Anchor Forests & The Challenges of Forest Health

Nationwide we are losing our ability to maintain working forests as a result of defoliating and boring insects, disease, catastrophic wildfire, forestry infrastructure reductions, and economic uncertainties – all exacerbated by an increasing urban population culturally removed from the natural environment. Nearly ten percent of the 740 million acres of forest lands within the conterminous United States are in a hazardous condition (Krist et al. 2014) as a result of historic wholesale fire suppression and management practices predominantly on National Forest lands for most of the 20th century (Mason et al. 2012; O’Toole 2007). These practices have led to the currently degraded forest conditions and uncharacteristically severe wildfires that have recently burned forests, homes, and communities and destroyed entire ecosystems.

These forests, if healthy, can provide a broad spectrum of ecosystem services such as habitat for flora and fauna, buffering of pollutants, carbon sequestration, places for personal reflection and cultural/spiritual benefits (Donovan et al. 2015). Healthy forests stabilize stream flow, alleviate flood hazards, and play a critical role in the quantity and quality of water available to society through the storage, filtration, and supply. Forests of the western U.S. provide nearly 65% of the clean public drinking water for nearly 64 million people (American Forest Foundation 2015).
Forest Landscape

What An Anchor Forest – IS NOT

Anchor Forests are not just another collaborative aimed at “planning” with the buzz words and hype that accompany many of the attempts to increase forest harvest from an economically-centered perspective.

Anchor Forests will include landowners and managers so each participant has “skin-in-the-game”. Anchor Forests will embrace Tribes and traditional ecologic knowledge as well as Indian Lifeways and the recreational interests of its participating members. Anchor Forests will provide jobs, tax and sales revenue, community engagement and educational opportunities for students and residents alike. On-ground projects will address the currently degraded forest health conditions and reduce fuel loads and fire hazards with a local community-centered focus.

What An Anchor Forest – IS

Anchor Forests are large multi-ownership areas that support sustainable long-term wood and biomass production levels backed by local infrastructure and technical expertise, endorsed politically and publicly to improve forest resilience and achieve a balance of social/cultural, economic and ecologic management objectives. These cross-boundary multi-jurisdictional forests would offer an area that encourages innovation in natural resource stewardship through a framework that joins multiple landowners with a collaborative atmosphere where divergent interests can work toward common landscape-scale objectives.

Assessing the Anchor Forest Concept

Northwest Management, Inc. (NMI) was contracted by the Intertribal Timber Council to complete an analysis and community outreach regarding the Anchor Forests concept beginning in 2012. This project was to determine if the Anchor Forest concept was a viable framework for institutionalizing collaborative cross-boundary forest ecosystem management, and if they could form the cornerstones needed to overcome forestland fragmentation and sustain ecosystem services at a landscape scale. As of January 2016 NMI has completed and published the Anchor Forests reports in three documents. The 230 page Task Assessment Report (Document 3) describes the details, methods, and research of each of the six Task assessments.

Six assessments were performed for three study regions in eastern Washington to evaluate:

  1. The forestry industry infrastructure and capacity,
  2. The success, challenges and governance structures of existing forest collaboratives,
  3. The potential stakeholder interest and understanding of the current forest health challenges,
  4. The willingness, capability and capacity of Federal, State, Private, and Tribal participants,
  5. The available funding mechanisms, and
  6. The ecosystem services forests can provide and methods for monetizing those services.

The results of these assessments and details of the project are available at and have been published in an Executive Summary, Final Report, and detailed Task Assessment Report. Links to these documents have also been provided below.

Executive Summary

pdf_icon Final Report

pdf_icon Task Assessments Report

The Future of Forestry and the Management of Ecosystems

Historically, forest planning and management has been subject to single-interest goals (e.g., species-specific management, lumber, housing, and rural development). This has resulted in the degradation of water and wildlife amenities, recreation, community well-being and in some cases the stability of entire forest ecosystems (Winkel 2014). Management decisions that minimize un-natural conditions and restore forest health, local communities, public safety, and ecosystem resilience are becoming more urgent in the face of a changing climate and increasing forestland fragmentation across the West.

One of, if not the greatest, challenges to addressing forest ecosystem health will be operating within a paradigm of sustainable forestry that requires expertise in such a broad array of topics that it transcends the capabilities of a single discipline, agency, organization or business sector, thereby requiring collaboration at a level not easily achieved (Zenner 2014).
The Anchor Forest concept offers a framework that recognizes and respects the prerogatives and obligations of individual landowners and provides a foundation to develop actionable strategies for collaborative landscape-scale management that will accrue shared benefits for all willing to work together in a respectful, trust-based atmosphere. Through the inclusion of diverse landowners in an arena of balanced social/cultural, economic, and ecologically collaborative solutions, Anchor Forests have the potential to address many of long-standing challenges facing landscape-scale forest management.
An Anchor Forest framework, guided by Tribal leadership, inclusive of multiple ownership’s, and founded by balanced social/cultural, economic, and ecologic management decisions, represents an innovative approach to maintain working forests and increasing ecosystem resilience not yet realized in Western forest management.
“Ultimately, the people who are best able to take care of the land are those who live on the land, work on the land, and love the land. They have the knowledge, skills and motivation to care for the land. We need to empower them.” Gale Norton, U.S. Secretary of Interior, on August 31, 2005 when announcing the Department of Interior’s participation in the National Conference on Cooperative Conservation

American Forest Foundation, 2015. Western Water Threatened by Wildfire: It’s not just a public lands issue, Washington, D.C. Available at:
Donovan, S., Goldfuss, C. & Holdren, J., 2015. Memorandum for Executive Departments and Agencies: Incorporating ecosystem services into federal decision making. , (October 7, 2015), p.5.
Krist, F.J.J. et al., 2014. 2013–2027 National Insect and Disease Forest Risk Assessment, Fort Collins, CO.
Mason, L. et al., 2012. Listening and Learning from Traditional Knowledge and Western Science: A Dialogue on Contemporary Challenges of Forest Health and Wildfire. Journal of Forestry, 110, pp.187–193.
O’Toole, R., 2007. The Perfect Firestorm Bringing Forest Service Wildfire Costs under Control, Washington, D.C.
Winkel, G., 2014. When the pendulum doesn’t find its center: Environmental narratives, strategies, and forest policy change in the US Pacific Northwest. Global Environmental Change, 27(1), pp.84–95.
Zenner, E.K., 2014. The ongoing story of silviculture on our natural public forestlands. Journal of Forestry, 112(6), pp.611–616.

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