assessment of sustainability of our forests

Southern Forest Resource Assessment

led by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region and Southern Research Station in collaboration with the USEPA, US Fish & Wildlife, TVA, and state forestry agencies of the Southern United States

Notes from Assessment Team Meeting

July 18-20, 2000
Union Station Hotel

Nashville, TN

Tuesday July 18, 2000

I.  Updates by Question Managers

Question Managers gave reports on their progress to date.  The following supplements the reports with a record of the issues and questions raised during discussion of these reports. 

TERRA-2Wayne Owen

What are the history, status and projected future of native plant communities in the South?

SOCIO-3Jim Granskog

How do current policies, regulations, and laws affect forest resources and their management?

TIMBR-3: Bob Rummer

TIMBR-1Jeff Prestemon

What are the history, status and projected future demands for and supplies of wood products in the South?


HLTH-1: Andy Hartsell and Roger Conner

What are the history, status, and projected future of southern forests?

Will need to cross walk to the RPA data base as a point of cross reference—but will work with the original data.

AQUA-4Bruce Prud'homme

What are the implementation rates and effectiveness of BMP's in the South?

TERRA-1Margaret Griep

What are the history, status and projected future of terrestrial wildlife habitat types and species in the South?

TERRA-5: Margaret Griep

What conditions will be needed to maintain plant and animal species associations in the South?

SOCIO-4David Hoge

What motivates private forest landowners to manage their forestland and how are their management objectives formed?

HLTH-3Jennifer  Moore

How have abiotic factors including environmental stressors such as air pollution influenced the overall health of the South's forests and what are future effects likely to be?

AQUA-5Jim Herrig

What are the history, status, and likely future of aquatic habitats and species in the South?

SOCIO-2Ken Cordell (for Michael Tarrant)

What are the attitudes and values of southern residents toward forests and their management and how have they changed over time and do they differ by demographic groups?

SOCIO-6Ken Cordell

What are the supplies of and demands for forest based recreation and other noncommodity uses of forests in the South?

HLTH-2Denny Ward

How have biological agents including insects and disease influenced the overall health of the South's forests and how will they likely affect it in the future?

AQUA-1: Ben West

How have forest management activities and other forest uses influenced water quality, aquatic habitat, and designated uses in forested watersheds?

AQUA-3: Stephanie Fulton

What are the history, status, and likely future of water quality in southern forested watersheds?

SOCIO-5Karen Abt

What role do forests play in employment and local economies in the South?

SOCIO-7Tom Holmes

How do forests and their uses influence the quality of life in the South?

SOCIO-1David Wear

How have land uses changed in the South and how might changes in the future affect the area of forests?

Wednesday July 19, 2000

II.  Discussion of Criteria and Indicators and Developing Measures of the Indicators in Cooperation with the Southern Assessment   – Dave Radloff

Synopsis:  David Radloff (USFS, Washington Office) presented an overview of the Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forestry as developed through the Montreal Process.  This is an international agreement on the measurement of sustainability.  Final measures for the United States are currently being developed.  The Assessment provides an opportunity to test these indicators at a regional scale.  The Assessment Team and public discussed the possibility of using data being collected for the Assessment to develop these indicators for the South.

Issues/Questions raised during the discussion:

III.  Discussion of Data Needs and Data Strategy – David Wear

Objective:  To develop a general, coordinated strategy for the compilation, storage and use of data for the Assessment.    Data compilation will proceed through the following steps:  1) enumeration of data needs, 2) coordination of data requests, 3) compilation of core FIA data set, 4) compilation of other data. 

