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

Draft Criteria For Identifying Sub-Regional Focus Area Candidates

Scale and the Southern Forest Resource Assessment

The overall objective of the Southern Forest Resource Assessment (SFRA) is to compile and analyze data and information necessary to evaluate the status of the forest resources of the southern U.S.; their productivity, ecological diversity and sustainability.† Forest resources to be evaluated include timber and non-timber forest products, ecological characteristics, and water quality.† These resources can be evaluated at various scales.† The first priority of the Assessment is to evaluate forests throughout the South (the primary scope) and report these findings by state, ecological section and 8-digit hydrologic unit scales (the primary scales).† Data compiled at other scales may be used in the Assessment, but the focus will be on the Assessmentís primary scope and scales.

Forests of the region are highly diverse and complex, thus some relevant forest resource questions may not be fully addressed by the regional assessment.† Answers to some questions dealing with critical environmental, ecosystem, and/or economic functions may be fully revealed only through study at finer scales.† To better understand the potentially significant fine-scale processes and issues, smaller sub-regions of the South will be identified for further analysis.† These are the Sub-Regional Focus Areas within the SFRA.

Focus of Sub-Regional Assessments

Sub-regional focus area candidates will be identified as the Assessment Team completes its technical analysis of specific assessment questions.† Follow up analyses will focus on specific issues within these areas.† Issues and places will be flagged by Team members as they address their questions or by others as they work with or review Team findings.† Sub-regional focus area assessments would focus on at least some of these issues at specific locations.

The overall intent of this work is to complement and expand on the broad findings of the Assessment.† That is, the analysis will focus, confirm and shed further light on factors contributing to resource conditions, changes and associated impacts (particularly those that signal a threat to resource sustainability) that are documented by Question Managers or the public during the SFRA process.†

While not intended to provide a comprehensive forecast for any sub-region, these assessments will address specific ongoing and emerging resource issues and trends in specific places.† As such, they are intended to provide important insights through illustrative case studies rather than represent a regional cross-section of conditions and issues.†

Criteria For Identifying Sub-regional Focus Area Candidates

To provide useful linkage to the overall assessment, candidates for Sub-Regional Focus Areas should exhibit the following characteristics:

Candidates should be:

  • Forested areas large enough to be identifiable, measurable, and reportable by Question Managers in the process of addressing their Question(s).† Potential units of study include ecological sections, 8-digit watershed units, or multi-county units and should be relevantly scaled to the question at hand.
  • Experiencing measurable rapid change in the extent, condition or health of their forests or forest-dependent resources.
  • Experiencing or be at risk of experiencing measurable negative effects on one or more forest resource or value as a result of that change.
  • Suggested as high-priority areas for further study by Question Manager(s) or the public and selected by the interagency Planning Team, after considering Assessment findings and input from the public.

Evaluation Factors

Following are some measurable factors that if experiencing rapid change, would indicate the usefulness of further study: Forest Inventory
Pathogen/Insect Occurrence or Risk
Forest Parcel Size
Atmospheric Deposition
Land Cover Fragmentation
Tree Mortality
Rate of Harvesting
Timber Demand
Forest Growth
Recreation Demand
Forest Type Distribution
Stand Origin (Natural/Planted)
Exotic Plant Species
Exotic Animal Species
Number of Forest-related Ordinances
Conversion to Non-forest
T&E Species Concentration
Impaired Streams - Potentially Silviculture-related
Forested Wetland Type Conversion
Forested Wetland Conversion to Non-wetland
Population Trends of Forest-dependent Wildlife
Terrestrial Habitat
Aquatic Species

Note: This is a draft document which builds on inputs extending back to summer of 1999. Public input on this draft was accepted from September 25th to October 20th, 2000. The suggestions received led to a final document which replaces this draft. The original draft is retained here to document the public input process.

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modified: 27-JUN-2001
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