With forest land managers facing countless urgent and complex challenges, the United States Forest Service (USFS) under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, created a Shared Stewardship Initiative in 2018 to work collaboratively with State and Federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders for a landscape-level approach to forest treatments. Cross-boundary collaboration provides mutually beneficial outcomes for the USFS, partners, and the general public. From Jim Hubbard (USDA Under Secretary), “Shared Stewardship offers a great opportunity to coordinate and prioritize land management activities in tandem,”.
“Shared Stewardship is about working together in an integrated way to make decisions and take actions on the land.”
- Vicki Christiansen, USDA Forest Service Chief
The Southern Region of the USFS encompasses 13 states and Puerto Rico and currently has Shared Stewardship agreements with these eight states:
“Shared Stewardship offers a great opportunity to coordinate and prioritize land management activities in tandem,”.
-Jim Hubbard, USDA Under Secretary
With an expansive 245 million acres of forestland and 86% of it privately owned, the Southern Region has a deep history of working with external partners to accomplish cross-boundary, landscape level restoration and conservation objectives. The Forest Service manages around 5% of the southern forests within 14 National Forests and two Special Units in the Southern Region. Other public forests make up approximately 8%. With such a mix of ownership, close collaboration and shared stewardship is of paramount importance.
Conservation Biology Institute (CBI) is supporting the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Region in its efforts toward shared stewardship activities with two recently launched Gateways, powered by Data Basin. CBI built a curated and customized USFS Southern Region Shared Stewardship Gateway, as well as a Shared Stewardship Gateway for North Carolina - to explore how to best support forest stewardship organization and data and to advance collaborative planning and forest management implementation. The Southern Region Shared Stewardship Gateway encompasses datasets and maps from across the entire Southern Region, while the Shared Stewardship Gateway for North Carolina is curated with content relevant to North Carolina and its Shared Stewardship partners.
Using the North Carolina Gateway, CBI will train USFS Southern Region staff and partners to incorporate the gateway framework into their workflows so as to facilitate more effective forest management and monitoring across the pilot region of North Carolina. The All Lands Strategy in Western North Carolina is a prime example of federal, state, and NGO partners coming together to identify shared priorities using the data management capabilities of Data Basin and the two gateways. Land managers will learn to upload and share their data while making collaborative maps to support project proposals and funding requests for ecosystem management. In the future, the USFS Southern Region expects more states to utilize the gateways for their shared stewardship efforts.
*All photos generously provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
Gwynne is the Director of Communications with CBI, and is also involved with a variety of projects doing outreach, communications, research and writing. Her educational background is in ecology and biology with a particular interest in endangered species.