  • Enumeration of Data Needs:  Based on work plans submitted by Question Managers, we have compiled a list of data needs for each question (see the attached spreadsheet).   This data dictionary will be used to design and coordinate data compilation and subsequent data storage and documentation.  All variables used in the Assessment need to be listed in the data dictionary, even if the Question Manager will be compiling them.  The data dictionary will be completed by the end of July.
  • Coordination of data requests:  The Data Dictionary will be used to coordinate requests for data from various sources.  This is especially important for FIA data.
  • Compilation of the Core FIA Data Set:  Using the Data Dictionary, we will define a set of variables that will be compiled in an initial query of FIA databases.  These will be variables that do not require custom programming and can be stored at the county level of resolution.  These data will be the highest priority for data compilation.
  • Compilation of Other Data: The data dictionary will be used to develop a schedule for subsequent data compilations.
  • Additional Data Issues
    • Data resolution:  Much of the data used for the analysis will be compiled at the county level. Whenever data are compiled by county, they need to be identified by standard FIPS code.  However, some data will be stored as vector and raster coverages in a GIS, and some data will be stored as points.
    • Display resolution:  While county level data will be stored, much of the data will only be displayed for aggregated areas.  A strategy for mapping county level data will be developed.
    • Spatial frames:  The primary frame for organizing data will be the ecological Province and Section.  However, some questions will demand alternate frames, for example, watersheds, and economic areas.
    • GIS:  Storage and meta data standards will be developed.

Issues/Questions raised during discussion:

  • Think about what resolution county data should be stored at.
  • Need to flesh out the needs and strategy for developing the metadata standards (Jen, Vic, Ed, Stephanie and John Pye volunteered to serve on this committee.)
  • Account for ecoregion boundaries when compiling any county averages.
  • Consider other ways of fuzzing-up the data like physiological regions.
  • Would be useful to crosswalk county table with each map.
  • We are going to need a standard for metadata if we are going to publish the data from this assessment.
  • Do we need a subteam to coordinate data?
  • We need to reconcile the NRI and FIA data since they are not ntirely compatible (include a definition of forestland).

IV.  Discussion of the Final Product: David Wear and John Greis

DW and JG described their survey of potential users and ideas generated regarding the form of the final product.  They started discussion by presenting the following rough proposal for the final product.

Initial Proposal

  • Focus on a compact and synthetic summary report (100-200 pages).  DW and JG would have responsibility for this.
  • An Executive Summary will encapsulate findings in 1-3 pages.
  • A Technical Report will contain answers to the Assessment Questions. Each Question Manager would have responsibility for writing his/her respective section.  This could be a hard copy document or a virtual document.
  • The Assessment would also package data for documentation and further analysis.  Data would be delivered in raw form and as maps and would be available on the Web.
  • A separate Criteria and Indicators report would be generated.


  • We will need to distribute format guidelines soon.  These should include guidelines for figures and graphs.
  • Need direction on the use of software for the documents.
  • ARCINFO/VIEW are standard GIS platforms for our agencies.
  • Decide soon whether we will use color or black and white graphics
  • Will there be page limits for individual sections?
  • Include some addendum material on the Web only.
  • Define the review process—especially the multiagency aspect—as soon as possible.
  • Hardcopy and CD serve important roles as documentation (Web sites aren’t forever) and provide easy access.
  • Add Metadata standards to guidelines.
  • Include a search function on the web site.
  • Assure adequate bandwidth if this material goes out on the web—especially for the first month or so.
  • If used, CD’s need careful documentation.
  • Develop a distribution strategy.
  • Will need a subject index for the technical document that cuts across the questions.
  • Address the time frame for retention on line.
  • Will need to cross reference across questions.

Breakout Sessions

Four breakout sessions were held to discuss issues of common interest identified in the previous discussions.   The notes that follow capture the major points of discussions in these sessions.

