A review of the social component of ecosystem assessments with recommendations for Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/ft848s57r

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  • Large-scale ecosystem assessments aim to assist ecosystem management by synthesizing current scientific knowledge on an area, and by providing a foundation for policy discussions and decisions on land management. These assessments go beyond traditional research efforts by moving away from narrow scope, system, and institutional boundaries, and by attempting to integrate knowledge and relationships on multiple facets of ecosystems. The human dimension of ecosystems in particular is a relative newcomer to the planning table. This thesis reviews the social component of four recent large-scale ecosystem assessments. Objectives were to develop general guidelines for future social components of ecosystem assessments, and to review the social context of ecosystem management in Oregon in order to make recommendations for a social assessment within the state. A synthesis of existing assessments found consensus on issues which should be considered in future social assessments, including the need for (1) open, collaborative public involvement efforts, (2) adequately framed research questions, (3) addressing varying temporal, social, and spatial scales, and (4) adequate resources to complete the assessment. These findings indicate that while specifying a standard framework or methodology for social assessments is problematic, there is sufficient consensus on the major lessons learned from previous assessments to propose guidelines for future efforts. Findings from Oregon indicate that the state population is growing, increasingly urbanized, and as a whole is becoming less timber-dependent. However, the forest industry remains highly important to many communities and any future assessment must examine the vulnerability of these communities to change. The forest values that are currently ranked most important by state residents are wildlife habitat and clean water. Public opinion remains negative towards clear-cutting, and the perception exists that forests are being over-harvested. A sharp regional difference exists in the state, particularly between Portland residents and those residing east of the Cascade Mountains. An Oregon social assessment must recognize these potential "hotspots" in terms of regional disparity in attitudes, community dependence on the forest industry, and increasing migration into the state. Using the guidelines synthesized by this project will help to create a more relevant and socially acceptable Oregon assessment.
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