- Sustainable management of the world’s forests is a key component for conserving biodiversity, soil and water resources, mitigating climate change, strengthening economies, and promoting sustainable communities and human well-being, now and in the future. While international cooperation is important, the actual policies and management actions that affect forest conditions and trends are decided at the national and local level, and are influenced by local community values and individual attitudes toward natural resource management. It is important to understand the breadth of ways that people value forests if we want to sustain those specific forest values (benefits, products, and amenities) over time. I compared values identified in forest policies to values identified by individuals from six demographic groups in Oregon.
The 2010 U.S. Census shows that Oregon is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). The purpose of this research was to learn what forest values are most important to individuals from six demographic groups, are included in the policies and regulations that guide the management of Oregon’s forests, and in the international forest sustainability discussions.
I triangulated qualitative data from multiple sources: previous literature; forest policy document analysis; participant observation of state, national, and international policy discussions; and 14 purposive focus groups with individuals from six racial and ethnic groups in Oregon. Data were individual words and language segments that expressed forest values. Analyses were conducted based on the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management (MPCI), a subset of those indicators and metrics that comprise the Oregon Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management, and focus group transcripts.
The most common forest values expressed in the focus groups and previous national and state surveys that are currently included in the Oregon Indicators, Oregon forest policy documents and the MPCI are recreation, clean water, wood products, and economic values, including jobs, income, and revenues for public services. However, the current Oregon forest policies and indicator metrics do not include some forest values expressed in the focus groups and surveys: spiritual values, cultural heritage values, natural forest appearance, and protection of diverse native understory plants for wildlife habitat and cultural uses. The revised set of MPCI used in the 2010 and 2011 national reports includes indicators and metrics for understory plant and animal species diversity, as well as the new indicator 44 "the importance of forests to people" which is intended to capture these important spiritual and cultural values. I recommend revised Oregon Indicators, metrics, and forest policies to measure current conditions and trends of these values in Oregon's forests.