V.a.  Forecasting

  • Current approach would use a land use and a timber market model (SRTS) to forecast how forest extent and structure could change in the future.
  • The outputs from these models can be used to examine implications for wildlife habitat etc.
  • Concern raised regarding the ability of SRTS to adequately predict forest age structure.  There is a need for validation of the model in this regard.
  • Can SRTS capture partial harvesting as it occurs in the South?
  • Questioned the importance of organizing SRTS around the ecological spatial frame.
  • If ecological spatial frame is used, it would be important to compare with model runs that use survey units.
  • What data outputs does the water questions need from the models.
  • SRTS will provide future forest structure measures
  • Don’t go beyond 20 years in projections i.e., to 2020.
  • Importance of the watershed spatial frame.
  • Include various scenarios that have some relevance to the questions—e.g., management intensities/plantations/herbicides/fertilization
  • Strategy for looking at error structure and modeling uncertainty—is there one?
  • Need model that relates forestry activities to watershed changes.
  • Need sample outputs from the model to move forward.
  • Concern:  SRTS model was not designed for habitat modeling
  • May not do an adequate job of capturing change in age class distributions
  • Can the model capture partial harvesting when it is implicitly based on clearcut technology?
  • If eco. Provinces are used it would be important to also use the survey units as point of comparison.
  • Scenarios should be investigated to determine effects of policies.

V.b.  FIA

  • FIA will produce the list of variables that will be added to the Eastwide data files within the next week.  Then respond to FIA by end of July.
  • Let FIA know which data will be summarized at the county level.
  • Will need two months to get new variables on the Eastwide data.
  • Will have water quality/watershed data and forest health special request in two months.
  • Will continue to interact with QM’s on case by case.
  • Need good definition of what’s needed from the TPO files as well.
  • Some historical data will be available back to the thirties.
  • Will have all data available in Eastwide for two surveys.
  • John Kelly will be the principal contact on the data requests.

V.c.  History

  • How should history be handled within the Assessment.
  • A short chapter of the history of southern forests to give context for overall document. QM’s would reference this.
  • Listed several cites that could be useful.
  • Categories to include in history, fire, water, timber, human, soil, insect and disease, policy, wildlife, technology, product technology, and land use.
  • Writer of history section should allow QMs to review outline. Need to insure consistency in document.
  • Include a timeline of major events.
  • Allow QM’s to review history document.
  • Look at e.g.s from AL and LA.
  • Look to forest history.
  • Concern regarding QM’s that are already doing a history for their questions.
  • Forestry 2001 conference may be constructing a history that could be used in this context (what is their timeline)

V.d.  Water Issues

  • Jim G. will look at impacts of water policy/laws on landowners and forestry (?)
  • Look at 404 measures
  • General issues regarding the structure of the analysis
  • Could we use the most recent FIA data to examine some specific changes.
  • Don’t focus exclusively on the two time steps from the inventory
  • Possibility of using illustrative case studies
  • Concern regarding validity of the data especially re: water quality and variation across the states
  • Look at ownership patterns to characterize the watersheds that are impaired.
  • Look at ownership and BMP compliance
  • Look at herbicides and pesticides as part of Stephanie’s question.
  • History of aquatic species would be useful
  • Look at structure and effects of streamside buffers
  • Need to work on NRCS to get at buffer and other issues regarding ag-forest interface.

Thursday July 20, 2000

VI.  Small Area Assessments:  John Greis and David Wear

John and Dave reviewed the background on this aspect of the Assessment and started a discussion of factors that should be considered when selecting a pool of candidates for the Small Area Assessments.

Question:  What factors should be considered when identifying candidates for subregional areas assessments?

