the Restoration Principles also help bridge the gap between what’s good for the land and what’s good for communities and workers.

“The Restoration Principles were created in an incredibly cooperative and inclusive process,” said Todd Schulke, forest policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Over the past two years we have brought together conservation groups, community forestry advocates, restoration practitioners and advocates for organized labor and the mobile workforce to develop a collective vision for restoring our nation’s forests. We hope it may become the basis for broad agreement among many interest groups.”

The Restoration Principles stands in stark contrast to the so-called “Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003” passed yesterday by the U.S. House and the Bush administration’s “Healthy Forest Initiative.” Instead of restoring our National Forests, these bills limit citizen participation and undermine key environmental laws in order to increase logging and roadbuilding on National Forests, thereby creating an even greater need for ecological restoration in the future.

Dr. Dominick DellaSala of the World Wildlife Fund stated, “I see far too many projects cloaked in restoration terminology that may actually do more harm than good since the projects lack the appropriate ecological and social safeguards to evaluate their legitimacy and acceptability. I believe that the Restoration Principles offer a solution to the so-called ‘restoration’ and ‘forest health’ proposals coming from the Bush administration and some members of Congress.”

Mary Chapman, executive director of the Forest Stewards Guild, a national organization that works to support restoration forestry, explained why they endorsed the Principles, “We endorsed the Restoration Principles because not only do they call for an ecological approach to forest restoration, but they stress the importance of economic viability and community sustainability, and the need for a high-skill, high-wage restoration workforce.”

Mark Vander Meer, a western Montana restoration practitioner, said “Defining honest forest restoration is perhaps the most useful outcome of the Restoration Principles. If followed, these Principles can guide foresters and forest workers towards a brand of management that provides us with the credibility we so desperately need and desire. With public support, ecologically based restoration projects can provide thousands of jobs.”

The Restoration Principles make a clear distinction between fuels treatments needed to protect homes and potential fuels treatments as a step towards restoring ecological integrity. While reducing fuels within 200 feet of a home is essential to help protect a home from wildfire, it should not be consider forest restoration by itself. Fuels treatments alone do not address the wide range of ecological issues included in a comprehensive restoration plan and may result in degraded soils, native vegetation and wildlife habitat.

Randi Spivak, executive director of the American Lands Alliance, said “While the debate in Congress has focused on wildand fires and ‘healthy forests,’ the Restoration Principles are designed to address the much broader and encompassing subject of ecological restoration and underscores that restoring ‘healthy forests’ is about a lot more than reducing hazardous fuels.”

Executive Summary

Citizen's 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:

1. 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 area immediately 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

The following 120 organizations have endorsed the Restoration Principles:

20/20 Vision, DC
Appalachian Voices, NC
Alabama Environmental Council, AL
Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, OR
Allegheny Defense Project, PA
Alliance for the Wild Rockies, MT
Ambience Project, MT
American Lands Alliance, DC
American Wildlands, MT
Aspen Wilderness Workshop, CO
Audubon Minnesota, MN
Beausoleil Mediation Service, OR
Bradford Environmental Research Institute
Buckeye Forest Council, OH
California Wilderness Coalition, CA
Cascadia Fire Ecology Education Project, OR
Cascadia Wildlands Project, OR
Center for Biological Diversity, AZ
Center for Environmental Economic Development, CA
Center for Native Ecosystems, CO
Cherokee Forest Voices, TN
Chiricahua-Dragoon Conservation Alliance, AZ
CLEAN (Citizens of Lee Environmental Action Network), VA
Coalition for Jobs and the Environment, VA
Colorado Wild, CO
Committee for the High Desert, ID
Defenders of Wildlife, DC
Devil's Fork Trail Club, VA
Dogwood Alliance, NC
Environmental Protection Information Center, CA
Environment Council of Rhode Island, RI
The Empty Bell, MA
Forest Conservation Council, NM
Forest Ecology Network, ME
Forest Guardians, NM
Forest Stewards Guild, NM
Forest Trust, NM
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, MN
Friends of the Clearwater, ID
Friends of Wild River, NM
Georgia Forest Watch, GA
Gifford Pinchot Task Force, WA
Gila Regional Information Project, NM
GilaWoodNet, NM
Grass Lakes West Consulting, WA
Greater Wyoming Valley Audubon Society, PA
Great Basin Mine Watch, NV
Habitat Education Center, WI
Headwaters, OR
Healing Harvest Forest Foundation, VA
Heartwood, IN
Hells Canyon Preservation Council, OR
High Country Citizens' Alliance, CO
High Uintas Preservation Council, UT
Idaho Conservation League, ID
Indiana Forest Alliance, IN
John Muir Project, CA
Kentucky Heartwood, KY
Kettle Range Conservation Group, WA
Klamath Forest Alliance, OR
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, OR
Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, OR
League Of Wilderness Defenders-Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, OR
Massachusetts Audubon Society, MA
Missouri Forest Alliance, MO
National Catholic Rural Life Conference, IA
National Forest Protection Alliance, MT
Native Forest Network, MT
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, NM
North Coast Restoration Jobs Initiative, CA
Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, WA
Olympic Forest Coalition, WA
Oregon Natural Resources Council, OR
Pacific Rivers Council, OR
Patrick Environmental Awareness Group
Pennsylvania Wildlands Recovery Project, PA
Prescott National Forest Friends, AZ
Quiet Use Coalition, CO
Rainforest Action Network, CA
Resource Stewardship Council, IN
RESTORE: The North Woods, ME
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, CO
Santa Fe Forest Watch, NM
Selkirk Conservation Alliance, ID
Serpentine Art and Nature Commons, Inc., NY
Sinapu, CO
Sisters Forest Planning Committee, OR
Sky Island Alliance, AZ
Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, OR
South Carolina Forest Watch, SC
Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, NC
Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, NC
Superior Wilderness Action Network, MN
Swan View Coalition, MT
Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment, VA
Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, TN
The Clinch Coalition, VA
The Ecology Center, MT
The Four Corners Institute, NM
The Lands Council, WA
The Larch Company, OR
The Northern Appalachian Restoration Project/The Northern Forest Forum, NH
Umpqua Watersheds, OR
Dr. Peter Stacey, Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, NM
Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, NM
Vermont Natural Resources Council, VT
Vermont Forest Watch, VT
Virginia Forest Watch, VA
Western Colorado Congress, CO
Western North Carolina Alliance, NC
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, WV
Wild Alabama, AL
Wildlands Project, AZ
WildLaw, AL
Wildlands CPR, MT
Wild Watershed, NM
White Mountains Conservation League, NM
The Wilderness Society, DC
World Wildlife Fund, DC


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