Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sustainability Case Studies--Chapter 2. Sustainability and Natural Landscape Stewardship: A US Conservation Case Study

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This is the second post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the chapter review.

Today's post focuses on Chapter 2 by Johanna Kovarik titled, Sustainability and Natural Landscape Stewardship:  A US Conservation Case Study. Dr. Kovarik, who is a Program Lead at the National Forest Service, focuses her chapter on the National Forest Service.

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The chapter begins by discussing what is meant by the term "natural landscape" within the realm of sustainability. Kovarik provides a succinct definition (areas without existing human modification or impact) and unpacks the two words of the term by discussing what is natural and what is a landscape. She focuses on the development of 19th and 20th century thought on this topic as the industrial revolution brought large changes to the planet which culminated in our present era, the Anthropocene.

Natural landscapes, in comparison with altered ones, provide opportunities to reflect on them as resilient landscapes that can withstand the impacts of human activities. Conservation of these resilient places becomes more important as human activities drive many areas out of balance.

The heart of the chapter is the U.S. Forest Service case study. Kovarik looks at the history of the development of the Service as it evolved with U.S. thinking on forests and natural landscapes. She weaves in important thinkers (Lyell, Humboldt, Summerville, Marsh, Fernow, and Pinchot) along with important organizations (Audubon Society, Boone and Crockett Society, and the Sierra Club) in the evolution and creation of the Service.

The chapter continues by examining the evolution of conservation thought within the U.S. Forest Service after its creation which was impacted by a number of federal laws that helped to build ecosystem management into its mission. This came about at a time that Aldo Leopold, a Forest Service employee, worked to move the service into a conservation and preservation role. The service integrated important sustainability principles into its mission including the idea of sustained yield. As people began to utilize the U.S. forests for recreational activities, the idea of balancing social, economic, and environmental uses of the forest became more important.

The chapter concludes (as do most of the chapters in the book) with a section on lessons learned and future challenges. Kovarik notes that meeting the goals of managing the natural landscapes of the U.S. Forests remains important. However, this is becoming more challenging in a global society with a changing climate. The service is now incorporating "science-based methodologies for learning about and integrating peoples attitudes, beliefs, and values into land stewardship" to better collaborate wth the public on the conservation of our public forests.

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Here are some discussion questions for teaching about the U.S. Forest Service and conservation of natural landscapes utilizing this chapter:

1. What is conservation?
2. Where can we find natural landscapes?
3. Why is a large forest more of a natural landscape than an urban park?
4. Who was Gifford Pinchot and what was his role in the development of the U.S. Forest Service?
5. Who was Aldo Leopold and why did he focus on the development of a land ethic?
6. The U.S. Forest Service focuses on "multiple use" of its lands. What does this mean? What is sustained yield?
7. What is the closest national park or forest to where you are right now? How big is it? What is its management plan?
8. How important is it to get public input on the management of public lands like forests? Why?

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Previous posts in this series:

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