  • How do we define factors?
  • Shift of discussion to focus on places—value of looking at places as intuitive mechanisms for getting at the factors.
  • Degree of deviation from natural vegetation. 
    • From a pre-settlement condition (e.g., longleaf pine)
  • Non-industrial landowner concentration, tract size, behavior.
  • Measure of fragmentation either owner or parcel size also physical fragmentation.
  • Measure of increased output of wood products.
  • Degree of industry presence (not forest ownership).
    • Both forest measures (forest condition) and processing technology
  • Evidence of unusual activity or change.
    • Line dancing
    • Concentration of local ordinances impacting forestry
  • Biodiversity hot spots.
    • Also include species and critical habitats
    • Rare communities (constellations of them)
    • Particularly high in endemism (concentration of unique species)
    • Especially in areas without public lands or otherwise not protected (GAP analysis).
  • Population increases and potential implications for the environment
  • Increased recreation demands.
  • Changes in forest types
  • Soil loss
    • Need some clarification on this.
    • Who would identify it as a part of their question.
  • Conversion from natural forest types to more intensively managed forests (plantations?)
    • Focuses on pine plantations
    • Also use of herbicides
  • Significant changes in disturbance regimes
  • Presence or increased presence of exotic species
    • Terrestrial or Aquatic
  • Changes in infrastructure within an area that allows production and utilization of wood products e.g., roads.
    • Focus on roads and rivers (ports) otherwise accessibility
  • Measures of forest economics. 
  • Change in distribution of wood products industry/economy.
    • Change in the income derived from the wood products industries.
  • Changes in the characteristics of human communities
  • Area impacted by forest fragmentation.
  • Matched areas for study—controlled experiment.
  • Streams impaired by forestry activities—based on NASF report (need to get a copy of this).
    • Regarding sedimentation
  • Change in age class or species distributions
  • Change in the protection status of an area
  • Opportunities for afforestation.  Areas that are not forested but could move to forest cover.
  • Areas that have opportunity for multiple production
  • Areas that are already being studied for similar purposes.
  • Local areas that have already constructed grass roots solutions to these types of questions/problems.
  • Golf course density.
  • Areas where BMP’s are or are not being implemented.
  • Areas with increasing recreational opportunities.
  • Areas with increasing urbanization.
  • Areas where there are good historical data available.
  • Areas experiencing a decline in forest inventory
  • Changes in pests/pathogens occurrence
  • Increased acid deposition
  • Increased southern pine beetle activity
  • Increased in mortality or a decline in forest productivity.
  • Size is a factor—can it be done.
  • Risk factors for health.
  • Look at other smaller assessments-- Southern Appalachians and OOHA

Public Comments

  • Look for longer term water quality records
  • Use a watershed basis for these analyses.
  • Suggests looking at areas where BMP’s have been implemented well.
  • Look at areas that have recent FIA data
  • Changes in water tables other hydrologic effects associated with the removal of forests
  • Look at ability to do paired studies—e.g., BMP implementation
  • Consider range of topographies for comparative areas.
  • Clarification on NIPF criterion—small area assessments would be a way to look carefully at the management approaches of land
  • Consider effects of corporate ownership on quality of life
  • Look at fine scale differences in tax treatment and other institutional context of forest management.
  • Important to look forward as well as consider the history of change.  Specifically the forecast of land use changes
  • Use of herbicides.
  • Effects of forest activities on wetland function.
  • Look at areas where local concerns are concentrated.
  • Look for tradeoffs between different uses of the forest.  Tourism/recreation and timber harvesting for example.
  • Look for increased demands on availability.
  • Emphasize areas that are responding with increasing ordinances.
  • Significant shifts from forestry land uses to other land uses.
  • Recovery and diversity of plant species after clear cutting.
  • Areas with substantial changes in inventories… mortality, total inventory etc…
  • Suggests Kingsport area as a focal area.
  • Impacts of cost share programs that encourage reforestation
  • Areas with increased productivity.
  • Encouraged to organize our efforts by the hypotheses that drive the local area assessments.  Using sites to drive hypotheses would be a mistake.
  • Look at areas with heavy urban expansion.
  • Consider areas that are affected by overlapping sourcing areas (source for mills).
  • Look for increased use of herbicides and fertilizers.
  • Look at areas with wetlands loss.
  • Look at areas with high rates of pine plantation conversions.
  • Look at areas dependent on recreation and tourism for economic revenue.
  • Look for sites where biodiversity may be impacted by industry.
  • Suggested sites:  Kingsport, TN, Laurens County SC, and NC Coastal area (focus on ditching/draining of wetlands and conversion to pine plantations.)

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  modified: 11-AUG-2000
  created by: Dave Wear