From the North Carolina mountains to South Carolina’s coastal plain to the tropics of Puerto Rico, climate change is on the minds of forest planners. National forest planning teams in these areas are among the first few to revise their land and resource management plans under the U.S. Forest Service’s new Planning Rule released in 2012. These “early adopters” from the Nantahala, Pisgah, Francis Marion, and El Yunque National Forests who are developing plans to guide sustainable forest management through changing conditions are finding assistance with the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options (TACCIMO).
Emphasizing both science and public input, the Planning Rule breaks new ground by requiring planning teams to complete broad assessments of available information about climate change effects on national forests. Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center researchers collaboratively developed the TACCIMO tool to streamline this part of the plan revision process by providing in-depth scientific literature reviews and climate projections specific to forest-level issues. TACCIMO’s public-facing website puts these resources at the fingertips of forest planning teams as well as stakeholder groups and the general public to support the collaborative planning process envisioned by the Planning Rule.
To provide additional support, members of the TACCIMO development team have created custom, user-friendly fact sheets aimed at communicating key climate science findings during public forums for engaging national forest stakeholders in the Southern Region. Ruth Berner, a forest planner with the National Forests in North Carolina, says, “TACCIMO’s climate change fact sheet is just what we needed in terms of level of detail appropriate for collaboration with the public and stakeholders, while still presenting the best available science on climate change required for the assessment.” Fact sheets are now available on the TACCIMO website for the El Yunque National Forest, Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, and Francis Marion National Forest.
Because of the complex and often large-scale issues that forests face in a changing climate, collaboration among neighboring land management groups is key. In consultation with National Forest planners and managers, the TACCIMO team has also assisted in facilitating interactions at public forums with key stakeholders from local, state, and federal agencies. For example, land managers with the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest are working to create corridors to assist coastal species migrating inland from barrier islands and salt marshes as sea levels rise. The TACCIMO team presented site-specific information on sea level rise projections and models of future vegetation to aid collaborators in meeting “all lands” management objectives.
This fall and winter, the early adopters will release full assessments, including climate change effects and projections generated with the use of TACCMO. When the assessments are rolled out, the TACCIMO team will continue to provide support at public meetings to address comments about climate change issues. The TACCIMO tool will also assist planning teams entering the next phase of plan revisions during which specific management options are identified to reach goals aligned with the new Planning Rule. These management options—intended to promote healthy forests that are able to adapt to changing conditions—will ensure that national forests continue to provide critical goods and services that people across the nation expect and enjoy.
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