Bob Woodmansee: Intended, unintended results of land management
All of Earth’s ecosystems are influenced by humans, directly through agriculture, forestry, fisheries, natural areas, parks, cities, towns, rural development areas or indirectly through protecting “old growth” forest, native grasslands or aquatic systems from natural events. Even polar regions and the deep ocean are now impacted by human-caused climate, chemical changes and trash.
Correspondingly, all people and communities are influenced by the ecosystems of which they are a part. To be resilient and sustainable, these systems must have thoughtful and prudent “best management practices” applied to maintain their ecological, economic and socio-cultural integrity, even though the environments in which they exist are ever-changing.
All members of society, both present and future, should have the right to conduct activities to meet their needs and desires without bringing undue harm to others. Among these activities are: management and protection of public lands; agriculture; forestry; livestock grazing; water diversion and detention; irrigation; mineral/energy extraction; road and trail building; motorized and non-motorized recreation; hunting and fishing; wildland preservation; urbanization; industrialization; transportation; and land subdivision.
These activities are envisioned to produce beneficial intended results such as: improved quality of life; food production; shelter; water supply and quality; maintenance of culture; jobs; safety; enjoyment; knowledge; economic gain and wealth; self- and community-esteem; sense of belonging; and spiritual renewal. In other words, everyone deserves to live in a world that offers good health, well-being, dignity and safety.
In turn, people are responsible for minimizing negative impacts by analyzing, anticipating, avoiding and mitigating the unintended results of their activities. Political decision-makers, land managers and citizens, collaboratively, must consider the unintended results and environmental costs of riparian destruction; air and water quality; habitat alteration and fragmentation; erosion; sedimentation; soil degradation; salinization; loss of productivity; altered biodiversity (species invasions); species extinction; desertification; vegetation loss; pollution; climate change; economic decline; and social decline.
Achieving positive outcomes without triggering unacceptable consequences requires a holistic and comprehensive understanding of economic, ecological, and social systems.
Over the past 50-plus years, federal policies, basic and applied environmental, economic and social science research and ecosystem-based land and water management have made great progress in reducing the negative unintended consequences of our activities on both public and private lands.
This has largely been accomplished through implementation of federal policies such as the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act in 1960, The Wilderness Act of 1964, National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Environmental Protection Agency of 1970, Clean Air Act of 1970; Clean Water Act of 1972, Federal Land Use and Management Act of 1976 and various farm bills. Vast amounts of peer-reviewed scientific research have been accomplished supporting the notion of ecosystem-based management, which is based on strong stakeholder and citizen involvement and collaboration.
Now, we have a Department of Interior and some in Congress who have chosen to ignore scientific evidence, decades of “on-the-ground” expert experience and stakeholder and citizen involvement. Instead, this administration’s focus is on a few of the intended activities such as jobs, political influence, economic gain and wealth generation. These intended results for the benefit of a few come at the expense of other vital human needs and of the wishes of current and future generations.
Write to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and our Congressional representatives and demand they weigh scientific evidence and the views of all citizens before making detrimental decisions intended to benefit a few political supporters.
Bob Woodmansee, Professor Emeritus, CSU
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